by Loretta Gallorini
Montepulciano, is built along a narrow limestone ridge at 605 metres above sea level , it is surrounded by walls and by fortifications designed by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio. Montepulciano is well known for its Renaissance buildings, for its churches and for the “Vino Nobile” wines.
The town centre develops along the Corso that goes up the hill up to the central square, Piazza Grande, political and religious heart of the city. As you arrive at Montepulciano and overcome the Giardini di Poggiofanti, you find the Church of St. Agnese, patron of Montepulciano.
Inside there are a lot of works among which the monument that contains the body of St. Agnese. As you’ve gone beyond Porta al Prato, Via Roma begins, from here you come to a little square where a column shows the Marzocco symbol of the Florentine authority that replaced the She-wolf of Siena in 1511.
In front of it there is the Palazzo Avignonesi, attributed to Vignola an example of late-Renaissance architecture. Not far there is the Church of St. Bernard, a Baroque-taste work by Padre Andrea Pozzo and the Palazzo Tarugi , that presents late-Renaissance forms too.
Crossing Via Roma several Renaissance buildings can be seen such as Palazzo Cocconi-Del Pecora, realized by Anthonio da Sangallo il Vecchio and Palazzo Buccelli.
You arrive thus at the Church of St. Agostino, one of the most beautiful in Montepulciano. The façade was designed in the first years of 1400 by Michelozzo Michelozzi, follower and collaborator of Brunelleschi. The inside was reworked again in the XVIII century, here you can find works by Barocci, Allori and Lorenzo di Credi. The wooden crucifix of the high altar has been attributed to Donatello.
The characteristic Pulcinella of the XVI century is in front of the church, on the tower and it beats the hours on the bell. Going on, you still find palaces among which Palazzo Tarugi Cappelli, with frescos by Zuccari in the atrium, up to reach the Loggia del Mercato (Loggia of the Market), attributed to Ippolito Scalza.
We enter so Via Cavour, where the Renaissance buildings are like a wing: Palazzo Cervini, built by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio, Palazzo Cagnoni, attributed to Vignola, Palazzo del Seminario, adjacent to which is the church of Jesus, built according to the design of Andrea Pozzo.
Reaching Via del Poliziano we find, at number 1, the house of Agnolo Poliziano, who was born here. After a short distance there is the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi of the XVI century with the Baroque inside.
The street turns around the Fortress and takes us to Piazza Grande. This is the political and religious centre of Montepulciano. Piazza Grande is one of the most beautiful Italian plazas, it is surrounded by important buildings such as the Cathedral, that dates back to the second half of the XV century: its façade is incomplete but nonetheless suggestive with the bell tower on the left side that is also incomplete.
The inside has a nave and two aisle, divided by arches supported by pillars; structurally simple chapels open on the sides of the aisles . On the high altar you can see the monumental Polittico one of the richest and most famous works of the Sienese painter Taddeo di Bartolo.
The Palazzo Comunale has a beautiful median tower dating back to the XVI century and it makes you think of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. From the tower you can enjoy a beautiful panorama, that goes up to Umbria in clear and bright days.
In front of the Palazzo Comunale is the Palazzo del Monte, today known as Contucci, begun in 1519 by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio for Cardinal Antonio Ciocchi del Monte, who then became pope Giulio III.
In front of the Cathedral is Palazzo Nobili, today Tarugi, also attributed to Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio. The Well, with two lions supporting the Medicean coat of arms, is similar to the one of the Canonica of St. Biagio, that’s why it can be attributed to Sangallo. Near the well stands the Palazzo della Pretura that was the building of the captain of the People.
Taking Via Ricci, you find Palazzo Ricci on the left side, work by Baldassarre Peruzzi, then the Chapel of St. Antonio and the Palazzo Benincasa, with the bust of Gian Gastone dei Medici on the door.
As you’ve reached a wide space with a terrace on the country you can admire the Church of St. Francis that preserves on the façade the rests of a pulpit from which St. Bernardino spoke, as people say.
The visit to the city being complete, you can go down to the Madonna of St. Biagio, Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio’s work, inaugurated in 1529 by pope Clemente VII. It rises isolated in the country and it was built on the rests of the ancient Parish of St. Biagio where the tradition wants the Madonna to have been seen moving her eyes.
The Greek cross plant is surmounted by a dome, with four arms having the same length. The high altar is a work by Albertini, the frescos with the Transito (Transit), the Assunzione (assumption), the Incoronazione della Madonna (Madonna’s crowning) are probably by Zuccari.
The Well, similar to the one of Piazza Grande, is also beautiful.
Other towns in the area:Agliana, Anghiari, Arezzo, Asciano, Badia a Ruoti, Badia Agnano, Bagni di Lucca, Bagno a Ripoli, Barberino di Mugello, Barberino Val d'Elsa, Bietina, San Giustino Valdarno, Bucine, Buonconvento, Calci, Calenzano, Campo nell'Elba, Camucia di Cortona, Carrara, Casciana Terme, Cascina, Casole d'Elsa, Castel San Gimignano, Castelfiorentino, Castelfranco di Sopra, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castiglione Fibocchi, Castiglion Fiorentino, Castiglioncello, Certaldo, Cetona, Chianciano Terme, Chiusi, Cinigiano, Civitella della Chiana, Colle di Val d'Elsa, Cortona, Dicomano, Dudda, Empoli, Fabbrica di Peccioli, Figline Valdarno, Florence, Foiano della Chiana, Follonica, Fonteblanda, Fornacette, Forte dei Marmi, Gaiole in Chianti, Gambassi Terme, Gavoranno, Ghizzano, Grassina, Greve in Chianti, Grosseto, Iesa Palazzo, Impruneta, Isola del Giglio, Lamporecchio, Laterina , Livorno, Loro Ciuffenna, Lucca, Lucignano, Lucolena, Marciano della Chiana, Marina di Grosseto, Empoli, Masotti, Massa, Massa e Cozzile, Moggiona, Molazzana, Monsummano Terme, Montaione, Montalcino, Monte San Savino, Montecatini Terme, Montefollonico, Montelopio, Monterchi, Monteriggioni, Monteroni d'Arbia, Montespertoli, Montevarchi, Monteverdi Marittimo, Monticchiello di Pienza, Monticiano, Montisi, Nievole, Orbetello, Panzano in Chianti, Pari, Pergine Valdarno, Pian di Sco', Pienza, Pietrasanta, Pievasciata, Pieve Fosciana, Pisa, Pistoia, Pitigliano, Poggibonsi, Policiano, Ponsacco, Pontassieve, Ponte a Elsa, Ponte a Moriano, Pontedera, Poppi, Porciano di Lamporecchio, Porciano di Stia, Porto Ercole, Pozzo della Chiana, Prato, Puntone, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, Rapolano Terme, Reggello, Rignano sull'Arno, Rigomagno, Rigutino, Riparbella, Ponte a Moriano, Rosignano Solvay, Rufina, San Baronto, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, San Donato in Poggio, San Gimignano, San Giuliano Terme, San Giustino Valdarno, San Miniato, San Quirico d'Orcia, Sansepolcro, Sarteano, Saturnia, Scandicci, Scarlino, Segromigno in Monte, Seravezza, Serre di Rapolano, Sesto Fiorentino, Sieci, Siena, Sinalunga, Sorano, Staggia Senese, Subbiano, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Terontola, Terranuova Bracciolini, Tirrenia, Torre del Lago Puccini, Torrita di Siena, Trequanda, Uliveto Terme, Vagliagli, Vecchiano, Venturina, Viareggio, Vicchio, Vinci, Volterra
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