Located on the slopes of Monte Croce di Serra, Montecchio was born as a fortified village (Castrum Monticoli) in the 11th century. The village preserves the charm of the Middle Ages with its narrow streets, small squares, light shade of stone, and mighty walls with defense towers. Walking through the characteristic narrow alleys you can see on the doorways of the houses the coat of arms with the sun, cross and letters I.H.S (Jesus Hominus Salvator), which recall the passage of San Bernardino da Siena in 1426 (patron saint of the town). In the historic center of Montecchio of the Castle remains the double circle of walls, the first from 1154 and the second 1190, and the Porta. The parish church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was built in the 15th century and reworked several times, and the church of Santa Maria Assunta built in the 1400’s with a single nave. The bell tower dates back to 1633, inside the marble and wood baptismal font is from 1843. Entering the Kingdom of Italy under the jurisdiction of Baschi, Montecchio became an autonomous municipality in 1948, with the hamlets of Tenaglie and Melezzole.
A visit of Montecchio should include these two characteristic hamlets:
The village of Tenaglie, which belonged to the Basque family who built a hospital for pilgrims in 1412. It is dominated by an imposing palace built at the end of the 17th century by the Ancajani on the base of an old medieval castle. The palace was built by Filippo Ancajani, a Gerosolimitano knight (knightly religious order born in the period of the crusades), and sergeant major of the papal army. After the last restorations by the current owners, the Permanent exhibition of rural civilization was created and set up in some rooms of the building.
The village of Melezzole strikes visitors because it looks like the model par excellence of a medieval castle. With a circular plan complete with a tower still standing. The whole village is built in stone, from the buildings to the pavement of the streets. Soft hills of olive trees and dense chestnut forests characteristic the territory of the Montecchio hills.
History and popular traditions that are repeated over time are intertwined in this countryside which makes it a source of pride in its intact beauty. From February 2018 Montecchio is one of the “most beautiful villages in Italy”, a award echoing the call to discover the charm of hidden Italy.
The territory also presents evidence of periods far more distant than the medieval time: in particular, there are settlements of the Umbrian and Etruscan populations. The presence of these civilizations is evidenced by the discovery of an extensive Umbrian-Etruscan rock necropolis (Necropolis of Copio), located in the Vallone Fosso San Lorenzo area that can be visited by taking a suggestive naturalistic-archaeological path. The area and the archaeological park have about 3,000 tombs whose finds are now kept in the Municipal Antiquarium of Tenaglie and in the National Archaeological Museum of Orvieto.
In the outskirts of the inhabited area there are ruins of the Castle of Carnano (15th century). Possession of the lords of Baschi, of which there remain pieces of the boundary wall.
Montecchio is a village that adheres to the Associazione Città dell’Olio and the Strada dei Vini Etrusco Romani. The countryside around the village is full of vineyards and olive groves. The DOP olive oil produced in the surrounding hills is particularly well known and appreciated. In Montecchio there is also an Oil Museum inside a historic oil mill.
Nature characterizes Montecchio and its territory, the Monte Croce di Serra is a place for excursions and outdoor activities, just as the nearby WWF Oasis of Alviano is an ideal attraction for lovers of unspoilt nature and bird watching.