The Temple of San Biagio - back to former splendour


The church of San Biagio against the backdrop of Montepulciano
The temple of San Biagio seen from the Pienza - Montepulciano road
Tuscany has countless churches in incredible locations. But some stick out and leave a mark, even if you're the 'seen one church, seen them all' type of person. Montepulciano's temple of San Biagio is one of them. It's hard not to drive off the road when noticing it for the first time while approaching Montepulciano on the road from Pienza. Over the years, I've observed many a hazardous manoeuvre by tourists trying to get a pic of San Biagio taking a sunset bath during golden hour (and am guilty of some of them myself).

Whether you pull over on the road from Pienza or look down onto the church from Montepulciano's town walls, San Biagio looks incredible from every angle and in front of every backdrop. No doubt, Tuscans know how to choose a scenic location but its thanks to the genius of Renaissance architect Antonio da San Gallo the elder that the church stands out like no other while at the same time fitting perfectly into the landscape.
The temple of San Biagio seen from Montepulciano's town walls
Temple of San Biagio seen from Montepulciano's town walls

But nothing is perfect. During the last decade, after approaching the church via the elegant cypress-lined road, one couldn't but feel a little disappointed by the interior of the stately temple. The warm feeling of the travertine facade lit up by the Tuscan sunlight vanished once over the doorstep. Antonio da San Gallo's design for the interior had never been entirely carried out and over the centuries the walls had been stripped off the paintings and altars adorning them. The mould and stains left behind created a bleak and eery contrast to the glowing exteriors.

San Biagio church with Montepulciano in the background

Luckily, things have changed. Just in time for its five hundred years anniversary, the church has been diligently restored and brought back to former splendour. And an accompanying exhibition has been set up recounting the temple's history and the changes carried out over the centuries (no idea whether it includes the list of related car accidents too).


The cupola of the San Biagio temple


TEMPLE OF SAN BIAGIO

Opening times of the church and the exhibition of San Biagio's history and restoration:

April 22 - May 31: 10am - 6pm

June 1 - September 30: 9.30am - 6.30pm

October 1 - 31: 10am - 6pm

November 1 - 4: 10am - noon / 3pm - 5pm

Tickets: € 3,50 (including a free audioguide in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian). Free entrance for children up to 6 yrs.

How it used to be - a drawing of Montepulciano's San Biagio church





WINTER WINERY VISIT

Brunello di Montalcino is not an everyday wine, and especially Brunello Riservas - produced only in outstanding vintages - are wines for big occasions, birthdays, anniversaries and, of course, the holidays. 

But when visiting Montalcino and the Val d'Orcia during Christmas season, many wine lovers struggle to find a vineyard open for tastings. Understandably, after a year of hard work, most Brunello producers celebrate at home to finally enjoy their wine with their families.  


snow in a Montalcino vineyard
Palazzone vineyard near Montalcino: open for tastings during the holidays

Il Palazzone's holiday winery visits are an exception to the rule and the themed tastings are just the thing you need if you're still contemplating ideal wine pairings for Christmas lunch or New Year's Eve. 

Sensory Tasting – Family Friendly 
Deciphering the aromas in a wineglass is fun! Come and explore the world of aromas and scents. Includes: private winery tour, guided tasting of 4 wines & a leaflet. 


Pairing Sangiovese – Foodlovers' Delight 
How food pairing rules work and what is best with Brunello or Rosso di Montalcino. Includes: Private winery tour, tasting/pairing of 3 different Sangiovese wines. 


Classic Il Palazzone Tour and Tasting 
Private winery tour and wine and olive oil tasting 

For more information visit Il Palazzone's website or send an email to info@vino-vistas.com or laura@ilpalazzone.com.

SUNSET TASTINGS IN BRUNELLO TOWN

Cypress trees and Tuscan hills at sunset
Sunset at the Palazzone winery


Tasting Brunello can be a daunting task, at least during the two hottest months of the year. When temperatures start to reach suffocating highs in July and August, only hard-core professionals will look forward to starting the day with a wine that often has an alcohol content of 14 % (let alone the even mightier Brunello Riserva). Most travelers would just ask for one more iced coffee, thank you, if it wasn't for, yes, Montalcino. 

At Il Palazzone - one of my top ten wineries to visit in Montalcino - Esther from Vino Vistas created a cool alternative to sticky Tuscan summer mornings spent spitting too warm wine: sunset tastings (I still can't believe that nobody has thought about it before!).

Swirl your wine at sundown and enjoy not just the gorgeous view but also a bit of a breeze. Montalcino isn't just known for Brunello, but also for its windy evenings, and you'll come to love them after a sizzling hot August day.




Tastings start around 7pm, depending on time of year/sunset. The winery is located five minutes from the town center. 
Book ahead as tastings are for private groups only (from 2 to 8 participants). Prices start from 30€ per person depending on the selection of wines chosen. To book the tour send an email to Esther (info@vino-vistas.com), the certified and extremely knowledgable wine guide who will lead you through the expert tasting. 
Looking for more info about the - Richard Parsons owned - Palazzone winery? Read on here
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