De’ Ricci wine cellar, the monumental cathedral of wine in Montepulciano
Going up the winding main street of Montepulciano, which leads to the Piazza Grande at the top of the town, one comes across the palace of the Marchesi Ricci. Palazzo Ricci is one of the most impressive Renaissance buildings in Montepulciano.
The main entrance coincides with that of the medieval wine cellar carved into the tufa below, which conceals millennia of history. For part of the last century it was known as the Redi cellar, but nowadays it is home to the De’ Ricci cellar. To get to the cellar, one must enter Palazzo Ricci and walk down a monumental, equestrian staircase, which reveals a spectacle of rock, vaults and wood as one descends.
In sacred silence visitors enter the central part of the wonderful cellar, characterized by thick brickwork divided into three longitudinal naves where imposing pillars support immense arcades, all of which are reminiscent of a Romanesque Gothic cathedral. But the oldest part of the cellar dates back to the Etruscan period. It is a circular cave with a well at its centre, perhaps used as a tomb or as a location for religious rituals, which, legend has it, were linked to the cult of Bacchus. Beyond this are other spaces reaching deep into the sandy tufa where fossil discoveries reveal more ancient origins when the hill on which Montepulciano stands was submerged by the sea.
Today the cellar is still in operation and houses a wine refinement site. Open to the public for a visit and tasting of the wines produced by the Trabalzini family. It is one of the sites not to be missed in Montepulciano.