Chianti, Italy is a beautiful region of Tuscany whose rolling hills are covered in vineyards and olive groves. It is dotted with wineries as well as small, picturesque towns. Visitors will enjoy the wineries, medieval-era buildings, and standing churches.
Chianti is the wine everybody knows in the United States. Perhaps you have a candle stuck in a wicker covered fiasco, the bulbous wine bottles seen on tables in every Italian restaurant in the U.S. during the 70s. Luckily, Chianti has moved from being a producer of cheap wine in cheesy bottles to a quality delicacy. The Chianti wine is sometimes referred to as the "Bordeaux of Italy," due to its flexibility in blending and variability in style.
Getting Your Bearings in Chianti
The Chianti Classico region lies between the larger cities of Florence and Siena. To the east lie the Chianti Mountains, and the area is bounded on the west by the Pesa valley and Elsa river. This is the land of the Gallo Nero, the black rooster, and travelers will see the signs for the region on the country roads.
Background on the Geography
The main north-south road through Chianti Classico is the state road number 222, shown on the map and known as la Chiantigiana. Interestingly, the first time a reference to Chianti wine appears in a formal document was 1398. The Chianti area was delimited in 1932 and the boundaries have stayed the same since. Chianti Classico, the area seen on the map, is "the oldest zone of origin" of Chianti.
The major large towns are shown by larger green circles on the map, and smaller towns worth visiting are noted on the map as well. Travelers can stay at various lodging options, ranging from small hotels in towns to agriturismo accommodations, often set amid beautiful vineyards or olive groves.
Highlights of the Chianti Wine Region
The center of Chianti Classico is the town of Greve. Greve is a quaint, central town to stay in while visiting, and it has several good restaurants. The town has a weekly market on Saturday mornings, and there is a wine tasting center on state road 222 where you can taste wine, olive oil, and the sweet Vin Santo. Travelers can gather additional information at the tourist office located at Via Giovanni da Verrazzano 59.
Chianti Towns and Places to Go
A little way outside of San Casciano in a tiny village called S. Andrea in Percussina lies Il ristorante L'Albergaccio di Niccolo Machiavelli. This is the tavern where Machiavelli played cards and likely swilled wine. The place is hard to find, but it's worth it for the food, wine, and bucolic surroundings. Visitors are encouraged to watch the signs for when they exit San Casciano, as nearby, Villa Mangicane has been transformed into a nice luxury hotel and makes for a great place to stay.
Panzano is home to one of the world's most famous butchers, who happens to have a restaurant called SoloCiccia, translated as "only meat." Dario Cecchini's shop is not to be missed amongst Italian food lovers.
More Restaurants and Wineries
Just south of Panzano is a town called Piazza, which hosts a restaurant called Osteria alla Piazza. In fact, that's pretty much all there is in tiny Piazza. However, it's worth the drive to simply sit among the vineyards of Chianti and experience delicious food and wine.
Farther south is the largest winery in the Chianti area, known as Barone Ricasoli. This is a good place for wine tasting, visiting the gardens and museums of the castle, and having a great lunch at Osteria del Castello. It's in Madonna a Brolio, 5 kilometers south of Gaiole in Chianti, and about 25 kilometers northeast of Siena.
Visitors can also visit Castellina, Radda, and Gaiole, which are other popular centers for Chianti wine and hospitality.
Winery Guided Tours With Transportation
The Chianti region is best explored by car, but if you're staying in Florence or Siena, you can easily take a guided tour that includes transportation. Travelers with a car can book the popular Winery Visit and Lunch in Chianti Tour. Others who need transportation can consider one of these tours from Select Italy:
- Chianti Classico Full Day Tour: This tour includes transportation, wine tasting at two wineries, a three-course lunch, and an olive oil tasting.
- Chianti Classico North: The Classico North tour is a full day tour with pick-up and drop-off in Florence. It includes a tour of Greve in Chianti, winery visits with wine tasting, and lunch at Badia in Passignano.
- Chianti Classico South: This full day tour includes a pick-up and drop-off in Siena along with a walking tour of Radda in Chianti. There is also a walking tour at another village, two winery visits with wine tasting, and lunch.