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Montalcino

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Inhabitants in 1991: 5.088

The municipal territory of Montalcino extends for 243,62 square kilometres on the hilly heights which separate the valley of the river Ombrone from the Val d’Orca. Free municipality, it became Seat of Captaincy under the Mediceo Grand Duchy.

It is practically impossible to reconstruct the origins and formation of the castle and the community of Montalcino: situated in territory on which the Abbots of Sant’Antimo already had jurisdiction from IX century (they were among the major feudal Lords of Siena until the 1200s) it seems in all probability that the documentation regarding the first centuries of its existence was lost in the archives of the Abbey. Towards the end of the XII century Montalcino however was already constituted in municipality allied to Siena (but straining to maintain autonomy within its borders) in the war which Siena lost against Firenze; but in consequence of the agreement, even though short lived, stipulated between the two cities, at the beginning of the 1200 it was besieged and destroyed by Siena.

The truce being over and Siena realising they could not maintain possession of Montalcino because of the reopening of hostilities, in 1212 they tried to again take away the jurisdictional rights which the Abbey of Sant’Antimo still had over the castle, ending up by obtaining a quarter part of it. Montalcino however, strengthened by the support of Firenze and Orvieto soon began to be riotous against respecting the promise of loyalty and alliance which tied it to Siena. In 1232 and again in 1252 Siena managed to take over the entire castle; reconquered for a short time by the Fiorentini, it returned under the Siena dominion after the battle of Montaperti, again obtaining their autonomy in 1269. Only in the middle of the 1300s was Montalcino placed in the territorial dominion of Siena and its inhabitants became Siena citizens, while the fortress was rapidly constructed, symbol of the power of the major city, its imposing structure is still visible today. In 1462 Montalcino, together with Pienza obtained the institution of diocese from Pio II. After the surrender of Siena to Cosimo I dei Medici in April of 1555, it was at the still unconquered Montalcino that the exiling Senese met and the castle became the centre of resistance to the Imperial and Mediceo armies, capital of a non subjected territory, Seat of Government and Council of the exiling Senese. It was only in 1559 with the ceasing of the protection by the King of France, that Montalcino surrendered and swore allegiance to the Duchy of Firenze. In the neighbourhood is the Magnificent Abbey of Sant’Antimo which is said to have been founded by Carlo Magno.

It once flew the flag of the Sienese Republic, but despite the important historical and artistic attractions of the town, Montalcino is known throughout the world as the home of Brunello, an exceptional wine that first saw the light of day in the middle of the 19th century when Ferruccio Biondi Santi decided to use only Sangiovese grapes.

Places to visit:
Piazza del Popolo, heart of the little town it is surrounded by late Medieval buildings among which:
Palazzo dei Priori, from 1400 it has the façade covered with coats of arms and is dominated by a tower in stone and brick.
The Fortress, constructed in 1361 using part of the preceding walls, it is one of the main examples of Toscana fortresses. The interior is utilised in the summer for spectacles and cultural events.
Combined Civic, Diocesan and Archaeological Museum, organised in the convent complex of S. Agostino, comprising collections of paintings on wood and an important collection of wooden statues painted in the Siena school, and other works of various nature,
Cathedral, constructed on the place of the ancient parish church of S. Salvatore, it was remodelled in the 1800s in Neoclassic style. The interior holds important works of art and finds from the preceding construction.
S.Agostino, imposing Romanic Gothic construction from 1300, the interior is finely frescoed.
S. Antimo Abbey, around ten kilometres south of the town, in a vast olive grove, looms this imposing and sever construction which is said to have been founded in 781 by Carlo Magno. It is one of the most prestigious examples of Monastic architecture. The church goes back to the XII century.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford
Picture by Sandro Santioli

 
 
 
   
 
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