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Published: October 8th 2011
Tuesday, Oct 4 Chianti Region
Today was our day to explore the Chianti region and visit a couple of wineries. The Chianti area is kind of the quintiessential “Tuscan” area. It was a favourite of Britich visitors who started buying up cheap places back in the sixties. There are no cheap places anymore, but it is still very popular with tourists, especially wine lovers. The valleys are filled with vineyards and olive groves. I was surprised at how much forest was actually in the area. There is probably more forest than vineyards. The road is incredibly windy. In many areas the trees actually meet over the road and there are often walls on one side and drop offs on the other. It is very narrow. Claude loved driving the roads. He was very skilled at driving them fast like an Italian. We could always tell when we came up behind another tourist as they were rather slow on the continual curves. I said that Marc would love being in the car on these roads as it is like the Test Track ride at Disneyworld, that just keeps going on and on and on. My motion sick prone stomach had a bit
of a problem with all the curves but I made it through!
Our first stop was to the east side of the region past Gaiole in Chianti where we visited the Castel di Brolio. This was a castle of the Ricasoli family since the 1100’s. In the mid 1800’s the Barone Ricasoli was quite a scientific guy and a good business man and he developed the recipe for Chianti Classico - his perfect wine. He was also famous in politics as he was instrumental in unifying Italy and became its second Prime Minister. You can’t tour the whole castle as the main part is still owned by the Ricasolis as an occational summer home, but they gave a tour of the medieval tower and the museum inside. The grounds were also nice to walk around with of course a great view of the countryside. It was a very strategic castle for Florence as they could keep an eye on Sienna, their rivals. After the tour we had a nice lunch in the outdoor cafe (called an Osteria here) and then went down to the winery for a tasting.
We started to work our way back, and stopped in Panzano. It
is a very tiny medieval town with a castle you couldn’t enter and just a tiny main square. However it has one of the most famous butchers in Tuscany. He is apparently a poet and butcher and has poetry on his wall and will recite to customers. He is supposed to cut the best Florentine steaks. We had no way of keeping meat cool so we couldn’t buy anything. I did have a good gelato in town.
Then we stopped off at a winery we saw along the road (there are many), for a tasting. It turns out he had won some awards and exports his wine to North America. Translate that to mean it wasn’t as cheap as much of what we could buy in the stores, but it was good and it was a beautiful place. It was called Querceto Di Castellina. They had some very nice looking vacation apartments there too.
Our last stop of the day was in Castellina in Chianti. This was a really beautiful small town. It was a walled town too. They had an Etruscan museum that we toured that was also attached to their old fortress tower that you could also tour.
In the Etruscan museum we learned that the method of doing clay tile roofs has not changed since Etruscan times – 500 BC. Why mess with a good thing?? They have a hidden street in town too. It is one that was covered over with a bricked arch so that the horsemen could ride up to the castle without being seen. Now they have added view points to the countryside and you can also access some of the shops and restaurants from in the tunnel. It was much less touristy than many of the towns in the area, and very quaint.
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