Even if you come to Montepulciano to learn Italian, you will probably not want to pass all your time doing exercises and reading grammar books! It is possible to spend pleasant afternoons in the countryside or enrich your knowledge of Montepulciano and its surrounding areas. If this is your intention, you may like to take part in our mini-courses or in our cultural program whose activities include guided tours of Montepulciano, cooking evenings, wine-tasting, a series of tutorials on history and the story of art, walks in the country and excursions to Cortona, Lago di Trasimeno or Montalcino. All these activities are, of course, in Italian. The excursions are optional and not included in the price of courses.
If you want to organize your own free time, Montepulciano and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer, including the towns of Chiusi and Cortona, famous for their Etruscan origins, the monasteries of Sant'Antimo and Monte Oliveto Maggiore, mediaeval towns such as Cetona and Città delle Pieve and Pienza, known as the "Pearl of the Renaissance". For nature lovers, there are hundreds of scenic walking routes in the Val d'Orcia or on Monte Amiata. In Montepulciano there are tennis courts, dance schools and a gym. In Chianciano (8 km away and on a bus route) there is a swimming pool. We also recommend a visit to the area's large number of spa towns, such as Bagno Vignoni, Bagni di S. Filippo and San Casciano dei Bagni (reachable only by car).
In summer the cultural life is very varied: food festivals, concerts and recitals, the piazza transformed into a theatre. Exhibitions and pageants frequently recreate the Middle Ages. There is also a series of concerts ("I Concerti di Palazzo Ricci") organised by the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln / Germany - whose overseas headquarters is based in Montepulciano. Needless to say, Tuscany is also a destination for those who love good food and drink. And of course there are the great wines, the Vino Nobile and the Brunello.
Thanks to its privileged position near to motorways and main line train stations, Montepulciano is also the ideal point for excursions to Central Italy's most famous historic and cultural centres: Siena, Arezzo, Perugia and Assisi are about 50-100 km away, while from the nearby Chiusi/Chianciano Terme railway station, you can get to Rome and Florence in little more than an hour.
Our Italian language courses are supplemented by a program of excursions that allow participants to explore both the past and the present of the region. Participation in the excursions is optional and the cost is not included in the price of the course. Here are some examples:
Tour of Montepulciano
On a guided walk through the town, we'll discover Montepulciano's history and artistic beauty while getting to know the place that'll be our home for the next few weeks. In the historic centre there are churches and palazzi that illustrate the history of architecture from the Middle Ages forward, with a particular emphasis on the Renaissance period. But there are also architectural evidence of the Etruscans and the Romans, baroque churches and the 18th century Poliziano Theatre.
Excursion to Montalcino and Sant'Antimo
Perched on a hill, the village of Montalcino - famous worldwide for its Brunello wine - dominates the surrounding countryside. Its most distinguishing monument is the 14th century fortress from whose towers one can enjoy a breathtaking panorama that stretches, on clear days, beyond the boundary of Southern Tuscany into the province of Lazio. Amid artisans' studios, small cafes and shops selling typical, local products are the many historical sites of Montalcino. These include the beautiful Town Hall, the Bishops' Palace, which hosts the Combined Museums, the historic cross of Sant'Antimo, and the churches of Saint Augustine, Saint Egidio and Saint Francis, all constructed between the 13h and the 14th centuries. The Monastery of Sant'Antimo, well known for the Gregorian chant still sung by its monks today, is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Tuscany.
Wine Tasting at the Cantina Crociani
The wine tasting and tour of the Crociani wine cellars has become an Il Sasso classic and is one of our students' favourite activities. Visitors to Crociani are enchanted by the setting - a place in which time seems to have stood still. They are willingly seduced by the extraordinary Tuscan hospitality, and the tantalizing flavour of the wines, which are combined to perfection with typical local products. A visit to the Cellar provides wonderful surprises, such as the long underground tunnel, recently discovered and partially restored. This could have been part of an ancient Etruscan tomb, or perhaps it was part of the system of tunnels that led outside the town and provided an escape route during sieges.
What a great idea to learn the language and the cuisine together! This evening offers you the chance to prepare and eat a typical Italian meal, following the instructions of an expert cook, while chatting in Italian. The menu consists of a choice of antipasti, first and second course dishes, vegetable side dishes and desserts, prepared from fresh, seasonally available ingredients and savoured together at the end of the evening. A sample menu - bruschetta, crostini, pici (a local, homemade pasta that's like thick spaghetti), gnocchi, wild boar, stuffed duck, tiramisu...
Walks in the countryside
There's nothing better to help you experience the famous Tuscan countryside than a good walk. Let's rest our minds for a change and put our muscles to work as we walk through vineyards and across cultivated fields from Montepulciano to Montefollonico or Montichiello.
Arrivederci a presto!
The course is over. Let's exchange addresses and go to lunch together at our favourite restaurant, the Trattoria di Cagnano, to say our goodbyes in Italian!