A Day Trip Through Tuscany

aerial photography of city

Italian wines, like French wines, can be frustrating.  Not varietally labelled (they don’t tell you what grape is in the bottle), in some cases head-spinningly pricey and with some being deceptively strong, Italian wines can be a bit of a mine field.  With hundreds of local grape varieties in production as well, sometimes it’s just hard to know where to look!  Luckily, Italy is a beautiful country which makes exploring very easy indeed.

My last trip took me to the middle of the country, Tuscany.  Known for its landscapes and its history, regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some glorious cities: Florence, Siena and Pisa, at the heart of Tuscany is also one of Italy’s most famous wines, Chianti.

Made from the Sangiovese grape, Chianti’s flavor profile is very much based around cherries.  To call a wine Chianti, it must be made in the region and also must have at least 70% Sangiovese with 30% of other varieties (this proportion keeps changing!).   With the Chianti region steadily growing in size and, considering the grape variation, it’s no surprise then to find that it can be made in a wide variety of styles.  If you’re looking for something in the traditional style, you need to look for a Chianti Classico wine – this denotes that they are from the oldest and ‘most genuine’ area of Chianti.

It was here, in the heart of the Classico region that we went for a little bike ride one fine day in April.

We were picked up from our hotel in Florence in a little white van from Bike in Florence.   The bikes were on the back and, after picking up another passenger, we were on our way – winding up through the beautiful countryside.  After about an hour and a half, we stopped in the beautiful town of Castellina in Chianti.  Here, we were given a bit of time to wander round the town and stretch our legs whilst our bikes were sorted out.  Unfortunately, we did our tour on a Sunday and all of the beautiful shops were closed at this time in the morning.  We heard the church bells ring however and watched as the sun rose between the mediaeval buildings and onto the cobbled streets. 

​Once our bikes were ready and we’d been given the reminder that the traffic would be on the opposite side of the road (!) – we were away!  Cycling at our own pace and, for the vast, vast majority, just rolling downhill, we had a glorious morning.  The van drives along with you and is never far away – it guides you on your route and stops every now and again to point out various views and historical sites.  Along the way we quickly visited a very small winery and tasted some of their wine however, more memorably, we stopped for a considerable amount of time at Castillo Di Fonterutoli where, along with the tasting, we had a tour of their cellar and a lovely walk amongst their vines.  

A couple of winery visits and a few wines consumed, the sun was now sitting pretty high in the sky and as we cycled downhill, taking in the scenery, with the wind in our faces, it all felt wonderful. The true joy of the trip was yet to come however.

We finished our cycle in Monteriggioni which dates back to the 13th century – one of the most stunning mediaeval towns I’ve ever seen!   I looked through our photos and absolutely none of them do this place justice so click on the Monteriggioni link and see some of theirs – which are much better!  We were given some time to meander through the streets and explore the courtyard before we headed to our final wine tasting of the day at the wine shop for Monte Chiaro.  A quick tour of the shop (which is full of cured meats, cheeses, olive oils, tapenades and other glorious foods) we then went downstairs and tasted the wines – along with some of the local produce.  Our guide, Jacopo, was welcoming, knowledgeable and fun and the wine was incredibly enjoyable.

After a simple yet amazingly tasty cheese and ham sandwich (this description, of course, does NOT do it justice), we had a quick trip to the gelato shop and then we were on our way.  Bikes on the back of the van, sun-warmed faces, a couple bottles of the ‘345 and some olive tapenade back in the van with us, we started our leisurely drive back to Florence – feeling pretty good about life!

​Back in Florence we showered off the day and headed into town for some dinner, stopping first at what became a bit of a regular pre-dinner haunt Café 1926 – where they served the most delectable Prosecco for a jaw-droppingly low price.  I really do love Italy!

Some notes on our trip:

We did this tour back in 2015 with Bike in Florence.  Whilst the tour we were on has changed a little since then, the essence is still the same and you stop in the same places – details can be found here:  https://www.bikeinflorence.com/tours/chianti-bike-tasting/

For this trip, we flew into Pisa and got a transfer bus across to Florence (they run about twice an hour) – we stayed in the Forte 16 Aparthotel which was absolutely fantastic.  Complete with rooftop balcony where we went to drink our wine watching the sun go down over the Florence skyline.  We then made our way back to Pisa and had a look around.  We stayed a night there eating, quite frankly, the most amazing pizza and ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Being a long country, extending from the cool, mountainous regions in the North through the Mediterranean and into the blisteringly hot regions of Sicily and Calabria, Italy is able to grow a vast array of grapes and produce a wide range of styles.  From the high acid Pinot Grigio, right down to the powerful Nero d’Avola, there’s something for everyone – get over there and try some out!

I love sharing travel experiences – there’s so much of the world to see.  For inspiration on my next trip or just for great blogging about far away places, sometimes I link up with City Tripping.  Elizabeth at Wander Mum is a long term friend of mine and her linky enables me to see a lot more of the world – if only from my laptop!


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