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Its location , on the ridge of a hill between Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia, has had great influence on the history of the town of Montepulciano and its town plan. The township of Montepulciano counts about 15000 residents and its area measures 165 kilometers. It’s the largest township in the Valdichiana Senese. It’s located on a hill at 605 meters at sea level. Its landscape is characterized by olive cultivations , vineyards and several naturalistic aspects of the area as clay hills and cypress trees. From the tower of the town hall, a Renaissance building, one can view the Mounts Sibillini and Mount Cimone. The Val d’Orcia (Pienza, San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni), Umbria (Perugia, Assisi, Lake Trasimeno) and Lazio are easily reached from Montepulciano . It was probably inhabited during Etruscan times, but, only since 715, it became known with the name of Mons Politianus . One could say that its urban setting doesn’t definitely gain ground until the second half of the XIIIth century, due to the territorial transformations caused by the change of the Valdichiana into a marshy area and the relative transferring of communications westward: the primary nucleus of Montepulciano stands exactly on the new link axle for the Val d’Orcia and Siena. This first phase of the town plan can be recognized on the most protruding part of the present town ( that is, its western area), essentially positioned around the emerging pole of the Fortress and the Parish of Saint Mary ( inexistent nowadays). The wall circuit, that started from the Fortress (Sasso), probably included the area among Via Verdi, Via Piè al Sasso, Via Cocci, and it strictly followed the same physical shape of the Poggio, that had been opportunely cut and leveled to permit living settlements. The development of the center was quite important for the two powerful townships of Siena and Florence, that through the ownership of the town could have exercised full control over Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia. As a matter of fact, the Florentines and the Sienese underwent quite a few conflicts for the ownership of Montepulciano. In 1232, the Sienese were able to conquer Montepulciano after having razed to the ground the perimeter walls. From this time on and for about three centuries, the town alternately enters and exits the Florentine and Sienese dominion , while the presence of a high merchant bourgeoisie and a manufacturing and agricultural one , that based their power and richness on trade and business , firmly develop inside the town. Around the first half of the XIIIth century, the town starts extending towards the rising ground of Saint Francis , around the streets of Cagnano-Piè al Sasso, and along the present Via Cavour and to Piazza delle Erbe. Then there’s a further development during the XIIIth – XIVth century , that unifies Via Piè al Sasso and Via Cavour with the more ancient street , Via dei Ricci , thus establishing in this way, the definite town plan. From 1300 on, the role of Montepulciano appears quite clear : its wide range commercial activities are quite advantaged from the town position, privileged due to important axle links, while local commercial activities lean on a market, that supports the trade of agricultural products of Valdorcia and great part of Valdichiana. A precise town organization ,that bases itself on the different town functions develops from the commercial and trade activities. Thus, in Piazza Grande , one can recognize the headquarters, that represents institutions; in Via dei Ricci, the axis of commercial activities; Piazza delle Erbe, situated on the crossroads of Val d’Orcia and Valdichiana as the market place for provisions; and finally “le Rughe” and the last developed hamlet (Gracciano, Ciliano) as the favourite areas for manufacturing activities. Although , the XIVth century is a century of great urban development, it ‘s also a period of great conflicts inside the dominant groups, until the lordship of the Del Pecora family, takes over and starts governing the town , through alternate vicissitudes ,until the submission of Monte pulciano to the Florentines in 1390. During the XVth century, the influence of the Florentine dominion is quite evident, not only in the administrative and political field, but also in the architectural and town planning field. As a matter of fact, both the pre existent areas and the main link axis undergo restructuring. The first important work is the arrangement of Piazza Grande, with the restructuring of the Town Hall, commissioned to the Florentine architect Michelozzo Michelozzi. After a last period of Sienese dominion (1495-1511), in the XVIth century, a period of incomparable renewal for the urban image of Montepulciano starts taking place. Thanks to Antonio da San Gallo, the Eldest, who supervises the restructuring of the Fortress, builds the church of the Madonna of Saint Biagio and several other luxury buildings, a renewal of construction activity, never seen before, begins. Other architects as Baldassare Peruzzi, Jacopo da Vignola, Ippolito Scalza contribute to this renewal. The importance of the Town is underlined by its promotion to Bishop headquarters in 1561.Between 1609 and 1636 ,according to Ferdinand Ist’s will, the government of Montepulciano is assigned to his widow Cristina di Lorena. From this time on, many magnificent religious constructions are created as the completion of the Cathedral; the churches of Jesus, of Saint Lucy, of Saint Bernard, of Saint Joseph and of Saint Lawrence. From the second half of the XVIIIth century, concurrent with the program of the Lorena family , projected towards the restructuring of the Valdichiana, a slow process of renewal in town, that reaches its apex in the construction of the Theatre of Montepulciano takes place . But the definite strengthening of the role of the town , occurs at the completion of the improvement of the Valdichiana, when the new valley viability, that connects Arezzo, Foiano, Bettolle, Chiusi (1835)is created. The influence of this new organization of the territory brings a discrete population increase ( it goes from 8437 inhabitants in 1811, to 9945 inhabitants in 1837 and to 12,284 in 1851). But the construction of a railway in the lower part of the valley (1844) causes a first sliding, in that direction, of commercial and producing activities, that concern the local bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie, since the first post unitary years, had found Chianciano and Chiusi , interesting centers for their own commercial activities; instead ,for the entire XIX th century, Montepulciano becomes more and more an agricultural market and a place, where agricultural products are converted. During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century , the town plan is modified to fulfill hygienic-sanitary requirements and to embellish the town. The Public Slaughter house, and the rearrangement of the Poggiofanti Gardens (1866-1875) that stand as a pleasant place for walking , immediately outside Porta del Prato in the Northern part of the town , are examples of such modifications.




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