Chianti is on our doorstep, so we put together a little roaming guide to where to go or avoid if you want to explore one of the most beautiful parts of Italy.
We left Torre di Sopra via Antella, past the hospital, and exited the roundabout in the direction of Grassina /Greve. This road is the 'Chiantigiana', the old road from Florence to Siena, which meanders its way through the soft, vine covered, rolling hills of Chianti. After Chiocchio (where the modern church with a ‘sail’ as the steeple was designed by the late architect and former owner of Torre di Sopra, Bruno Sacchi), the views are spectacular.
Greve, the capital of Chianti (20 mins), with its charming, porticoed and triangular piazza, is filled on Saturday mornings by the market. Here, over the years, I have bought baskets, chickens, spices, and much, much more...
Under the portico is the renowned butcher Falorni, whose salame with truffle makes my mouth water. Nearby is a tiny bread shop, so popular and so small that you need to take a numbered ticket and queue on the steps outside. There is also a pretty basket shop with cascading heaps of every sort of basket weave out there.
The next village is Panzano. (+ 20 mins) The market here is on Sunday, buzzing in a small piazza, with a queue already forming outside the renowned butcher Cecchini whose 'Bistecca alla Fiorentina' is famous. Cleverly he also sells charcoal for the barbecue.
Leaving Panzano the road goes through more wonderful country, dotted with castles and towers (of the same period as Torre di Sopra) as the area was much fought after by Siena and Florence in the middle ages.
Castellina in Chianti (+ 20 mins)
Castellina is another fortified town on a hill top with charming shops selling interesting tourist items, salame, pasta, herbs, oil and of course wine. There are several restaurants and we ate at Sotto il Portico where we had delicious and reasonably priced lunch.
This town is strategically important as it is the crossing point for the North-South 'Chiantigiana' Florence to Siena road, and the East-West 429 links to Poggibonsi and Montevarchi on the A1.
After fifteen minutes on this road you come to Radda in Chianti, a small fortified village with stylish shops and a specialised Bicycle clothes Shop selling memorabilia for the renowned L’ Eroica bike race. L’Eroica is the annual bicycle race run mainly on ’white’ roads, on period bicycles, while wearing the traditional woollen shirts. This year the race takes place on 1st October.
In easy reach of Radda is the tiny fortified village of Borgo di Volpaia (+ 20 mins) where there are several restaurants and one wine shop, and Badia di Coltibuono, which has a Badia (abbey) with walls the have been stripped of plaster to reveal regular blocks of alberese and pietra serena stone.
The pretty restaurant nearby, with a fantastic view, gave us a lovely little lunch.
We found Gaiole In Chianti disappointing, so suggest you drive south on the 408 to visit Castello di Brolio, a huge fortified castle, with a delicious Osteria and well stocked gift/book shop.
Continuing south in the direction of Castelnuovo Berandenga, is the Borgo San Felice, a beautiful and immaculate borgo run by Relais & Chateaux, where we ate (twice) and also saw a special showing of the film 'Art Addict' about Peggy Guggenheim.
Also of note in the area south of Radda is the Restaurant Malborgetto at Lecchi. Up a narrow road to Lecchi, this small family run restaurant with courtyard dining, enthusiastic and professional owner/chef and his wife, gave us a wonderful meal with a fresh take on the typical Chianti menu, including a spectacular plum liqueur. We strongly recommend this place for quality, charm and price.
To return to Torre di Sopra there are three options: either go to Siena and take the Superstrada to Florence, then the A1 motorway from 'Impruneta' to 'Firenze Sud'. Or go east to Montevarchi and take the A1 motorway north direction Bologna and exit at 'Firenze Sud'. Alternatively, trickle home through Chianti and enjoy the ride….