The Chianti area is rich both in wine and in castles. It is the perfect place to combine culture, nature and wine tasting. Though the area has become very popular with tourists and expats, it is far from being overrun.
Chiantishire is the place to explore the quiet tranquility of the Tuscan countryside, find out more about the ancestral art of wine making and be stunned by the majestic beauty of its castles.
Here are but some of the amazing castles you can find in Chianti.
Castello di Gabbiano, Mercatale Val di Pesa
Castello di Gabbiano is in Mercatale Val di Pesa near San Casciano in the heart of Chianti. It is less than an hour from Florence on the picturesque Chiantigiana road. The castle dates back to the 15th century and used to belong to the powerful Bardi family. During the turbulent times of the Renaissance, the castle was abandoned until 1623 when it was restored.
The castle has a square shape with four round towers positioned on each corner. These were added in the second half of the 15th century both for defensive and esthetic purposes. The original nucleus of the castle is the square tower at the entrance and crenelated wall. Overall Gabbiano Castle has a majestic and imposing feel.
The castle is now a winery, hotel and restaurant. Surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, Gabbiano is the perfect setting to enjoy a good Chianti. The restaurant offers traditional Tuscan dishes in a very tasteful and elegant decor. The rooms are less spectacular but nonetheless simple and pleasing.
If you feel like trying something a little different why not book a cooking course? Though a little pricey (€ 180 per person) the course lasts all morning and includes a three course meal and the castle’s wine.
Castello di Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti
Castello di Vicchiomaggio is also located in the heart of Chianti, a mere 18 km from Florence. The castle was first mentioned in 957 when it belonged to the Longobardic family Lambardi.
A visitor can easily distinguish the original medieval castle from the Renaissance villa that surrounds it by the difference in materials. The heart of the castle with its square tower is made of stone, while the rest is white washed and a perfect example of Renaissance architecture. Vicchiomaggio was named after the May celebrations held in the garden. It was a popular haunt for the powerful Florentine families.
The Castello di Vicchiomaggio, just like Castello di Gabbiano (basically its neighbour) is a winery, restaurant and hotel. The hotel is decorated in an elegant country chic style. The pièce de resistance is definitely the infinity pool with incredible views on the green hills of Chianti. The restaurant also gives you the possibility to book a romantic culinary experience: a private dinner for two in the beautiful gardens.
Castello di Verrazzano, Greve in Chianti
Castello di Verrazzano is yet another castle in the Chianti area. Near Greve in Chianti, it’s less than an hour from Florence.
The castle belonged to the Verrazzano family from the 12th century to 1819 when the family name died out. The castle was home to the famous explorer Giovanni da Verazzano, one of the first to discover North America. It passed on to the Marchesi Ridolfi and then finally to the current owner, Cavalier Cappellini. This last understood the historical value of the castle and has restored it to its former glory.
The castle develops around an imposing square tower. Castello di Verrazzano rests on the top of a high hill and almost feels suspended over the surrounding countryside. The castle is a winery, agriturismo and restaurant.
Cavalier Cappellini was one of the precursors of the concept of agriturismo, loosely translated as farm stays. This type of hospitality puts emphasis on the comfort of the guest as well as on the land and its cultivation; the secrets of which have been passed down from generation to generation. The castle’s restaurant, Hosteria, serves dishes made with its own produce or locally sourced ingredients.
Immerse yourself in the castle’s rich history with a guided tour. Castello di Verrazzano offers different types of tours which include a wine tasting and/or a meal.
The Chianti area is a great place to visit throughout the year. In Spring and Summer motorcyclists come to enjoy the windy roads while Autumn is the season of grape picking and wine festivals. I Just Drive, a tour operator based in Florence, organizes guided tours of the Chianti area with wine and food tasting. If you choose to come during the low season, you might find a lot of places closed.