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Monticchiello, Tuscany's Overlooked Gem
Tucked away among the rolling Tuscan landscape south of Siena in the heart of the Val d’Orcia is what I consider to be one of the most beautiful Medieval Villages in all of Tuscany. Largely overlooked by tourists, which is a good thing, Monticchiello has managed to retain both its physical and cultural history.
Perched high on a hill overlooking the valley, the entrance to the village from the Porta Sant’Agata (city gate) offers absolutely stunning views across the valley to Pienza. This extraordinarly beautiful region of Tuscany, the Val d'Orcia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. We stumbled onto this Tuscan gem, Monticchiello, not by accident but at the suggestion of our host, Giacomo, at the Agriturismo Le Caggiole.
Arriving in Monticchiello early in the day we found ourselves almost alone in the village among the few locals who were out. Sensing that we were tourists, we were approached by a few of the residents for some interesting conversation in which they understood no English and we understood very little Italian. Despite the obvious language barrier we somehow managed to communicate with these warm and hospitable folks.
Strolling through Monticchiello one can imagine that this village has probably changed little over the centuries. The remaining towers, one of which is now privately owned, hearken back to the day when they were fortifications to defend the village. It seems as though time has frozen for Monticchiello. With less than 200 inhabitants, it seems that a good number of them occupy the Porta Sant’Agata to greet the limited number of tourists that find their way here. As there is only one way in and one way out of Monticchiello, it is easy for the locals to see their visitors heading up the hill from the parking area below.
Once inside the walls of this ancient village, you will immediately notice that the locals take great pride in their dwellings. It seems as though every home is adorned with blooming pots of flowers and somehow the laundry hanging overhead only seems to add to the ambiance of this charming place. The village center is dominated by the Church of Santi Leonardo and Christoforo which dates back to the 13th century. Take some time to walk through the church and admire the frescoes while you are here. With virtually no other tourists around you can move with ease and not feel rushed.
Scenes from MonticchielloClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Agriturismo Review - Le Caggiole - Montepulciano, Tuscany
Agriturismo Le Caggiole is located just outside of the medieval town of Montepulciano. The beautifully restored farmhouse is the perfect setting for a visit to the Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany.
If you happen upon Monticchiello during the summer months from mid July to mid August make it a point to see the “Teatro Povero” (Poor Theatre). This nightly theatrical experience is written, directed and recited by the residents of Monticchiello as a testament to the life and history of its people. Although we did not get to experience this as we were in Monticchiello in September, I would imagine that this might be one of the highlights of your visit to Monticchiello.
For a couple of restaurant suggestions stop by either La Taverna di Moranda or Osteria La Porta. You can check Tripadvisor for reviews of both restaurants. If you are looking for outdoor seating with a view of the valley then opt for Osteria La Porta. If the view is not of concern then consider La Taverna di Moranda. This family owned Bistro with its stone walls, vaulted beamed ceilings and unique archways offers a truly Tuscan atmosphere.
La Taverna di Moranda
Osteria La Porta
So if you find yourself heading to southern Tuscany make it a point to visit Monticchiello. The more well known Tuscan towns that everyone visits such as Siena, San Gimignano and Montepulciano are all beautiful in their own right, but they can also be overrun with tourists depending on when you visit. For a more relaxed atmosphere and experience, try one of Tuscany’s truly overlooked gems.
Ciao for now.
Monticchiello - Southern Tuscany
© 2012 Bill De Giulio