Montepulciano Tourist Attractions
SituationMontepulciano lies in eastern Tuscany, some 70km/45mi southeast of Siena and 20km/12.5mi west of Lake Trasimene (which is in Umbria).HistoryMontepulciano is traditionally believed to have been founded by Porsenna; and it seems very probable that the place was of Etruscan origin. It first appears in the records in the eigth century A.D. as Mons Policianus, from which its present name is derived (as well as the designation of its inhabitants as Poliziani). During the Middle Ages it was alternately allied with, or subject to, either Siena or Florence. Leading artists and architects were attracted to the town by the noble families who retained their influence here longer than in other Tuscan cities, and in consequence Montepulciano can boast numbers of fine Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Montepulciano was the birthplace of Marcello Cervini who in 1555 as Marcellus II was pope for 21 days.
On the south side of the Piazza Grande stands the cathedral, built on the site of the earlier parish church, at the time when the Bishop of Chiusi was driven by the increasing marshiness of the Chiana Valley to transfer his episcopal seat to Montepulciano. The present building, designed by Ippolito Scalza, was erected between 1592 and 1630. The campanile is a relic of the earlier church. The rough stonework of the facade shows that it was left unfinished. There are three doorways. Inside, to the left of the main doorway, is the recumbent figure of Bartolomeo Aragazzi, Secretary to Pope Martin V (1417-31). His tomb, in the style of the Early Renaissance, was the work of Michelozzo di Bartolommeo, but was later taken to pieces; other fragments can be seen elsewhere in the cathedral. Behind the high altar is a triptych of the Assumption by Taddeo di Bártolo (1401).
The Palazzo Comunale, an austere and massive building on the west side of the Piazza Grande, was begun at the end of the 14th century, but was given its present form in 1424 by the Florentine Renaissance architect Michelozzo, as plans by Michelozzo found as recently as 1965 have demonstrated. The plain, clearly articulated facade with its battlemented top and the tower with its upper section are reminiscent of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, though the Palazzo Vecchio lacks the symmetry of Montepulciano's Palazzo Comunale. From the top of the tower (which visitors can climb) there are extensive views of the surrounding countryside.
Address: Piazza Grande 1, I-53045 Montepulciano, Italy
Opening hours: 9:30am-12:30pm; Mon: 9:30am-5:30pm; Wed: 9:30am-5:30pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), New Year's Day (Jan 1), Liberation Day - Italy (Apr 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Festival of the Tricolor - Italy (May 12), Feast of St John the Baptist - Christian (Jun 24), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Victory Day / National Unity Day - Italy (Nov 4), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Opposite the Palazzo Comunale, on the east side of the square, is the Palazzo Contucci. Like many other buildings in Montepulciano, it was the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Elder (c. 1455-1534), who built it for Cardinal Giovanni Maria del Monte, later Pope Julius III. The second floor was added by Baldassare Peruzzi. The palace contains frescoes by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709).
The massive Palazzo Tarugi, on the north side of the Palazzo Comunale, is also attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, though there is some probability that it was the work of Giacomo da Vignola (1507-73). The lower part of the façade is articulated by columns supporting a balustrade; the open loggia on the ground floor originally had a counterpart on the upper floor, but this is now walled up. Adjoining the Palazzo Tarugi is a fountain erected in 1520, incorporating two Etruscan columns; it is topped by two lions bearing the Médici coat of arms and two griffins.
Palazzo della Pretura
Set back a little from the Palazzo Tarugi is the Palazzo della Pretura (formerly Palazzo del Capitano del Pópolo), a fairly plain 14th century building.
Santa Maria dei Servi
From the cathedral Via della Fortezza runs south past the fortezza (rebuilt about 1880 in a pastiche of its original style) to the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, outside the town walls. Built in the 14th century, it has an exterior in Gothic style, but the interior (aisleless) was given its Baroque form by Andrea Pozzo in the late 17th century.
Via Ricci runs north from the Piazza Grande. At No 11, on the right, is the Palazzo Neri Orselli (14th century), built of brick and travertine. It now houses the Museo Cívico (Municipal Museum), which is mainly devoted to pictures of the medieval and Renaissance periods but also contains a number of fine terracottas by Andrea della Robbia.
Northeast of the Museo Cívico, at Via di Voltaia 21, is the Palazzo Cervini, which consists of a central section set back from the street and flanked by two side wings. The palazzo was built by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder between 1518 and 1534 for Cardinal Marcello Cervini, later Pope Marcellus II, but remained unfinished.
A short distance north of the Palazzo Cervini by way of Via di Gracciano is the Church of Sant'Agostino (1427). The handsome Renaissance facade by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo (with a terracotta relief, also by Michelozzo, in the tympanum) shows curious reminiscences of Gothic. The interior (aisleless) was remodeled in the late 18th century. The church contains a fine wooden Crucifix (15th century) and a number of pictures, mainly of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Via dell'Opio and Via di Voltaia
To the east of Piazza Grande Via dell'Opio with its northward continuation, Via di Voltaia, forms the main street of the town which is lined with fine palaces and churches.
A few paces north of Sant'Agostino, on the right-hand side of the street, is the Palazzo Cocconi, which is thought to have been built by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Near the north end of Via di Gracciano (No 99, on the left) stands the Palazzo Avignonesi, the design of which is attributed to Giácomo da Vignola (real name Giácomo Barozzi, 1507-73). The Late Renaissance facade has rusticated masonry on the ground floor and two orders of windows on the upper floors, surmounted by alternate triangular and curving pediments.
Outside the town walls of Montepulciano, reached by the Porta al Prato at the north end of the town, is the Church of Sant'Agnese, dedicated to St Agnes of Montepulciano (Agnese Segni, d. 1317). It occupies the site of the earlier church of Santa Maria Novella built by the Saint herself. In the first chapel on the right is a fresco of the Madonna, of the school of Simone Martini; on the high altar is the Saint's reliquary. Adjoining the church is a cloister with 17th century frescoes.
The church of Madonna di San Biagio is a wonderful piece of Renaissance architecture, built in the first half of the 16th C. The interior is open and splendidly proportioned.
The church of San Biagio, about 2km/1.25 mi southwest of Montepulciano, at the end of a long avenue lined with cypresses, is a centralized structure which was built in 1518-45 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, but it still shows the influence of Bramante. The church is built of gold-colored travertine, and is considered one of the finest buildings of the Renaissance.
Map of Montepulciano Attractions