When we think of Chianti, the wine of the same name immediately springs to mind. However, there’s far more to do in Chianti than just sample some of the best wines Italy has to offer. Chianti with its beautiful rolling hills, thermal spa’s, medieval towns, delicious food, olive groves and vineyards is a fun packed adventure and a delight for all the family.
Lying between the provinces of Florence and Siena, Chianti is home to some of Tuscany’s loveliest countryside. Siena and Florence are the capitals of Chianti, in two areas known as Chianti Fiorentino and Chianti Sienese. The main communes of Chianti are Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, which make up roughly 70,000 hectares.
It was first civilized by the Etruscans around 8th, who left many traces of their activity in the wine sector, and then by the Romans. By the Middle Ages, the cities of Florence and Siena were battling for control over the area and this was when villages, monasteries, castles and fortresses first started to appear. Many of these properties have now been transformed into villas and country residences to cater for the huge number of tourists that visit Tuscany each year.
So what are the entertainment opportunities in the Chianti countryside? Start with sampling some excellent restaurants in Chianti, then spend a day in a Thermal Spa in Tuscany, make sure to visit Siena and last but not least, visit the many wineries in Chianti. More on all of this below!
Eating is a national past time in Italy and where better to dine than in one of the many Michelin star restaurants in the local area? It’s not the cheapest experience but if you can afford it, it is well worth it. There’s a fantastic 1 Michelin star restaurant called La Bottega in a small village called Villa a Sesta near Castelnuovo Berardenga which is only 30 minutes drive from Siena. The food is without any doubt excellent and the chef Sonia Zacchei will choose for you starters and first courses. La Bottega offers you an amazing experience! If this exceeds your budget, no problem as there are many trattorias specializing in the best Tuscan from pastas, carne [meat] and pesce [fish].
La Bottega: [Via Santa Caterina 2, Villa a Sesta 0577 359 226] Closed Tuesday and Wednesdays [description above]
La Porta del Chianti: [Piazza Castelli 10 San Gusmè 0577 358 010] Run by two young brothers, this charming restaurant is located on the main piazza in San Gusmè - a tiny, almost too perfect village near Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti. The food is simple but well presented and there is a good list of local wines.
»See a list of Siena Restaurants
A day at the Spa will keep you warm when the weather gets chilly. Relax in one of the many hot thermal pools, take a mud bath and then get an invigorating massage to finish off. The Antica Querciolaia in Rapolano is the nearest to Chianti and is located on the main road out of Chianti towards Cortona on the SS73. Built around natural springs you can wallow in hot swimming pools all day for less than 15 Euros.
Antica Querciolaia Via Trieste 22 Rapolano Terme Tel. 0577 724 091 www.termeaq.it
»Why not choose to relax at a Spa and Health Resort in Tuscany?
Roughly 1 hour south of Florence, avisit to the beautiful medieval town of Siena to take a cappuccino on Piazza del Campo [where the famous Palio race takes place] is a real treat. If you're lucky enough to be in Chianti during Il Palio, every July 2nd and August 16th you can stumble across one of the many street parties held by each of the 17 Contrades throughout Siena. Be accepted as one of the local natives and dance throughout the night. If this isn't your cup of tea you'll find numerous things to see and do including visiting the fantastic Gothic Palazzo Pubblico with it's graceful bell tower dating back to the 13th Century. Standing at the lowest point of the Piazza del Campo, it's one of the highlights of Siena.
»For more Information visit our Siena Guide
You can't come to Chianti without visiting some of many wineries in the area. The Chianti Classico region is the most famous which is sold under the Gallo Nero [Black Cockerel] symbol. Just take the car up some of the many wine roads and stop wherever takes your fancy. If wine isn't your tipple, then many also sell fantastic extra virgin oil and honey.
Fattoria Castello di Vicchiomaggio [Vicchiomaggio 055 854 078] open daily 8am - 8pm. This 11th Century castle once hosted Leonardo da Vinci. Here you can sample and buy wines, homegrown olive oil, vin santo and grappa. The estate once sold Tuscany's greatest honey.
Castello di Uzzano [Via Uzzano 5 055 854 032] open daily 10am - 6pm Built for the bishop of Florence sometime in the 1200s, today the castle is the centerpiece of a 700-acre wine estate.
Vignamaggio [055 854 661] For one of the most prestigious wineries in Chianti visit Vignamaggio, which also has some of the most beautiful gardens in Tuscany. This beautiful renaissance villa was once the residence of La Gioconda - the Mona Lisa. You need to book for a reservation but it's well worth the effort. This is where Kenneth Branagh filmed "Much Ado About Nothing". After a tour of the gardens, you can enjoy a wine tasting in the front office.