A Drive Through the Chianti Region

Beautiful Scenery and Delicious Wines

Author: The Traveling Professor/Tuesday, September 23, 2014/Categories: Italy

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After considering a less expensive tourist bus tour, we decide to hire a car from myTour, a company known  for their “Chianti Roads Tour”.   The cost of the tour is 60 euro per person.   On the itinerary is a guided tour of three towns in Chianti finishing with a wine tasting.

I schedule the pick-up for 1 p.m. outside our hotel in central Florence.   The late-model Mercedes minivan is there and ready to go at precisely 12:45.   Valerio is our driver for the day.   He speaks English with a rich Italian accent.

It’s a speedy Italian-style ride through the winding and narrow city streets into the hills overlooking Florence, going where no tour bus would dare to go.   Valerio short-cuts through the hilly high-rent district of Florence.  The car comes so close to the stone walls along the streets that a thin slice of prosciutto would hardly fit between the two.

Before we know it, we are outside the city.   Our first stop is the impeccably manicured Florence American Cemetery.  Over 4,400 stones mark the final resting place of Americans lost during World War II.  The burial ground is majestically situated, rising up a hill towards a memorial marked with a tall pylon.

The roads are practically empty now, save for the occasional bicyclist training for the next race.  The tiny Chianti towns are simply charming.   Most are situated on top of a hill.  The stone buildings have terracotta roofs and wooden doors.  Valerio explains that at this time of year, the grape harvest has been over for a month or so, but we can see the farmers shaking the trees to release the green olives.

For our pleasure, or perhaps for his need of another cigarette, Valerio pulls over at nearly every scenic overlook.    The vistas remind me in some ways of the Napa Valley in California.  That is until I see a couple of boys kicking a soccer ball in a field below.

A stop on the tour is Greve in Chianti.   The town square is touristy, so I bring my group around the block, behind some stores and downstairs to La Cantine, a centuries-old restored wine cellar.   The tasting room employs a unique system to taste any of their 140 or so wines and olive oils.  A credit card sized “Wine Card” is purchased in any denomination.   Put the card in the dispenser and the wine or olive oil is automatically poured.   Then, the Wine Card is debited appropriately.   I found Super Tuscan wines as expensive as 3.80 euro per pour, and others for as little as .60 euro.    

The next destination is Monteriggioni.  It is a 13th century village within a hilltop castle, protected by perfectly preserved stone walls, and surrounded by olive trees.   There are very few tourists here and Valerio expertly maneuvers the Mercedes through the hilly streets and narrow archways, onto the main Piazza Roma, sparing us a long walk from the parking lot outside.   I walk the ramparts of the outside walls, imagining the residents of centuries ago, hauling water from the well, happily protected by the thick and strong stone walls.

We stay long enough for Valerio to have a few more cigarettes and a couple of cafés.  Then, it is off to the winery.   We arrive at Sant’Appiano, tucked into a corner of Chianti.  It is small, with 17 hectares (about 42 acres) of vineyards and 11 hectares of olive groves.   The owner, Barbara, expertly explains the process of growing grapes and making wine.   She welcomes questions and then brings us into the tasting room in the stone cellar.  First up is a Toscana Rosati.  It is a light rosé, perfect for summer drinking.    After a swirl of the glass and a few sips it is followed by a “Super San Sangiovese”.  It’s dark, full bodied, with a sweet vanilla smell.  We also taste a Syrah and a variety of olive oils.   However, the standout of the day is a blended “Super Tuscan”.  It is an award-winning wine, spicy with hints of blackberry, aged in French oak.

The skies have become dark and it is time to return to Florence.   During the 30-minute trip back to our hotel, some of us doze off while Valerio brags about the superiority of the Italian footballer and Formula race-car driver.    In front of our hotel we bid Valerio “arrivederci” and thank him for a wonderful day in Chianti.

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