Among my very favorite things to do while in bella Italia is to visit the wineries. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, some of the very best come from Italy. Italy supplies nearly one-third of the global wine production. In fact, Italy is now the world’s largest wine producer by volume, closely followed by France. With more than one million vineyards under cultivation, Italian vintners know a thing or two when it comes to making delicious wine. Read more
The early Fall morning in Chianti is crisp and quiet. My first night at the Castello Verrazzano (yes, the bridge in New York is named after Captain Verrazzano) in Greve leaves me refreshed and eager to explore the new surroundings. I hike up the half mile to the castle from my farmhouse lodgings and eat an early breakfast of artisan cheese and rustic bread washed down with a rich brew of fresh coffee. My fellow lodgers and I share our plans for the day, from winery tours to B&B shopping. Gazing off the deck high above the valley, rows of vineyards swell gently over the landscape. Every row is straight and precise. Another castle sits like a crown jewel on the next tall hill a short distance away.
Back at my car, I head south through Greve on Via Chiantigana. This route cuts through the middle of the famously picturesque Chianti Classico wine zone. With no itinerary, I lean back and absorb the fresh green ambience. No radio, just me and Chianti. Only 20 minutes down the winding road I come upon the town of Panzano. The brickwork framed with bright flowers and towering church on the main square entice me to stop and take a look around. Following are some of the highlights of my village stroll.
Someone with an obviously incredible green thumb lives here. The clay pots on the steps and across the wall sprout colorful flowers which add a rich texture to a stately entryway. If only I could make my doorway at home look like this.
Door Panels on the church built in 1964 depict scenes from church history. At the top is Pope John XXIII.
The village streets bring out the shopper in me. To the right are rows of shirts with a cartoon wild boar on the front. Of course, I have to buy one. Chianti has its share of wild boar, called cinghiale, and they are hunted for their tasty meat that often accompanies a pasta sauce or hearty stew.
Intrigued by a green door outside an old medieval aristocratic residence, I enter into this wine cellar run by three entrepreneurs. Although I did not eat here, the food is traditional Tuscan with a modern twist. I was taken by the rustic atmosphere with a stone terrace that offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
I stop here for a cappuccino at II Vinaio, an enoteca and bar. Covered completely overhead with a thick green canopy of leaves, the lively chatter of people below entice me to linger. Afterwards, I find some stairs straight ahead that lead down to the lower part of town.
Most of the doorways are clean and tidy with lots of greenery. Today the village is very quiet except for some tourists roaming the streets.
Poor old Mr. Boar has been reduced to only a head. Yet he symbolizes an important landmark for tourists. Inside, the famously winsome owner Stefano will let you try some of Chianti’s most remarkable wines. He also offers samples of local honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Shallow doorways in rustic brickwork are around almost every corner. Small and pristine, village life in Chianti is the perfect week away for anyone seeking impeccable streets, medieval ambience, tasty authentic Tuscan cuisine and panoramic vistas.
Chianti in Tuscany is beautiful. But then, every region in Italy has its own splendor. Chianti’s charms lie in the rolling vineyards bedecked with castles and surrounded by quiet little villages.
September’s wanderings brought me to the Castello Verrazzano just outside of Greve in Chianti. The long single-lane driveway up to the castle left the main road and wound up through rolling vineyards, past the renovated stone farmhouse where I lodged, then ending at this picturesque estate. The views of surrounding vineyards, olive groves and neighboring hilltop castles were stunningly beautiful. I imagined myself staying here for a very long time.
An old stone farmhouse provided several rooms for lodging with a small central courtyard. Stonework was everywhere, backed by red geraniums. All around me was quiet and very still, an atmosphere that I cherish.
Each morning I would hike up to the castle from my room and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast feast nicely laid out on a long table. Hearty breads and chunks of white cheeses, fresh yogurt, sliced meats, fresh-baked pastries, ceramic pots of hot brewed coffee and tea all found their place and disappeared quickly. The views from here were even more astounding. A deck ran around the outside where I could sit and gaze at castles on hilltops surrounded by long green rows of vines. Olive orchards brought a different green to the scenery and grew in groves dotted about the countryside.
Several of the castles and villas are not only wineries. Many contain shops selling the bounty of the land. Shelves of wine, honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil are plentiful. Colorful labels mark the items as products of Chianti, Tuscany. Many are cooking schools and hold classes in the art of Tuscan cuisine. I explored a couple of these estates.
Just a fifteen minute drive down the road is the Farm Querceto Castellina. Set on 117 acres of vineyards, the 16th century farmhouse has remained in its original condition. Architecturally intriguing and beautifully maintained, the farm also has a shop with winery products, cooking classes and a restaurant. I was welcomed with open arms and was greatly encouraged to ‘snoop’ about.
Surrounded in a natural environment of olive trees and vineyards, the Fattoria La Loggia is another equally unique winery. Not only do they provide rooms to stay, but they are a contemporary art mecca. Thought workshops and a creativity laboratory of permanent exhibitions of sculptures by noted contemporary artists are charmingly displayed around the farm.
All of these explorations took up a good part of the day. I found myself famished, so I turned my little fiat toward town. I wasn’t disappointed.
Dinner in Greve was perfect. I decided to try this cantina for two reasons. First of all, it was very rustic Italian, and secondly it was full of locals which is usually a very good indication of a worthy stop. People here are friendly and enjoy chatting among tables. My choice was a seafood pasta accompanied by a glass of Chianti Classico that was all delicious. In fact, the next day at the Castello Verrazzano winery tour, I recommended this cantina to a small group of tourists that wanted superb authentic Tuscan food at an affordable price. The Cantina Pizzeria fit perfectly.
I found my perch at the old castle where I wrote my memoirs. Words came tumbling out while my senses were engaged in pastoral scenery. As I took in the lush green ambience, I was reminded of an old quote from years ago…”in the stillness is the dancing.” How true, I thought to myself, how very true.