From Siena to Montalcino: itinerary between art and wine

A one-day itinerary moving from Siena, on the occasion of the unveiling of the Duomo floor, towards Val d’Orcia, to try an immersive experience in Brunello’s history and culture

As summer approaches, Siena Cathedral prepares to surprise visitors with a show of rare power. Like stars on earth is the evocative title (inspired by St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippines) on the project of covering the floor of the city’s cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. Conceived as a heavenly Jerusalem, manifesting itself in the majesty of the believers, the building was built with the splendor of precious materials, polychrome marble, and works of art from the mid-twelfth century, in accordance with the principles of the Romanesque-Gothic style. (of which today represents one of the best-preserved and most eloquent examples in Italy). The construction site would have been completed more than two centuries later, by the end of the fifteenth century. But the decoration of the floor will continue to engage leading exponents of Siena’s artistic panorama until the middle of the sixteenth century and will continue with changing phases until the nineteenth century. From 27 June (until 31 July, with a subsequent opening phase from 18 August to 18 October), the Metropolitan Opera of Siena with the Opera Laboratory offers the opportunity to rediscover its history and appreciate its unique character. The visit will therefore be the ideal starting point for a one-day itinerary, which from the city moves towards the hills of Val d’Orcia, the destination of Montalcino. We go through the stages together.


Made by juxtaposing marble inlays (56 in total) with figurative and ornamental motifs transferred with the techniques of marble commesso and graffiti, the floor of the Cathedral of Siena – “the most beautiful …, large and magnificent … that had ever been made“, Vasari tells us – is the result of a decorative project that lasted for centuries and involved numerous Sienese artists and workshops (in addition to Pinturicchio, the only “foreigner” in the group). The first document concerning the payment for the construction of a panel dates back to 1406, but the first interventions had to be dated back to the last century. The commitment was certainly maximum, and the coexistence of styles and attitudes of the various masters at work can today be appreciated by walking along the central nave, up to the area of ​​the transept and the presbytery he saw at work. Domenico Beccafumi, worked on the project for over twenty years in the first half of the sixteenth century. The expressive result was intense and very modern and constitutes a summary of the artistic prestige of the cycle, characterized by a narrative tendency ranging from the figures of the ancient philosophers (in front of the central portal stands Ermete Trismegisto) to biblical stories (the scene with Moses receiving the law tables, signed by Beccafumi), which selects episodes with a high salvation value. By booking the visit on the floor, you can download the free audio guide of the Duomo complex on your smartphone or request a guided tour. With the QR code present on all information material, it will also be possible to ensure access to the Cathedral, avoid queues at the ticket office, show up directly at the museum’s entrances (a visit to Opera Museumincluded in the Opa Si Pass cumulative ticket, which welcomes the public with the impressive fourteenth-century statue corps coming from the cathedral facade, the apsid window of the Duccio di Buoninsegna and collecting important works from the Sienese school).

Baptistery, wine shop and bistro, Siena


Before leaving Siena, in front of the baptistery, in Piazza San Giovanni, the Baptismal chapel, wine bar and bistro it is the right address for a relaxed lunch break, a good start to the resumption of the journey. The kitchen does not give up triggering a modern approach, which is nurtured by authenticity, seasonal and territory, the cornerstones of this kitchen.

Tempio del Brunello wine shop
Tempio del Brunello wine shop


Leaving the city in a southerly direction, the trip takes about an hour by car, crossing the landscape of Siena until it reaches the heart of the Val d’Orcia. Before entering Montalcino, continue along the road leading to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, The monastery of Sant’Antimo helps to become familiar with the history of the area. Legend has it that it was Emperor Charlemagne and founded it. In the following centuries, it will certainly be a very active center of Benedictine monastic culture. The church, built in the twelfth century, is a precious testimony to medieval architecture, surrounded by fields that the monks themselves first made sure to cultivate. The pharmacy, now housed in the ancient treasure room, bears the memory of an ancient wisdom, linked to knowledge of the earth’s herbs and products (in the shop you can buy herbal teas, balsamic candies, honey, jam, but in the monastery they also produce beer after an exclusive recipe from the monastery center). Sant’Ildegarda’s garden, named after the holy abbess of Bingen, who was so interested in the study of herbal medicine and natural medicine in the twelfth century, is an eloquent compendium of Benedictine knowledge of healing herbs still cultivated in Sant ‘Antimo. The visit to the monastery is assisted by the interactive video guide, which can be rented at the entrance to the church, to follow the spiritual itinerary of the ancient pilgrims and learn more about the work of the workers who worked on the decoration of the Carolingian chapel and crypt.

Temple of Brunello, Montalcino
Temple of Brunello, Montalcino


Refreshed by the colors of the Sienese landscape, you enter Montalcino ready to discover how the long tradition of wine production has made wine tourism a driving force for cultural and economic development of the first order of magnitude. Suitable countries and human ingenuity have collaborated to benefit the prestige of one of the most valued wine churches in the world, Brunello. The Temple of Brunello was born in Montalcino in the summer of 2021 to demonstrate that wine is the history and culture of the territory through an immersive and sensual journey related to the museum complex, which also includes the monumental complex from the fourteenth century in Sant’Agostino, the Archaeological Museum, the collections of the Civic and Diocesan Museum. The tour starts from InChiostro, the former monastery’s covered monastery, where with the help of VR viewers you “fly over” the Brunello area, among villas, vineyards, castles. The narrative voices are those from some of the biggest producers in the area, from Nello Baricci and Francesca Colombini Cinelli. We then move on to the complex’s underground space, always guided by projections and audiovisual suggestions, by the “divine image” that invites you to make your mark on Calix, which tells how the land of Montalcino has been an inspiration for art for centuries. To taste the local wines, however, you can reach the adjacent Enoteca Bistrot. Also in this case, the technology simplifies the experience, and provides the opportunity to take advantage of a digital sommelier via the app, which accompanies the selection and tasting. In the shop you can buy other local specialties: oil, honey, truffles, saffron. To be sure to return home with a tangible memory from the journey to discover the territory of Siena.

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