Montalcino is a town with a long and fascinating history. It has been a symbol for the Republic of Siena since 1555 because it gave shelter to Siena’s last remaining freedom fighters, who had suffered defeat at the hands of the armies of Emperor Carlos V.
Up until a few decades ago Montalcino was a poor and under-developed town. Agriculture was not very lucrative and the deserted farms around the town were being sold for ridiculously low prices. Even when Tuscany began to be fashionable in the 1960s and 70s, interest in this part of the region still remained limited, because it was just a bit too far from ”Chiantishire”. In the 1980s the tables began to turn at the same time as the wine produced in the region became increasingly well known. The Brunello di Montalcino, which a handful of families had been producing for over a century, suddenly became world-famous and the amount of vineyards grew explosively. In 1967 there were just 12 vineyards producing this wine, today there are 141! The amount of hectares dedicated to the production of Brunello has similarly grown from 65 to 1500!
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These days, one single production-ready vineyard hectare costs around 500,000 euros and a ramshackle little farm will easily set you back between 400,000 and 500,000 euros. In 1970 you could buy a hectare for around 1600 euros! This rapid development has resulted in Montalcino being one of Italy’s richest towns. The huge interest from abroad has also meant that loads of restaurants and wine merchants have opened up in the town. Fortunately, the town council is keen to make sure this development doesn’t get out of hand and has prohibited opening any more tourist shops!
Montalcino is 567 metres above sea level and you can see the whole of the surrounding area from the town. The impressive fortress from the 14th century adds character to the town, and in the old town you can find wine cellars, craft shops, small cosy cafés and shops selling local specialities, such as honey and "ossi di morto" biscuits.