Chianti

Below is a great resource to help discover Chianti


Local towns and villages

Greve in Chianti has long been thought of as the Chianti’s ‘capital’. A market town on a rare flat patch of land, it is also home to the region’s major festival: the Rassegna del Chianti Classico marks the grape harvest each September with tastings, gastronomy, and other wine-related festivities.

chianti_mapGreve’s regular market runs each Saturday.

The town’s major claim to fame is invested in one of its native sons. Explorer and navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European to sail into what is now New York. A statue in Greve’s triangular main square, Piazza Matteotti, marks his achievement.

Just uphill from Greve, Montefioralle is a tiny, fortified village with a famous adventurer of its own. Amerigo Vespucci—the Medici agent and navigator who travelled to the Americas and left the ‘new’ continent his name—was supposedly born there in 1454.

Capital of the ‘Sienese Chianti’, Castellina in Chianti is another fortified town, and an original member of the Lega del Chianti (Chianti League) defensive alliance. The Via delle Volte still reeks of the Middle Ages: this intact underground street was used for defence and as a lookout. The town’s 15th-century Rocca (fortress) is still standing, and now houses the Sienese Chianti’s archaeological museum.

Key Contacts

All of the Chianti’s major towns have tourist offices. Most are open daily in summer, but service can be patchy in the off-season—it is worth emailing ahead with any need-to-know questions.

At Greve, the office is at Piazza Matteotti 10, tel. 055/8546299, e. info@turismo.greveinchianti.eu. In Castellina, the tourist office is at Via Ferruccio 40, tel. 0577/741392, email: ufficioturistico@comune.castellina.si.it. There are also tourist information offices at Radda (Piazza del Castello 1, tel. 0577/738494, email: proradda@chiantinet.it) and at Gaiole (Via Ricasoli 50, tel. 0577/749411, email: ufficioturistico@comune.gaiole.si.it).

 

The ourdoors

Much of what is best about the Chianti you will discover on a seemingly endless carousel of panoramas. So many of its roads are scenic—at times drivers have to fight to keep their eyes on the road ahead. The main wine road, the ‘Chiantigiana’ or SS222, has views right along its length, from Florence’s southern suburbs all the way to Siena.

Pause just south of Panzano to take in the Conca d’Oro (Golden Shell), where rows of vines cover what looks like a giant ‘scoop’ dug from the hillside.

Other scenic roads—pack your camera and use the regular lay-bys and informal parking stops—include the SS429, especially between Poggibonsi and Castellina and between Radda and Badia a Coltibuono. The unpaved strada bianca (literally ‘white road’) between Greve and the main Siena–Florence road, past the lonely abbey at Badia a Passignano, is unforgettable.

The Chianti is also a good base for cyclists; road and hybrid bike hire is available, by the single day or week, in Greve at Ramuzzi and in Castellina at Chianti 500.

Don't Miss

Ramuzzi, Via Italo Stecchi 23, Greve in Chianti, tel. 055/853037, www.ramuzzi.com

Noleggio Chianti 500, Via IV Novembre 35, Castellina in Chianti, tel. 0577/1481001, www.noleggiochianti500.it

Shopping

As well as wine, Chianti is known for the quality of its olive oil—over 400,000 silver-green olive trees grow across the region. Olives squeezed each November produce a pale but pungent oil that is prized for its extremely low acidity. Like the region’s wine, its oil is marked with a DOP quality assurance.

At vineyard Fontodi, by the road just south of Panzano, the organic juice of the frantoio (olive press) is as prized as the estate wine. Use it as close to bottling as possible to get a concentrated taste of the Chianti.

The region is famous for its butchers, too, who sell both raw cuts such as the bistecca fiorentina (‘Florentine’, bone-in steak) and cured meats. Look out for salami made from Cinta Senese, the local breed of pig prized for its sweet meat. Wild boar salami (salami di cinghiale) is another speciality.

Dario Cecchini is probably the most famous Chianti butcher—for his counter-side recitals of Dante and his ‘good meat motto’. The four things an animal must have? A good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good cook. He provides number three, and careful sourcing ensures one and two are taken care of. Number four is up to you.

As well as meat, he sells a range of condiments that make good gifts, including Profumo del Chianti, a blend of dried herbs and salts for seasoning meat.

Don't Miss

Consorzio Olio DOP Chianti Classico, www.oliodopchianticlassico.com

Fontodi, Via San Leolino 89, Panzano in Chianti, tel. 055/852005, www.fontodi.com

Dario Cecchini, Via XX Luglio 11, Panzano in Chianti, tel. 055/852020, www.dariocecchini.com

Falorni, Piazza Matteotti 71, tel. 055/853029, www.falorni.it; fresh meat counter is closed on Sundays

Porciatti, Piazza IV Novembre 1, Radda in Chianti, tel. 0577/738055, www.casaporciatti.it; closed Sunday afternoons, and also Wednesday afternoons in winter

Rampini Ceramics, Casa Beretone di Vistarenni, near Radda in Chianti, tel. 0577/738043, www.rampiniceramics.com; closed weekends between November and March

 

Museums

With so much emphasis on landscape and flavours, the Chianti is a little under-supplied with great museums. At Castellina, the Museo Archeologico del Chianti Senese focuses on finds relating to the ancient wine-making heritage of the area, which dates at least to the Etruscan era. Visitors can also scale the Medieval tower, for views over the Chianti hills, as far as the Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa, and Siena on a clear day.

Just outside the town, signposted from the SS222, is the Etruscan burial site of Monte Calvario. Its mound sheltered by pine trees, and tended by the museum, has four tombs that date back to the 7th century BC. Visitors are free to roam in and around the site.

For real museum lovers, Florence and Siena are both easy day-trips from anywhere in the Chianti.

As well as meat, he sells a range of condiments that make good gifts, including Profumo del Chianti, a blend of dried herbs and salts for seasoning meat.

Don't Miss

Museo Archeologico del Chianti Senese, Piazza del Comune, Castellina in Chianti, tel. 0577/742090, www.museoarcheologicochianti.it; closed weekdays between November and March

Art & Architecture

The Chianti has been fought over for centuries, most famously between rivals Siena and Florence at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260—the battle site lies between Castelnuovo Berardenga and Siena. In the 12th century the three principal Chianti towns (Castellina, Gaiole, and Radda) formed a defensive alliance, the Chianti League, and took the Black Rooster (the Gallo Nero) as its symbol.

The legacy of that turbulent history remains, in the still-fortified towns Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, and in a rural landscape dotted with castles.

The Castello di Brolio owes its distinctive, hybrid appearance to centuries spent on the front line: between Florence and Siena, between Tuscany and the Spanish, and between the Allies and retreating German forces during World War II.

Parts of the original structure date to at least the 1000s, and embellishments continued until 19th-century, with additions in the neo-Gothic style. Parts of the castle and its historic Ricasoli wine cellars—where ‘modern’ Chianti wine was first blended—are open to public view, as part of a guided tour and tasting.

If you just want to taste Castello di Brolio’s wine, visit its up-market roadside Enoteca. It stocks the entire range. Tasting usually costs €5 for three wines, which is reimbursed if you buy a bottle or two.

The Chianti’s remoteness also attracted monastic orders. Many founded abbeys and retreats hidden away from nearby cities Florence and Siena, as well as from the region’s squabbling towns.

The Vallombrosan order founded the Abbazia di San Michele Arcangelo a Passignano in the 11th century on a knoll amid some of the Chianti’s prettiest scenery—the order’s founder Giovanno Gualberto died here in 1073 and is buried in the abbey. Much altered over the centuries, the abbey refectory has a Last Supper frescoed by the Ghirlandaio brothers. Unfortunately, the interior is usually closed to visitors.

On a smaller scale, the countryside is dotted with hamlets huddled around their pieve, or parish church. Many date from the Romanesque period. The building is often a simple place, time-worn and spiritual. It feels especially atmospheric at San Leolino, which has stood just south of Panzano since at least the 10th century—though the building and interior panel paintings date mostly from between the 12th and the 15th centuries.

Don't Miss

Walking along the street, but underground, on the Via delle Volte at Castellina in Chianti

Castello di Brolio, just outside San Regolo, tel. 0577/730280, www.ricasoli.it; closed between December and February

Parco Sculture del Chianti, Pievasciata, tel. 0577/357151, www.chiantisculpturepark.it; between November and March, call ahead to check the site is open

Insider Tip

Allow more time than you think you’ll need for journeys around the Chianti. Roads are twisty-turny—every hairpin seems to reveal another panorama—so it is usually slow going on pretty much any route except the ‘Chiantigiana’, the SS222. You should pack travel sickness remedies for any delicate back-seat passengers, as a precaution.