When most people think of classic Tuscan countryside, the hills and valleys spreading out between Florence and Siena, known as `Il Chianti’, usually spring to mind. The region is also known as Chiantishire, and in some of the small-town tourist offices they just assume everyone who wanders in speaks English! The area is split between the provinces of Florence and Siena, and conveniently named Chianti Fiorentino and Chianti Senese. Apart from gentle countryside, Chianti is home to some of the country’s best-marketed wines. Of the wines, Chianti Classico is the most well known. It is a blend of white and red grapes and sold under the Gallo Nero (Black Cockerel) symbol.
Chianti is indeed very pleasant – lots of rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards dotted with castles and Romanesque churches known as pievi. But perhaps the hype has been just a trifle overdone. In other areas of Tuscany there’s plenty of more spectacular country to be seen (around Pitigliano, for instance, or up in the Apuane Alps). Not that we want to put you off, but the Tuscan countryside by no means begins and ends in the Chianti.
It’s possible to catch buses around the Chianti countryside, but the best way to explore the area is by car. However, you might also like to do it by bicycle, or even on foot. You could take a few days to travel along the state road SS222, known as the Strada Chiantigiana, which runs between Florence and Siena.
Budget accommodation is not the area’s strong point, and you’ll need to book well ahead, since it is a popular area for tourists year-round. However, if you have some extra funds and you’re in search of a romantic spot, you shouldn’t pass Chianti by.
www.lonelyplanet.comGetting information about the area is easy. Virtually every tourist office in Tuscany has good information, but the best is at Radda in Chianti. For information online check out www.chiantionline.com
From Tuscany, 3rd edition.
Tuscany & Umbria
Richard Watkins, Alex Leviton, Josephine Quintero, Rachel Suddart
Published January 2004
Que Cosa Chianti?
Chianti: A light, easy-drinking style, ruby red in colour and produced in large quantities in seven zones in Central Italy. After World War II the quality declined, though renewed interest and new technology are bringing it back to its heights. Typically bottled in fiaschi (flasks covered with straw). Chianti Colli Senesi is the largest Chianti-producing zone with a youthful style. Chianti Rufina produces good quality wine while Chianti Colli Pisane is known for its light, soft style. Chianti Classico From a zone that is the historical heartland of Chianti (roughly between Siena and Florence), this is where the majority of really good quality Chianti comes from. This zone has a DOCG law to guarantee the quality.
From World Food Italy, 1st edition.
World Food Italy
Gabriella Cossi, Matthew Evans
Published March 2000