Rolling hills covered by vineyards and sunflowers, small-town festivals, fresh local food, and of course, abundant supplies of some of the best wine in Tuscany. Montepulciano was the highlight of our time in Italy, and with good reason!
We chose to stay at a cute country villa that we found on Airbnb. Located just outside of Aquaviva, about 6km from the medieval town of Montepulciano, it was the perfect home base. Montepulciano is at the center of the DOC responsible for producing Vino Nobile, one of the most sought-after Italian wine varietals, and a personal favorite. As such the entire area is basically a wine aficionado’s paradise! Our villa itself was pretty great too — we had a two-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen / living area and a shared pool and outdoor grill. Perfect for lazy afternoons in the sun and warm nights cooking, playing cards and drinking wine.
Our first night here we made the short trek out to the only restaurant in Aquaviva. It had a cozy outdoor patio and an Italian man playing the piano and singing along. The set menu and house wine combo was a great deal, and lived up to the Italian standard of fresh, delicious, local food. However…the standout dish was a simple truffle pasta I ordered on our next trip. The linguini was cooked perfectly with a light olive oil and pepper sauce. But the icing on the cake, so to say? The whole truffle that our waiter brought over and proceeded to shave — in its entirety — onto my pasta as I watched in awe (possibly drooling a bit!).
After dinner we followed the sounds of live music to the town’s big end of summer festival that would be going on all week. It had the feeling of a big family reunion where the family just happens to be your entire town, out drinking and enjoying the live band. There was a dance floor set up in the middle where Italian couples of all ages waltzed the night away. It was one of those rare, special experiences as a traveler where you find yourself dropped into the middle of an event full of culture and authenticity, yet uncurated by tourism — a front-row seat to someone else’s world.
Over the next few days we explored the area on foot. There was a small store nearby, owned by an elderly Italian woman who didn’t speak a word of English. Here we picked up a few food items and the Sfuso I mentioned earlier. Sfuso is an affordable table wine enjoyed by locals and supposedly made without influence by the mafia (yep, mafia, still a thing…). The lack of preservatives mean it doesn’t keep more than a couple days, but this certainly wasn’t an issue for us! I’m always a fan of local food and wine pairings and thought that the Sfuso went great with the chacuterie, steak and veggies we got from the local butcher and produce shops in Aquaviva. Plus, the owner was happy to offer the guys a free tasting (in Italian, of course) and send them home with a giant 5 liter bottle without judgement!
One afternoon we even walked all the way into Montepulciano, a classic Tuscan town perched on a hilltop. An old wall encircles the city with it’s narrow winding streets and stunning vistas of the countryside below. The city itself now caters almost exclusively to tourists, but it’s still fun admiring the old plazas and ancient buildings, imagining what it was like hundreds of years ago. And the food and wine really can’t be beat: shop after shop of local cheese and chacuterie, and of course enough wine shops to pass many a blurry wine-filled afternoon. Our favorites were the shops behind the main plaza where the owners invited us to taste, sharing information about the region and it’s wines.
One of the great perks about staying in the country-side was literally being in the middle of the vineyards and olive groves. A short walk across the main street put us at one of the region’s best wineries, Boscarelli. Here we joined another group for a tasting of their Prugnolo, Merlot, and Vino Nobiles. We went home with one of our favorites: Vino Nobile Reserva 2009. It was a splurge well worth it, and made the perfect compliment to the grilled steak dinner we prepared that evening.
On our final day in Montepulciano we took a proper wine tour with a driver who we had booked through the Tourism Office in town. He drove us to two well-known wineries in the area before dropping us off at the train station where we would continue the last leg of our journey in Naples. The first winery we visited was Poliziano. Founded in 1961 this winery has perfected the classic Vino Nobile wine that this region is famous for. We enjoyed comparing the different offerings from a Super Tuscan cab-merlot blend to the cheekily-named “Asinone” (Big Donkey) in their stylish tasting room. The second winery we visited, Salcheto, was a newer winery with a focus on all-organic wines and sustainability. After the typical big, hearty reds, Salcheto’s rose was a refreshingly welcome change. We enjoyed it enough that we left with two bottles!
Interested in the specific wines we tasted? Check out my tasting notes on Delectable
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