13km (8 miles) E of Pienza; 67km (41 miles) SE of Siena; 124km (77 miles) SE of Florence; 186km (116 miles) N of Rome

Sipping a delicious ruby wine in a friendly hill town is a good reason to trek across beautiful Tuscan countryside. Few better places to aim for than Montepulciano, with its famous, violet-scented, orange-speckled Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Wine that flows like water is a major attraction, but the beauty of this place is not to be found only at the bottom of a glass. Noble palaces, proud medieval gateways, and a jumble of enticing alleyways spread out below airy Piazza Grande at the very top of the town, and views over the surrounding hills and valleys are as intoxicating as the wine. Montepulciano is also a good base for exploring other hill towns, especially nearby Pienza and Montalcino, and for making excursions into the Val d’Orcia, that enchanting region of rolling green hills and stream-watered valleys.

The locals call themselves Poliziani after the Roman name for the town, and Poliziano is also the name that the local classical scholar/humanist Angelo Ambrogini took when he went to Florence to hold discourses with Lorenzo de' Medici, tutor Lorenzo's sons, and write some of the most finely crafted Renaissance poetry of the era -- some say his Stanze per la Giostra inspired Botticelli's mythological paintings, such as the Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring.