Tuscany’s Castle Winery Leaves a Dashing Legacy

Castello Di Verrazzano in Chianti
Castello Di Verrazzano in Chianti on a lovely mellow day

Chianti, an area of Tuscany located between Florence and Siena, is beautifully grooved with vineyards over wide rolling hills. Castles often decorate the tops with their surrounding estate of vineyards full of grapes grown plump and aromatic under the warm Tuscan sun. Castello Di Verrazzano, overlooking the town of Greve in Chianti, is one of them.

Gardens of Splendor
Gardens of Splendor
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Every castle has a moat, of sorts….well, this is actually a large pool
Plump juicy Verrazzano grapes
Plump juicy Verrazzano grapes

The “vineyards situated in Verrazzano,” are mentioned in a manuscript dating back to 1170, preserved in the Abbey of Passignano. Olive groves are recorded to have been growing on the estate simultaneously.

Castello Di Verrazzano vineyards
Castello Di Verrazzano vineyards

Today, the Renaissance villa is built around the tenth century tower. Originally, the castle was an Etruscan, then a Roman settlement until the Verrazzano family acquired it in the seventh century.

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Captain Verrazzano, Explorer of the New World

Giovanni da Verrazzano, born in the castle in 1485, was a Florentine navigator who explored the bay of New York and most of the East Coast of North America in the early 1500’s. Not one to keep a low profile, while seeking entrance to the Pacific Ocean near South America on his third and final voyage, he mistakenly landed on an island with cannibalistic natives. End of story….almost. New York immortalized him by naming their double-decker suspension bridge the Verrazzano-Narrows in 1964.

The Verrazzano Estate’s boundaries have not changed in over one thousand years.

Today the Cappellini family runs the estate after acquiring it in 1958. At the time it was in a neglected state and needed repairs. The villa was restored and the surrounding 220 acres of land reorganized, nourished and replanted in vines which are replaced every twelve years. A system of thorough organic fertilization as well as the practice of agronomic techniques has contributed over time to superior wines. The harvest is done exclusively by hand through a careful selection of grapes.

Vineyard stretch to the horizon
Vineyards surround the castle

Most good stories have a great ending, and this is no exception. In my next post you are invited to come along with me on a wine tour of Castello Da Verrazzano. I promise a dungeon with cells, but no dragons! Stay tuned…..coming this Wednesday!

Siena-A Day at the “Beach”

Enjoying a quiet moment in siena
Beginning of a Perfect Day! Enjoying a quiet moment in Siena

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.”  Samuel Johnson

Like seals on a rock, people lounge across the floor of the Piazza del Campo. The bricks of the scallop-shaped piazza are still warm, adding to the sensation of sitting on the beach. Pure bliss is lazing in the sun, soaking up its last rays of the day, steeped in good conversation. The only thing missing is the ocean. What’s not to love?

Piazza del Campo, Siena
Piazza del Campo is Siena’s “Living Room.”

The late afternoon sunlight is ebbing away as shadows begin to creep across the Piazza. Children in sandals scamper after pigeons. People stroll through, a dog leash in one hand and gelato in the other. Friends and lovers sit together enjoying each others company. Siena’s social zone picks up its pace.Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1385

Along the edge of the piazza is the promenade with many cafes and restaurants. There is a myriad of tables and chairs for diners and coffee drinkers set out in groups. Street musicians play their music while an entertainer in a red hat teases passersby to the delight of the crowd. The Campo truly is the physical and cultural heart of the city.

Carlos outside Ristorante Fonte Gaia
Carlos outside Ristorante Fonte Gaia

Our new friend, Carlos, runs the Ristorante Fonte Gaia. There he is in his white shirt and vest. One morning we helped him set out chairs before opening shop, and since then he has treated us to complimentary cappuccino and treats! What a sweetie…..see what can happen when you rub elbows with the locals?

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The red-brick fan of the piazza radiates out from the facade of the Palazzo Pubblico. Spoke-like paving patterns were commissioned in 1349 by Siena’s then ruling committee, the Council of Nine, to symbolize power and the folds of the Madonna’s Cloak. Since then, it has remained the site for most of Siena’s public events, such as bullfights, executions, festivals, and the famous Palio.

Once the site of a Roman Forum and later the central market place, the Campo is surrounded by buildings that haven’t changed since medieval times. The facade of the Palazzo Pubblico, built in 1288, concave’s inward to accommodate the curve of the Campo. Originally the town hall, today it still houses the town administration.

The Torre del Mangia (tower) was built to rival the tower of the neighboring town of Florence. When the Torre del Mangia was built around 1325, it was the tallest structure in Italy at over 290 ft.

The entire urban center is extremely well-preserved.

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The Palio, a breakneck, bareback 90 second horserace, occurs twice a year. Originating from medieval times to represent each of the 17 Contrade of Siena (neighborhoods), it still remains highly competitive. Siena’s pride and joy, it draws a huge crowd every year. During this time, the Campo is transformed into a racetrack and turns into a dynamic swirl of activity.

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Seated on a tiny balcony outside a third story pub with the best view of the Campo….

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James Bond….here he comes…filming the movie “Quantum of Solace”

Watch out for James Bond! He could be jumping out a window and scrambling across the awnings at any moment. He has done this in the Campo before, you know! Remember the movie “Quantum of Solace?”

Quantan of Solace

Well done, James.

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“Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…….

Sadly, it’s my last night in Siena….I stand with all my senses working overtime. I don’t want to ever forget the magic of this place. I am polarized between two worlds, the medieval architecture and atmosphere so rare to find, and the culmination of modern-day Italy evidenced by the tourists. The sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and feel of this medieval city soak into my being, flooding my mind with colorful memories.  Siena will remain with me always.

Ristorante Fonte Gaia, Piazza II Campo 121, 53100, Siena,Italy, Phone: 39 0577 281628