As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Montalcino and the surrounding Val d’Orcia looks a lot today like it probably did during the Renaissance. A classic hilltop town with a fairytale castle and fortified walks, Montalcino is the perfect jumping off point for the Val d’Orcia. There are hundreds of kilometers of walkable paths and dirt roads that offer a multitude of possibilities to transcend time and space. Best of all, most walks often end near a delightful place to enjoy a delicious lunch or glass of the region’s famed, garnet-hued Brunello wine.
Your Gateway to Tuscany: Villa Pallazzetta
Montalcino is a lovely hilltop town that is best enjoyed ‘a piedi’. On foot you’ll experience the authentic, local, personal experiences that give meaning to travel…
We reached out to Villa Pallazetta’s ebullient House Manager Lisa Jane for her local recommendations. Raised in Siena by her British mother and Italian father, Lisa Jane speaks fluent English and is passionate about her hometown.
Lisa Jane had just returned from a long walk and reported Spring is arriving early this year. With little rain and plenty of warm weather, everything’s already in bloom. Along with her dog Sky, Lisa Jane enjoys exploring the area’s many paths using the time of year as her map. From May until June she enjoys wandering through the many grape vines… first appreciating the grape flowers and then the budding fruit. When the weather turns warm, she suggests venturing into the woods to enjoy the cooler temperatures and dappled scenery. Autumn is her favorite time as you can experience the grape harvest up close and marvel as the grape vines turn color painting the landscape a more vibrant palette.
Guests at the Villa Palazzetta, are treated to a complimentary “Welcome Walk” with Lisa Jane and Sky. It is an easy one-hour walk providing you with a first impression of your new home and surroundings. Montalcino is a small town—it takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk it from end to end. There are many picturesque paths around the town’s walls that are also good for running.
For the more active, Lisa Jane can take you on a full-day walk that includes stops at some of the more than 250 wineries located around Montalcino. Walking is inarguably the best way to explore the area as it’s impossible to see the wineries from the main roads. On the dirt paths, you will leave the tourists behind and oftentimes it will be just you, the owners and their wines. The day can be punctuated with tastings as you visit several wineries by foot, experiencing the differences between full-bodied Brunellos that reflect the different altitudes, exposures and aging. For architectural enthusiasts, many of these wineries have cellars and buildings that are as beautiful and as important as the wines they create. At the end of the day, you return to the Villa perhaps for your own private wine tasting…
The hillsides surrounding Montalcino offer more intrepid guests an undulating terrain for exploration. As Lisa Jane puts it: “Sooner or later we go back up.” These hills afford broad, captivating vistas.
It’s easy to access the Val d’Orcia and its hiking opportunities from Villa Pallazzetta. Monte Amiata is Tuscany’s highest mountain. With a summit at nearly 6,000 feet, Monte Amiata is also an inactive volcano with a 1738 meter summit. The area remains quite wild. On its western side is the Parco Faunistico del Monte Amiata, five square kilometers of natural parklands rich in fauna, forestry, vegetation and bodies of water. There are many well-marked paths where you might encounter numerous species of deer, birds and the “Crossed Sorcino” donkey. Guests are welcome to wander on their own after instruction from park officials. Be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars as well as a camera with a telephoto lens.
There is also a hiking trail from the woods of Montalcinoto to the famous Sant’Antimo Abbey. It’s a lovely walk with panoramic views and forested hillsides. Legend has it the Abbey was founded by Charlemagne in the 7thcentury when he stopped on his way back from Rome along the Via Francigena (the ancient pilgrim road). The Abbey is intact and there is a monk’s order still living at the Abbey. Should you stay for mass, you will experience the mystical, intriguing Gregorian chants sung by the monks in white robes. Once you have built up an appetite, Castelnuovo dell’Abate is a nearby hilltown that is perfect spot for lunch.
There is no better way to escape the pace of modern life and immerse yourself in authentic Italy than with a walking tour. With so many activities and Lisa Jane to open the best doors, your vacation days will evolve spontaneously and reveal what a vacation is all about.
All Homebase Abroad guests who book the Villa Palazzetta enjoy a complimentary, one-hour “Welcome Walk” with Lisa Jane.