September 09, 2018 - Chianti, Cycling, Historical landmarks, Food and wine
Synonymous with wine, the Chianti is an area that lies between Florence and Siena. Whether you trek from one town to another in search of a glass of the perfect Chianti Classico or simply ramble past hillside vineyards and thick forests that makes one a part of a timeless tapestry, a trip to the Chianti is a Tuscan given. Here are some of our favorite things you might consider.
1. Join in the Vendemmia
When autumn comes to the Chianti vineyard owners and friends grab a pair of secateurs and a bucket and head to grape-laden vines. If you are staying at a property that produces wine, offer to join in and wielding the shears, contribute to what will eventually fill a glass. Grape harvest is eminently civilized – no thorns to negotiate, weather warm enough to work up a glow, and Italian camaraderie that often ends up in a shared Tuscan picnic and a bottle of ruby red or sparkling white.
2. Attend a Wine harvest festival
After a year of watching the grapes grow, celebrating their harvest is a must. Every year on the 2ndweekend of September and preceding Thursday and Friday (11 a.m.-8 p.m.) fans of Chianti Classico make a pilgrimage to the generous piazza in the heart of Greve in Chianti. They buy a €10 wine glass and then roam the stands where they can sample up to eight glasses. If you miss this festival, there is one a week later in Panzano, ‘Vino al Vino’, and another in Radda in Chianti, ‘Radda nel Bicchiere’, (1stweekend in June) that showcase the best of the Chianti wines. Have a look at one producer's list of annual Tuscan wine festivals.
3. Walk with children in the Chianti Sculpture Park
It’s never too early to foster art appreciation and what better way than coming across a surprising work of art while exploring a bit of Chianti woodlands. The Chianti Sculpture Park, open daily from 10 a.m. to sunset, features an eclectic collection of sculptures from 26 international artists. Colorful, curious, and sometimes interactive, the works vary in material and provenance, but are always a delight to discover. An adjacent gallery and summer concerts every Tuesday make this a charming stop for the whole family. See details for the Chianti Sculpture Park.
4. Bike the hills of the Chianti
The gently rolling hills of the Chianti region are a biker’s paradise. A land which has remained intact for centuries, it is blessed with extraordinary natural beauty and bathed with mutable light. One cycles through oak and chestnut woods, past carefully tended vineyards and olive groves and spots the hilltop villages, Romanesque churches and scattered villas approached by stalwart cypresses and your know you are in Tuscany. So popular is this pastime that during the last week in September the Chianti hosts a unique race, the Eroica, in which racers on vintage bikes cover an over 100 km round-trip trek from Gaiole in Chianti (a shorter version is also offered for the weak of pedal). Be a participant or a spectator and re-live the days of Italy’s great cyclists. See details on the Eroica race and Chianti bike rental
5. Listen to the ancient stone talk in Castellina in Chianti
One of the first towns you will come across as you head northwest from Siena on the Chiantigiana (SS 222) is Castellina in Chianti; its Etruscan origins and aristocratic medieval history can be read in what lies below and above the ground. Just outside Castellina, under a tumulus on Monte Calvario, is a four-chambered Etruscan tomb dating from the 6thcent., discovered a millennium later and excavated in 1915. A fascinating introduction to a pre-Roman civilization, it may spur you to discover more. In Castellina itself, monuments on a higher ground include the impressive Rocca fortress commissioned by Lorenzo de’ Medici to protect the city and Via delle Volte, an ancient arched passageway running along the old city walls. Did we mention that the shopping in Castellina is great and the gelato worth the stop? Read more about things to see and do in Castellina in Chianti.
6. Bring a sketch book or camera to Montefioralle
There are many medieval towns perched atop hills in the Chianti, but perhaps for its small-is-beautiful proportion, the ancient circular walls and stunning position, Montefioralle is a treat to visit. Park your car where indicated and walk in to enjoy a virtually car-free hamlet, a friendly restaurant and endless panoramas. And, if you spot a doorway with a wasp (Vespa) sculpted into the top of the arch, you are standing at the ancestral home of Amerigo Vespucci, the famous explorer/cartographer who proved that Brazil was, in fact, not part of Asia and whose name, transformed, became ‘America’. Before you go, read a bit of history of Montefioralle to learn something about this gem of a village.