Nestled within the rolling hills on the southern side of Montalcino – known for the king of sangiovese wines, Brunello di Montalcino – lies Sant’Angelo in Colle. The SP 14 Traversa dei Monti is a side road from the main roundabout in Montalcino that meanders in the direction of Paganico. Twisting and turning, it climbs to the Passo del Lume Spento, where you can catch a glimpse of glittering waters along the Tuscan coast. It is in this spectacular setting that the Argiano Baroque Music Festival takes place.
Millions of years ago, the sea covered the area surrounding Montalcino, which protruded like an island above the undulating sea floor. The saline water brimming with marine life filled the basin of the Brunello territory, receding and returning several times over the millennia as the Italian peninsula slowly formed into the boot shape that we recognize today. This geological phenomenon makes the soil a complex patchwork of stone, sand, limestone, clay, marine deposits, and a clay and shale mix called galestro.
The best place to admire the view and soak in the atmosphere is from the panoramic terrace on the edge of Sant’Angelo in Colle itself. Even when the sun is at its peak, there’s a freshness in the air here. It makes you want to stick around, to stop and observe for a while, taking advantage of the two restaurants in the town, the Trattoria Il Leccio and Il Pozzo, situated side by side off the main piazza, that are both excellent purveyors of typical Tuscan fare with plenty of places to dine al fresco.
As you’re heading back down the hill, a destination that’s worth visiting appears on the horizon. The aptly-named Villa Bell’Aria is a magnificent example of late 16th century architecture, and is home to a summer festival featuring music from around the same age. Held in the courtyard of the villa (where, on a calm night, one can hear a pin drop), the Argiano Baroque Music Festival transports attendees to another era with evenings dedicated to the performance of music by great Italian composers such as Antonio Vivaldi and Claudio Monteverdi by top musicians on the international scene.
The trio comprised of André Lislevand on viol, Jadran Duncumb on lute and Paola Erdas on the harpsichord kicks off the festival on July 21 with an energetic programme titled Forqueray Unchained based on their recent album with the Arcana Out Here label. They are followed two days later on July 23 by the Punto Arte Ensemble, primarily consisting of musicians based in the Netherlands, led by violinist and conductor, Jan Willem De Vriend. The August dates see Christophe Rousset take to the stage on August 19 for a solo concert on the harpsichord, held in collaboration with the Piccola Accademia di Montisi, followed one week later on August 26 by countertenor Raffaele Pe and La Lira di Orfeo who will close out the festival with a programme packed with Baroque song.
For the second edition of the Argiano festival, artistic director and founder Antonio Artese has set out to create a first rate cultural experience that explores the vast intricacies of the Baroque repertoire which, in his words ,“represents music that is like a great vintage; a mature wine that’s meant to be savoured in an intimate and refined environment, while fully appreciating the emotions and the wonder that it may give to us”. It helps that the pianist Artese is also a sommelier, and therefore the perfect one to marry the Baroque with Brunello.
The multisensory experience that began with the stunning view continues with taste. To reach the optimally relaxed state for attentive listening, audience members need only be coaxed by a glass of Brunello (or Champagne) at the aperitivo hour preceding each concert. Guests are also offered the unique opportunity to tour the recently restored historic cellars beneath the villa and delve deeper into discovering the collection of Argiano wines via a special guided tasting of select labels. Knowing what type of soil lies beneath the vines became a top priority for winemaker Bernardino Sani when he joined the cantina in 2015. Together with Francesco Monari, the in-house agronomist, they undertook a comprehensive study of the soil compositions across the estate, the results of which are already evident. Several Argiano wines of the last few years are consistently gaining 92+ points by Wine Spectator, James Suckling and Vinous, while the cru “Vigna del Suolo” 2016 was named Best Red Wine of the year in Gambero Rosso’s Guida Vini d’Italia 2022.
The Argiano Baroque Music Festival has four concert dates this year: July 21 and 23, August 19 and 26.
From 7pm, there will be an aperitivo with Argiano wines and Champagne from the independent house Thiénot, included for all concert guests. Concerts start at 8pm and last approximately 1 hour.
Guests can also stay on the property at Argiano Dimore.