Swoon over Chianti’s rolling hills covered in serried vines and bordered by pencil-thin Cypress trees. Explore exquisite medieval walled villages, and luxuriate in ancient spas, then release your inner gourmand with fine Tuscan DOP food and wine.
A tip: when eating out, or buying produce, look out for the DOP (denominazione di origine protetta) label. Only products made to the highest standard, and within a designated area, can attain the status. For more, read Italian Heritage Food – Tuscany DOP
From Florence, make for Castellina in Chianti, a borgo that dates back to Etruscan times. The ancient medieval fortifications, which include a 14th-century tower, may have been worked on by the founding father of Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi. An underground tunnel is now lined with artisan workshops and restaurants. Stop off at Stiaccini Macelleria (see below), for typical Tuscan meats, and for lunch or dinner, try Trattoria la Torre (see below).
Heading towards Siena, visit the medieval town of Monteriggioni. Having wandered the castle walls and drooled at the views of the surrounding Chianti region, wine and dine at Antico Travaglio (see below).
Before chilling out at the Terme Antica Querciolaia (see below), where ancient hot springs will restore and revive you, don’t miss the Felsina Bottega & Mescita (see below), in Castelnuovo Berardenga (Siena), where you can taste before you buy a fine selection of DOP wine and olive oil.
Finally, cruise on down to the World Heritage site of Pienza, a Renaissance city inspired and built by Pope Pius II, and admire the first public housing (still in use), the optical illusion in the town square, and, from the city walls, the vast Orcia Valley, now a UNESCO park.
The Stiaccini brothers, Giovanni and Antonio, opened this quality butchers in 1932, and products are still made according to tradition. The recipe for the Finocchiona salami, for instance, dates back to a time when pepper was an expensive spice, so butchers replaced it with fennel. Every week, Riccardo makes particularly fine sausages according to grandfather Giovanni’s secret recipe, while Mama Silvana prepares a range of pre-cooked specialities, such as fegatelli (spicy pork liver chops).
Via Ferrucio 33, Castellina in Chianti, Siena, +39 0577 740558
Terme Antica Querciolaia
The Terme opened in 1850, when the beneficial effects of the natural hot springs were apparent. Visitors are advised to make a ‘circuit’ of the pools, starting with the coldest and eventually ending up in the hottest pool (38 degrees). The spring water is said to cure everything from psoriasis to arthritis, and it’s believed that Giuseppe Garibaldi visited Terme after he was wounded in the battle of Aspromonte in 1862. In spite of the beautiful location and facilities, entrance costs a mere €13 per day, even cheaper if you come in a group. There’s a range of face and body treatments available and, after all that hard work, a decent cafeteria.
Via Trieste 22, 53040 Rapolano Terme, + 0577 724091, https://www.termeaq.it/
Located within Monteriggioni medieval castle walls is a fine gelateria with a dozen different delicious flavours to choose from. It’s also a bar, but if you’re looking for something more substantial, head to the back, where a huge but cosy (thanks to the log-burners) dining room awaits. Specialities include certified meats, Tuscan classics, such as Florentine tripe, and Chianina beef, from the Siena region. Then finish it off with some delicious gelato.
Piazza Roma 6A, Castello di Monteriggioni, +39 0577 1651764, www.anticotravaglio-monteriggioni.com/
Within sight of the 14th-century tower, La Torre serves up typical Tuscan food and wine. Nothing is wasted in Tuscany: the whey, left over from the production of DOP Pecorino cheese is heated to produce curds, or ricotta, which is used to fill the tortellini, here served with butter and sage. Follow up with the manzo, and incredible desserts, apricot and fig tart, with more of that creamy ricotta.
Piazza del Comune 15, Castellina in Chianti, Siena 53011, www.anticatrattorialatorre.it
Chianti Classico wine is made from grapes (usually Sangiovese, a grape that has been described as ‘a horse that doesn’t like to be tamed’, by our wine guide) that have been grown within a very specific area within Chianti. The grapes are then processed and bottled in the same area. Fèlsina is a stunning vineyard and estate where you can enjoy a glass a wine, meet the knowledgeable staff, and take a wine-cellar tour before trying and/or buying. Book in advance.
Via del Chianti 101, 53019 Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, +39 0577 1523789, https://www.felsina.it/en/