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Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy, 1998

Photo: Montepulciano
Highest of Tuscany's famed hill towns, medieval Montepulciano shelters a honeycomb of cantine (wine cellars). Winemaking in Montepulciano is recorded as far back as A.D. 789. Even the grape, Sangiovese, suggests ancient wine production; the etymology is from sanguis, Latin for "blood," and from Jove—blood of Jove. The local strain of Sangiovese is called Prugnolo Gentile, nice little plums.

Inspired by Henry James's description of Montepulciano as a "ship swimming in a violet sea," author Frances Mayes writes that Tuscan hill towns "often give one the sense of an immense ship sailing above a plain."

(Text adapted from and photograph shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Frances Mayes in Tuscany," May/June 1999, National Geographic Traveler magazine)

Photograph by Bob Krist

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