Spring in Tuscany is a great time for vineyard walks since the vines grow all over the place thanks to the generous mix of sunshine and rain provided by April and May, and the various techniques used to tie them up can be seen in action. But this is also the perfect month to stop thinking about wine for a couple of hours so as to properly explore Montalcino's historic town center.
May brings out the best of Tuscan gardens, and Montalcino is full of them. Walk down into the Travaglio or Pianello neighborhoods (just take one of the small roads or stairs which lead from Montalcino's main shopping road into the valley) and peek over medieval walls and through iron gates for some fabulous sights of nature in bloom.
Once you've discovered Montalcino's vegetable gardens (which at times include entire olive groves), you'll understand how the city has managed to resist years of siege. In fact the enemies outside of the town walls were known to plant vineyards - knowing that they might be hanging around for a few years it was obviously worth the effort.
GOOD TO KNOW
You'll hear a lot of complaining about the weather in May. On a cloudy day it's either too cold (ma ancora inverno?!) on a sunny day it will already be too hot (e le mezze stagioni?!). Bring wellies or good shoes if you want to walk the vineyards as they may be muddy after the rain. And warm clothes. Remember, Montalcino is high up (the town center is nearly 600 meters above sea level) and evenings can still get rather cold.
- Every first of May Sant'Angelo in Scalo (the small village around Montalcino's former train station) celebrates a village festival for labor day with donkey races, local wine and plenty of homemade food.
- On the 8th of May schools are closed for the celebration of Montalcino's patron saint (Maria Santissima del Soccorso). The band will play and mass is read at the venerated church and dinners are organized in Montalcino's four neighborhoods on and around the day.
- Festivities for the patron Saint of Castelnuovo dell'Abate take place on the 10th and 11th May, so expect some extra services at Sant'Antimo abbey.
ALL PHOTOS ©RAFFAELLA COVA, owner of Lunch with Raffaella, a hands-on cooking school and gourmet catering service in Montalcino and Val d'Orcia.