But if you look really close in those shops you may also find a selection of local honey production. In fact, Montalcino is officially a Town of Honey (Città del Miele) and a yearly honey-festival inside the fortress of Montalcino in September displays all the different products that derive from the bee-keepers.
In medieval Europe sugar was really expensive, so honey was the most common sweetener. Today the situation has reversed which is a shame because honey also reserves us health benefits that refined sugar doesn't.
Each hive is populated with an average of 25.000 bees. The queen lies eggs her whole life while other females look after the larvae as they hatch and feed them nectar & pollen that other females again go gather in flowers surrounding the hive. They don't fly too far from the hive and navigate by the sun.
The males role is to fertilize eggs - that's all!
Bee pollen is recommend as an energizer and to avoid allergies (and much more) - a spoon a day - and just think it takes one bee a month of 8 hr work days to collect that spoonful.
Propolis is also extracted and is hard at room temperature. It will liquify by heating and alcohol is added to keep it in liquid form and is used against colds.
Bees wax is scraped off plates and they are inserted in round stainless steel vat in the background.
What is so neat about these honeys is that they are often jarred as a monovarietal - so min 60% of the nectar coming from a specific flower. The bee-hive is simply placed in an area with a majority of one kind of flower as for example rosemary.
Each one is more or less intense yellow-orange color and also can have different consistency (solid versus liquid). And more importantly, they taste differently - some are sweeter than others - some more floral and others more fruity. Chestnut honey is rather bitter but a great accompaniment on top of Tuscan pecorino cheese.
On a side note, each kind of honey has health benefits varying from anti-bacteral, anti-fungal, preventing cancer and heart disease, reducing ulcers and gastrointestinal diseases, etc.
We taste honeys on our Montalcino wine & food tour on Fridays from Siena! Or you can taste them at our wine school in Siena!