The Best of Chianti
The wine-growing area of Chianti sits at Florence’s doorstep. Head south down the SS222 road (known as the “Chiantigiana”) for classic Tuscan landscapes of rolling hills dotted with olives and striped with vines, ochre-hued villas and imposing castles, and hilltop towns bathed in mellow light.
Loc. Calzaiolo, Via del Masso 14, 50026 San Casciano in Val di Pesa FI, Italy
One of the most memorable (and unusual) ways to see Chianti is from the basket of a hot-air balloon. To catch the best weather conditions, flights take off just after dawn and last from 45 to 90 minutes, during which you will glide silently over hilltop villages, castles, and vineyards set in incomparable scenery with 360-degree views that extend for many miles on a clear day. Flights finish with a typical Tuscan breakfast of bread and olive oil, cheeses from the farm, and cold cuts, accompanied by prosecco.
Greve in Chianti, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy
If you find yourself on a road trip from Florence into the Tuscan countryside, take the Chianti road and stop for lunch or a stroll in Greve in Chianti. The town square often hosts a market—we were there on the flower market day—and houses a Museo de Vino. Many open-air restaurants line the square for a long Italian lunch of antipasto, primi platti, secondi platti, and dolce. Make sure your carafe is full at each course of the vino de la casa for your first taste of chianti in the countryside.
Via XX Luglio, 11, 50022 Panzano In Chianti FI, Italy
Dario Cecchini is the most famous butcher in Italy and is probably the only one who recites Dante while carving up his carcasses. His small shop on the outskirts of the medieval village of Panzano is a Mecca for carnivores seeking quality meat (plus curious tourists), and he also has a restaurant—Solociccia—where you can sample some of the best bistecca in the region. If you visit his Antica Maccelleria Cecchini on a Sunday morning, when he works to a background track of jazz and opera, you’ll be offered a glass of wine, a hunk of pecorino cheese, and a nibble of some of his meaty products (like the fennel-flavoured salami called ‘finocchiona’) to ease the waiting time.
6 Via Volterrana Nord
If you are based in Florence and want to escape the city for a day of wine tasting and good food, Castello di Sonnino, home of the aristocratic Barone de Renzis Sonnino family, is only a twenty-minute drive away, and you can get there on the public bus. The oldest part of this fairytale castle and its rambling outbuildings dates from the 1200s, but it has been added to over the centuries. Part of the Chianti-Montespertoli DOCG, 48 hectares are planted with vines and the wines have won many awards including a gold medal from Decanter magazine for the 2015 Vin Santo. A visit here can include a tour of the cellars, a tasting of the superb wines and lunch in the restaurant: you may even meet Caterina, the present Baroness. And if was you are too tired to make the journey back to Florence, there are several apartments for rent on the property.