As you drive around the Chianti, you can’t help but be enchanted by its landscapes. Thick woods, olive trees, the hills that seem to frame each astounding view. And of course the vineyards, those perfectly combed rows of vines, that are the life force of these lands. Vines that produce some of the most famous wines in Italy.
Here we show you three very special spots that truly capture the spirit of the Chianti region. Places where tradition is cherished. Where old architecture is made immortal by careful restoration. And where the methods of wine and food production have remained unchanged for centuries. Places where the ‘good life’ can still be lived.
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Volpaia, a historic Chianti hamlet devoted to wine
A hamlet, located 7 kms. from Radda in Chianti, that redefines the word ‘picturesque‘. A tiny square, two churches, a well. Doors framed by flowers, stone walls where ivy and roses climb to give the place a magical feel. You could easily spend a couple of hours here just taking photos to capture the essence of the Tuscan countryside. Yes, it is as idyllic as you imagine. The light is soft, the flowers give the ancient stone a romantic touch, and every door seems to have a story to tell.
But Volpaia is not just about beauty. They sell their excellent wine right here, in the old Medieval tower now turned wine tasting spot. In the same little square there’s a restaurant and a small shop that sells schiacciate stuffed with local cured meat. It’s a bit pricey as they cater for tourists, but it’s nice to be able to sit at one of the outdoor tables and enjoy the peace of this ancient place.
⇒ Discover all the Best places to visit in the Chianti region.
Badia a Passignano, ancient Monastery amid vineyards
Driving a few kms. from the town of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, you find a road that cuts through lushly green vineyards and leads up to Badia a Passignano. Stop the car before you get there for the perfect Chianti postcard. An old tower pokes out from the group of cypress trees, set atop a verdant hill. Badia a Passignano represents the Chianti in a nutshell: a place of natural beauty refined by the work of man.
Badia a Passignano is an Monastic complex hidden behind its 15th century walls and a cypress thicket. You can visit the abbey and some rooms of the monastery, including the fresco by Ghirlandaio “Last Supper” (it’s better to check opening hours by calling the monastery: +39 0558071171).
Then take a stroll through the borgo, basically one street with a couple of restaurants and wine shops (including the exclusive Osteria di Antinori). Sitting in one of the terraces overlooking the beautiful vineyards as the sun goes down is a dream, especially if you can enjoy some traditional antipasti and a fine Chianti red while you’re at it. What more could you want?
⇒ While you’re in the area, check out the lively small town of San Casciano Val di Pesa.
San Gusmè, a peaceful spot near Gaiole in Chianti
A teeny tiny Medieval village lost in a sea of vineyards, half an hour’s drive from Siena. You enter the ancient gate and find a few streets and a lovely square. Not more than 100 people live here, and silence reigns supreme. It was early Spring when we visited and it was virtually empty, but we found a bar open for a coffee and an alimentari (grocery shop). It’s a small community that’s both rural and authentic. In Summer it becomes a bit more lively as tourists venture here to get a glimpse of the real Tuscany.
⇒ Check out our Chianti Road Trip, a scenic drive from Greve to Radda in Chianti and San Gusmè.
Chianti is all of this put together. Tightly-knit communities that live and work according to the rhythm of the seasons. You might feel that time stands stills here. And it a way it does, as these places have looked the same for centuries, cherishing their traditions and keeping the old ways alive.