You can learn a lot about wine in Florence, but there’s something raw and earthy about drinking it at the source. There are two ways to do that: Either you join a wine tour and follow a preordained path or you set out on your own. The latter is the adventurous option and only requires reaching Chianti. Almost as soon as you leave the city limits you’ll see signs pointing to Greve in Chianti wineries. Dozens are clustered around the SR222 and it’s impossible not to stumble on something great.
Most vineyards around Greve in Chianti have their own shops where tours and tastings are organized. Vineyard tours often need to be reserved but tastings are spontaneous and nearly always available. They usually involve several different vintages and may include light snacks or lunch. Whenever something strikes your palate, buy a bottle or have a case shipped directly home. The fun thing about visiting several vineyards in a single day is discovering how much difference a few kilometers make on what’s poured into your glass.
Villa Calcinaia (Via Citille 84, tel. 055/054-0137, shop hours Mon.-Fri. 9am-6pm) is located on an elegant estate a couple of kilometers north of town. They produce red, white, and rosè from a number of different grape varieties. Visits can be booked with Vincenzo, who will show you around the vineyard and explain the production process. Tours last one hour and start on weekdays at 11am and 2:30pm. Afterwards you’ll sample four recent vintages with cheese and cured meats (€18). Lunch and dinner can also be organized for a minimum of six people and accommodation is available in case you want to extend your stay.
On a hilltop five minutes away lies Castello di Verrazzano (Via Citille 32a, tel. 055/854-243), where grapes and olives have been grown since 1150. The estate belonged to the Verrazzano family and is the birthplace of the famous explorer. There’s a lot of history here and plenty of great stories waiting to be told. Guided visits reveal the vineyards, gardens, and cellars where wine ages in oak casks. The Wine Tour Classico (Mon.-Fri. 10am and 3pm, €18) lasts 90 minutes and includes three glasses of Chianti Classico and a sampling of the family’s olive oil, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. If you plan on being hungry, book the Wine and Food Experience (€58) and have a lunch you’ll never forget.
Information and Services
The tourist office (Viale Giovanni da Verrazzano 59, tel. 055/854-6287, Mar.-Oct. Mon.-Sat. 9am-1pm and 2:30pm-6:30pm) can help find last-minute accommodations and provides a list of monthly events. Chianti Slow Travel (Piazza Ferrante Mori 1, tel. 055/854-6299) is a source for gastronomic itineraries and events in the area.
Getting There and Around
Greve is 18 miles (30km) south of Florence on the SS222. SITA buses from Stazione SMN are available daily and take 45 minutes to reach the town. There’s a taxi stand in the central piazza where scooter and car rentals are also available.
You can pay someone to take you on a wine tour or you can set off on your own vineyard journey to discover grapes firsthand. A car is necessary; you can rent one or use either of the car sharing options available in Florence. Once you’ve decided who the designated driver will be, head south along the SR222 that starts on the outskirts of Florence.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Rome, Florence & Venice.