Above: A view from the inside of the “Fortezza” or Fortress of Montalcino, constructed in the 14th century.
Even though it’s a relatively small city, Montalcino was already well known for its beautiful and fertile landscape as early as the Middle Ages.
One of the earliest mentions of the name “Montalcino” dates back to the 12th century C.E.
Around the same time, the name also appears as “Monte Ilicino,” a toponym that most scholars believe reveals its etymology or origin.
The term ilicino, most hold, comes from the Latin ilex as in quercus ilex, what we know in English as the holly oak or the holm oak. In other words, Montalcino got its name from the fact that it was a mountain (monte) covered in evergreen holm oak trees: “The Holm Oak City.”
This theory is supported by the fact that holm oaks dot the Montalcino landscape to this day.
Known as leccio in Italian (also from the Latin ilex), the tree is often used as a symbol of the city and its famous wines.