The best of Chianti
The five places you won't want to miss
The Castle village
Montefioralle, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of Italy, dominates the upper valley of the river Greve, in the heart of Tuscany's much-loved Chianti.
The village developed in rings around an old fortress and was once contained within not one, but two, perimeter walls. Over the centuries, the village spread beyond the walls to occupy the lower slopes of the hill, thus creating the town of Greve in Chianti.
Walking along the road which encircles the castle, visitors come across an ancient edifice marked by the letter "V". Legend has it that this is the birthplace of the famous navigator Amerigo Vespucci.
Just outside the village of Montefioralle, the 10th century Pieve di San Crespi has been restored and, on certain days of the year, is open to the general public.
Close to the church, the independent winemaker, Sergio Ballini, produces an excellent Chianti Classico, Vin Santo, and extra virgin olive oil, which are available for direct purchase from the Podere San Cresci estate
From the Castle of Montefioralle, the road descends towards Panzano, through some of the most breathtaking landscapes you'll ever see.
The poetic butcher
Known for his spontaneous recitals of Dante Alighieri's most famous verses and his colorful odes to beefsteak, Dario Cecchini has been running the Antica Macelleria Cecchini, in the tiny town of Panzano in Chianti, for 35 years.
Here, in addition to purchasing the finest cuts of meat and a selection of typical Tuscan gastronomic delicacies, carnivorous customers can sit down to a six course meal at the large communal table in the "Solociccia" eatery; savor a succulent slab of the legendary Fiorentina at the 'Officina della Bistecca'; or grab a quick bite to eat at "Dario+", Cecchini's protein-packed Tuscan fast food counter.
Wherever they choose to eat, clients are welcome to bring their own bottle of wine to accompany their meal.
Dario Cecchini's butcher shop is not the only attraction in Panzano. The town's 12th century Pieve di San Leolino is one of Chianti's most enchanting Romanesque houses of worship, the interiors of which are still embellished with beautiful works of devotional art.
The wine baron
In the town of Gaiole in Chianti, on the border between the territories of Siena and Florence, Castello di Brolio is the head quarters of Italy's oldest winery: Barone Ricasoli.
Over the centuries, the fortified residence has been attacked, reconstructed and enlarged on various occasions and yet, ever since 1141, has remained the sole property of the Ricasoli family.
The most famous exponent of this powerful Tuscan dynasty was Bettino Ricasoli, the so-called "Iron Baron", known for his important role in the Unification of Italy. An able politician, researcher and wine entrepreneur, in 1872, after years of research, the baron identified the formula for the legendary Chianti Classico.
Guided tours of Brolio Castle include visits to the park and Italian garden, the family museum, the winery's avant-garde cellars and sommelier-hosted tastings held in the wine shop
Just a few kilometers from Tavernelle Val di Pesa, on a branch of the ancient Strada Senese del Sambuco, (the road which, until the 13th century, the Florentines used to travel to Siena), travelers find the Badia di Passignano.
This isolated monastic complex was founded in 1046 by San Giovanni Gualberto and was inhabited by Benedictine monks until the mid 19th century. In 1986 a small community of Vallambrosan monks returned to the site.
Today, on request, on Sunday afternoons, the monks allow tourists to visit the abbey's Church of San Michele Arcangelo, the cloisters, kitchens and the refectory, in which a fresco of the Last Supper by none other than the great Ghirlandaio is conserved.
The vineyards surrounding the abbey are owned by the Antinori family, which is responsible for the production of some of Tuscany's most highly acclaimed wines.
The charming Osteria di Passignano is the ideal place in which to sample both the Antinori wines and some of the best traditional Tuscan cuisine
Chianti in the bookshop
As they travel back towards Florence, wine buffs should be sure to stop off in the town of San Casciano. This is where, for years, Carlo Lotto has been filling the shelves of his bookshop with bottles of prestigious Tuscan and Italian wines and a fascinating collection of books exploring the wonderful world of viniculture.
A recent addition is a section of the store which is now devoted exclusively to monoculture extra virgin olive oils - another of the owner's passions.
Hotels in the area
From € 120.00
Alberoro di Monte S. Savino
Radda in Chianti
From € 119.00
Panzano in Chianti
Montefiridolfi, San Casciano Val di Pesa
From € 98.00
Gaiole in Chianti
From € 1,000.00
San Quirico d'Orcia
From € 410.00