Montefalco was the second stop on our tour of three small towns in Umbria: Bevagna, Montefalco and Spello. Montefalco is the centre of the Montefalco di Sagrantino wine producing area, but the small towns of Bevagna, Gualdo Catteneo, Castel Ritardi, Bastardo and Giano dell’Umbria are also within the region. Known as the Balcony of Umbria, due to it high elevation, it has incredible views across the surrounding countryside.
Our first stop was at the Pardi winery, located just below the walls of Montefalco. Pardi make an excellent Rosso di Montepulciano (15% Sagrantino, 70% Sangiovese, 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.5% Merlot) and 100% Sagrantino di Montefalco in dry and sweet forms. Sagrantino is a grape unique to this area, it makes a powerful, tannic red suitable for drinking with red meat and game, Montefalco Rosso is a lighter wine more suited to everyday drinking, Pardi make one one the best that I have tried. I was also excited to discover that they are making a white from Trebbiano Spoletino, a grape that was almost forgotten until it was revived by a few local wineries. If you don’t like spending too much on your wine try a 5 litre container of “vino sfuso”, wine straight from the stainless steel container – exactly the same as the Montefalco Rosso but not aged in oak.
In addition to Sagrantino wines, the town of Montefalco has eight saints, the remains of at least three of whose saints can be found on display in the town’s churches. Benozzo Gozzoli, pupil and collaborator of Fra Angelico decorated the apse of church of San Francesco with a fresco cycle showing the life of Saint Francis.
If you have been to the Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi you can compare scenes and see how art changed within 150 years, also note how in the Montefalco frescoes, parallels are drawn between the life of St. Francis takes and that of Jesus, there is a scene where he is born in a stable in the presence of a donkey and an ox. The church of San Francesco is now a museum, the entrance fee is €6 and it’s worth paying to have a look around. In addition to the Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes, look out for a fresco by Perugino and a couple of paintings showing the Madonna driving off the devil with a club.
Due to the unsettled early spring weather, Montefalco’s altitude made is it much cooler than Bevagna which we had visited earlier in the day. Typically, I had been lulled into leaving my coat in the car by the warm temperatures in Bevagna, it’s amazing what a difference a few hundred metres in altitude can make.