Most blog readers probably know that Dan and I love to travel and particularly enjoy wine travel. Our two favorite wine grapes are big reds: Tannat, which we went all the way to Uruguay to drink a few years ago, and Sagrantino, a grape from the land surrounding the Umbrian town of Montefalco. Hence, we decided to start our [first] 2021 Italian adventure in Montefalco precisely to drink Montefalco’s wines! And they were fantastic. We left with no less than 3 cases…and this was our first stop. Whoopsie.
MONTEFALCO TOWN: SOME BACKGROUND
Montefalco is a small hilltop town in the region of Umbria, which is right in the center of Italy. It took us about 2 hours to arrive from Rome via car, and its only about a 20 minute drive from the tourist hotspot of Assisi (also in Umbria). Montefalco is a rather sleepy town. There is not that much to do on the tourist front aside from relaxing and enjoy the Italian “dolce vita.” Montefalco’s claim to fame is that its surrounding countryside is the most famous place in the world for the Sagrantino grape and Montefalco wines. And, Montefalco really embraces this theme; you can find everything Sagrantino here, from gelato, to pasta, to jams and jellies!
HOW TO DRINK MONTEFALCO’S WINES
Obviously, one cannot come to Montefalco without trying its delicious wine. Lucky for visitors, this is easy, and inexpensive, to accomplish.
The wineries! The area immediately surrounding Montefalco is home to a number of wineries that tourists can visit and sample wine. The general area is called La Strada del Sagrantino. Tourists should know that they will need a car to visit most wineries and it’s a very good idea to make an appointment in advance. We walked to Cantina Fratelli Pardi from Montefalco, as its only about a 10 minute walk from inside the town walls (and open on Sunday!), but others are more difficult to reach on foot.
Since we didn’t have a car and we like to drink far to much to drive between vineyards (safety first!), we booked a wine tour with Gusto Tours! Gusto took us to three wineries and an excellent lunch to taste all of the area’s wine. If you are serious about wine, or just want a fabulous day in the Umbrian countryside drinking wine, I highly recommend this tour. Its all inclusive and the host books everything for you, so all you need to do is meet your guide in the morning. I’m going to write a separate post on our tour, so stay tuned. It was truly fantastic!
If you simply do not want to leave the town of Montefalco but want to drink wine, you’re still in luck. Many shops around town sell wine and offer free, small, samples to visitors. Most have signs out front advertising the tastings (or “degustazione”). Cantina Romanelli, one of the wineries that we visited on our tour with Gusto, also has a store on the main street of Montefalco, offering tastings as well as bottles for sale. Also, every Saturday evening, the town of Montefalco offers a tasting of four wines for € 7 at 5 PM. We missed this event, but it looked interesting. And of course, every restaurant in town sells Montefalco wines. They are generally not expensive.
WHAT TO DO IN MONTEFALCO ASIDE FROM WINE
Honestly, there are not many “sites” to see in Montefalco, which is rather nice in a place like Italy! You can walk the entire town in an hour, but I would allow about 3 if you are stopping for the afternoon, 4 hours with a meal. While in town, we did a lot of relaxing, walking around town, and hanging out on piazzas, appreciating that we were finally back in Italy! In terms of sites, the main highlight for us is Piazza del Commune. Piazza del Commune is a round piazza surrounded by bars and restaurants and the most beautiful old buildings. Towns people hangout here in the evening and its a popular place for children to play. The Palazzo Comunale was particularly beautiful. We had aperitivo on Piazza del Commune each night. And for those unfamiliar, “aperitivo” is a pre-dinner drink that is often served with a complimentary snack. Our snack was European potato chips and local olives – a new plate with each drink!
There are also some cute shops in Montefalco, which just beg tourists to stop. Most are located off Corso Goffredo Mameli, Montefalco’s main tourist drag leading from the main entrance to Piazza del Commune. The small tower pictured above is at the end of Corso Goffredo Mameli opposite Piazza del Commune.
WHERE WE ATE IN MONTEFALCO
For a tiny town, Montefalco has a number of restaurants, which are hopping with people on the weekends! I did a lot of research prior to our trip, and these are the restaurants that we landed on, in addition to a few sporadic stops. I will write more about a few of these spots, at least my favorite ones, so stay tuned!
Olvem. We ate at Olvem our first night in town – an Italian ristorante on the main street closish to Piazza del Commune. I ordered the truffle pasta, which was, disappointingly, more normal mushroom than pasta. My bad! Dan ordered a Rosemary steak that was totally amazing. Reservations are probably necessary on the weekends and can be made online. The crowd was a mix of tourists and locals.
L’Alchemista. Another night we ate at L’Alchemista, which is well known as Montefalco’s “nicest” restaurant. Located in a prime location on the Piazza del Commune, reservations are a good idea, especially on the weekends. Living up to its reputation, the food at L’Alchemista did not disappoint. Highlights included fried Pecorino cheese and Sagrantino gnocchi. Another post coming on this dinner.
Il Verziere. We lunched at Il Verziere one day because (1) it was easy and (2) they served pizza and we were slightly hungover. Spoiler alert: it was not our favorite. Il Verziere has a very interesting design – almost like an old museum of household things paired with red checkered table cloths and lots of signs about wine. It’s cute enough. Il Verziere has a pretty standard touristy Italian menu, and we both ordered pizza. Mine sausage and Dan’s a type of American pepperoni (which is not really a thing in Italy – a pepperoni here is a red pepper). In any case, the pizzas were fine and cheap, but probably the worst meal of the entire trip. Be warned.
Santagostino. Santagostino is a cute little gelato shop located on a side street near the tower posted earlier (i.e. the primary entrance to Montefalco). We visited Santagostino a couple time during our stay. While they had lots of flavors, from creative to classic, my favorite was the Cheesecake al Sagrantino!
Enoteca Federico II. We also spent a couple evenings having Aperitivo at Enoteca Federico II on Piazza del Commune. While they may be better Aperitivo deals around, Federico was always busy with locals and, as mentioned above, Federico gave potato chips (or “crisps”) and olives with each beverage. One night we splurged and ordered a full cheese plate; it was unexpectedly amazing. One down side: the lime green beverage is their house “special.”
Il Postaccio. Saving the best for last, our best and last meal in Montefalco was had at a very local establishment called Il Postaccio just outside of Montefalco’s town walls. It was recommended to us by our Gusto Wine Tour guide. I already wrote a separate review on Il Postaccio, and you should absolutely read it for a full review. While Il Postaccio was absolutely delicious and cheap, tt ranked up there with our meal at Roma Sparita and Roscioli. Yes, it said it. It reminded me of a place that Anthony Bourdain would have really enoyed.
WHERE TO STAY IN MONTEFALCO
We stayed at the lovely Hotel degli Affreschi, which is located right on Montefalco’s main street, almost right between the entrance tower and Piazza del Commune. Perfect location. The rooms at Hotel degli Affreschi were small and basic with an en suite shower. Not luxurious but nice enough. A small breakfast was served each morning, and there is a hot tub on the rooftop. The staff was very nice but they did not speak English when we visited.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Gusto Wine Tours: So fun! We did the classic Gusto Wine Tour!
Olvem: Corso Goffredo Mameli, 55, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy. Reservations can easily be made online. Recommended on the weekends.
L’Alchemista: Piazza del Comune, 14, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy. Closed Tuesdays. Reservations a good idea.
Il Veziere: Via Piceni, 2, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy
Enoteca Federico II: Piazza del Comune, 1, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy. Open all day. Reservations not required.
Santagostino: Via Luigi, Via Luigi Pianciani, 8, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy.
Il Postaccio: Viale della Vittoria, 7, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy. Casual. Reservations not a bad idea. No website.
Hotel degli Affreschi: Corso Goffredo Mameli, 45, 06036 Montefalco PG, Italy. There is a hottub for hotel guests’ use on the rooftop. IMO, the rooms look much nicer on their website than in person.
ON A BUDGET
Montefalco is a budget travelers’ dream once you arrive. We stayed at the nicest hotel in town and it was only € 100 per night, with many less expensive offerings to be found. High quality food was also inexpensive and Il Postaccio and Il Veziere were each super inexpensive.