The harvest season is long gone, the porcini mushrooms have all been picked and the asparagus isn't ready yet. So what are you doing in Montalcino again?
Wine tasting. Obviously. At no other time of the year will winery owners have so much time for your visit to their estate. Vineyards are resting, stress levels in the wine cellar have calmed down and the few people left in town are happy to find somebody to talk to. And you'll be among the first to taste Montalcino's most recent Brunello vintage, which after more than four years of aging can be released on the market each year from the 7th of January.
|This way to the new vintage|
January is also a great month to explore Val d'Orcia's famous countryside by foot, especially on a Tuesday or Friday. On any other day of the week you risk being shot by a hunter who's getting the wild boar meat together, which Tuscany's restaurants serve through the rest of the year. A winter walk will also provide the opportunity to snap one of the beloved photos which show Brunello town towering over a sea of fog.
HIKING IN MONTALCINO
Hunting season starts in mid September and stops on the 31st of January (no hunting allowed on Tuesdays and Fridays all through Tuscany). On the other days of the week stay on Montalcino's countless dirt and gravel roads and avoid exploring the underwood, unless you know the territory and the shooting habits of the locals very well. And remember to bring that fluorescent jacket you've been hiding in the cupboard since the 80s.
GOOD TO KNOW
A lot of bars, restaurants and shops will be closed in January, whilst their owner enjoy a break from the wine world in Honolulu or Ko Samui. But there's always somebody staying open to feed the locals. Just ask around. Flannel pajamas are a good idea, as you're hotel room is prone to be under-heated. The best way to warm up (apart of Brunello drinking) lies in a visit to one of Tuscany's many wilderness springs or historic spa towns, which are at their best in the midst of winter.
All photos by Raffaella Cova. Find out more about her cooking school in Montalcino and her catering services in Val d'Orcia on Lunch with Raffaella.