MEET MY TUSCAN VILLAGE AND ITS WINE: CINIGIANO AND MONTECUCCO DOCG


A glass of Montecucco wine, full moon and the view from Cinigiano towards Castiglioncello Bandini


Over a decade ago a group of Italian tourists from the Veneto quickly stopped at one of Cinigiano's two small bars to ask for directions to famous Montalcino. 

They left three days later. 

The historic center of my Tuscan town may not be much of a sightbut the village bars have a certain reputation. In fact the aforementioned group has been coming back every year. And rumors have it that they still haven't gotten around to make the drive to Brunello town

an olive grove and mount amiata in the back ground
 WHAT TO SEE

A stroll through Cinigiano's tiny town center will make it obvious - the views towards Mount Amiata and over the Maremma countryside are the main attraction. For more of them hop into your car and drive to one of the hamlets and villages which belong to Cinigiano's territory.

Medieval looking Monticello Amiata is up on 734 meters and with that perfect for a cool breeze on a hot summer day (and for freezing winds in the winter). Porrona is a medieval castle which has been turned into a hotel (which is never open), but the few locals manage to keep the place in great shape

Castiglioncello Bandini's castle is no beauty but the views from the tiny town make more than up for it. Have a drink at the Circolo, the little bar at the bottom end of the hamlet, and watch the isles of Montecristo and Corsica raise out of the Mediterranean sea at sunset. 

If you head into the opposite direction (towards the coast from Cinigiano) Poggi del Sasso hosts a famous classical music festival and offers great views over the hills of Val d'Orcia towards mount Amiata. 


Colored flowers in pots on stairs in the historic town center





WHAT TO DO APART OF DRINKING

Hiking and biking are your best alternatives in Cinigiano, if aperititvo isn't the first word that comes to mind when booking your holiday (or at least not aperitif before 11 am). Quiet roads, off-the-beaten path villages and countless countryside walks with fabulous views are the main reason why I live here. You're likely to come across sign posts for hiking trails, which can't be found again once you actually start looking for them. And don't plan to ask a fellow tourist. There are none. You're better off with a paper map, the locals' advice and the GPS on your phone (checking my position with the satellite view on Google maps has always gotten me back home so far). 


Cycling in Tuscany: Monticello - Cinigiano



SHOPPING
Tuesday morning is the weekly market day with good fresh vegetable a fish vendor and a few other stalls. It's when everybody is in town and the bars will be jammed with card playing pensioners. 

TATTOOS
Still don't have one? It's time to get the hang of it at the local tattoo studio. The Cinigiano born tattoo artist has worked in Australia and all over Italy before he decided to set up shop back home. Which makes of Cinigiano the first quaint Tuscan hilltop village with two busy bars and a tattoo shop. It's as crazy as I like it.  

SPORTS
In spring and autumn it is possible to canoe on the Ombrone river all the way to the sea (the river enters the Mediterranean in the gorgeous Maremma nature reserve). Not that I ever met anybody who's done this but I hope to live to tell the tale. Or just follow the signs from Sasso d'Ombrone (another village belonging to Cinigiano's extensive territory) for a river side picnic with some fishing. 

Last but not least - paragliding. The bold can fly off from the top of Mount Aquilaia so as to get a bird's eye view of that Tuscan town of mine. But please refrain from landing in our olive grove

a paraglider starting from a Tuscan mountain

Paraglider flying over the hills of Maremma and Val d'Orcia

WINERY VISITS

Cinigiano is home to the Sangiovese based Montecucco DOCG wines. Check out the organically run Basile winery (read my interview with the owner here) for the best wine tasting in the area with some of the most amazing views over Maremma and Val d'Orcia.

The Basile vineyard is also the starting point for one of my favorite round walks, which will take you down into the valley to aforementioned Porrona. Take an appointment for a winery visit beforehand, to make sure the Basile family will have to pick you up if you're lost or just too lazy to walk all the way up again. 

Tuscany's rolling hills in autumn

WHEN TO COME

SPRING
If orienteering isn't your thing, join Cinigiano's yearly trekking on the first Sunday of May. The guided hike leads through a different part of the territory every year and - no need to say - includes plenty of food and wine


Through the fields - Cinigiano in spring





SUMMER
Classical music lovers should time their visit for the three concert cycles of the Amiata Piano Festival between June and September. The Dyonisos cycle uses the contemporary wine cellar of the ColleMassari winery as a stage, which in itself is worth a visit. 

AUTUMN
October is party time with the Festa dell'Uva, the local wine harvest festival in downtown Cinigiano on the first weekend of the month  and the chestnut festival in Monticello Amiata on the second weekend of the month.

In autumn also visit a frantoio (olive press) for a taste of the freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil. 

WINTER
My favorite event of the year happens in February. If you fancy eating outside on a cold winter night, check out Cinigiano's Notte dei Rivolti


outdoor polenta serving in Tuscany

cooking polenta on the fire in winter

a folk music choir on a piazza in Cinigiano




WHERE TO EAT
Restaurant Rintocco on Cinigiano's town square has tables outside in the summer. Make a reservation (+39 0564 994120) and during high season arrive early to avoid long waits (Rintocco's pizza is one of the best in the area). Good ice cream can be had in the gelateria in the same square from Easter to autumn. 

During summer join one of the frequent neighborhood dinners (ask for details at the tourist office next to bar Sport). 

Also, when stocking up at the forno (the local bakery) buy a couple of biscotti salati. Nowhere do they taste so good as in Cinigiano (my mother-in-law recommends baking them a second time in the oven to enjoy them extra crunchy).

a long table filled with people in an old Tuscan cellar used as restaurant



WHERE TO STAY

There's a wide selection of agriturismi with holiday apartments spread through the countryside (Il Poderino is a good option with pool for families with kids), whereas Monticello Amiata's Lucherino campsite is a great location for shoe-string travelers, who want to pitch their tent in the midst of a great panorama. Also near Monticello is spacious  Villa Le Pianore, which is perfect for bigger groups, seminars or celebrations. 

The rich and beautiful may also want to check out Castello Vicarello. The castle has been painstakingly restored into an exclusive boutique hotel with spa. Ambiance is Tuscan with Indonesian furniture, prices are over the roof and the owners aren't the friendliest people around (I hope you got the message). 

Two glasses with water and cappuccino and the view over the Tuscan hills





A final warning for your holiday in my Tuscan villagedon't ever think of going Dutch when drinking in Cinigiano. Never! People pay for rounds in this town, and anybody who doesn't pick up on the local custom will be supplied with directions to Montalcino very quickly. 

A washinline and Cinigiano road sign at the end of the village





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