Friday, 26 March 2010

Montepulciano


Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, (Italy). Montepulciano, with an elevation of 605 m, sits on a high limestone ridge. By car it is 13 km E of Pienza; 70 km SE of Siena, 124 km SE of Florence, and 186 km north of Rome.
Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Wine connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy's best. However, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano should not be confused with the varietal wine (Montepulciano grape) of the same name. Montepulciano is also known for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta (a thick, rough, chewy variant on spaghetti), lentils, and honey.
Montepulciano coat of arms

History
The name of Montepulciano derives from Latin Mons and Publicianus ("Mount of Publicianus"). According to legend, it was founded by the Etruscan King Porsenna of Chiusi; recent findings prove that a settlement was already in existence in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison guarding the main roads of the area.
After the fall of the Western Roman empire, it developed as a religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its importance declined.
After the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana, the town remained the most important agricultural centre in the area, while the industrial activities moved mostly next to Chiusi, which was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.
Main sights
The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:
The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist fa├žade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia. .
The Sa
nctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. (Pictured left: the Sanctuary)It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine.
The walls of the city were designed and built under the direction of Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I d'e Medici in 1511 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Also interesting to note while walking though the town is that Montepulciano is standing in for the Volturic Stronghold of Volterra in the film adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel New Moon, the second book in the popular Twilight Saga.