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Hiking in the Chianti Country  As with most of our hiking/walking vacations we settled into a B&B which we used as our base for several days of exploration of the Chianti area.  In this case the destination was not planned.  A storm in the French alps, our actual destination, forced a last minute change of plans and we ended up at the Casa Mezzuolo Agriturismo [**,$$], a family owned "agriturismo" B&B, situated in a very pretty hill countryside, close enough to Greve (a tourist town in the heart of the Chianti Classico region) for conveniences, but remote enough to feel country.  The family produces their own olive oil (just ask for a sample).  Their are excellent country hike options starting right at the Casa.  Other good options are within 30 minute drive.  The region has an extensive network of trails.  Region trail maps are free.  Trails were mostly well marked and signed, but a good map and GPS would be helpful. 


There are several OK restaurants in Greve but none as good as the three we discovered in the countryside outside Greve: Taverna del Guerrino [***, $$], in Castello di Montefioralle, a small hill town above Greve, and not far from the Casa Mezzuolo.  This is an extraordinary dining experience.  DO NOT MISS IT.  It is off-off- the beaten path but known well enough that reservations are highly recommended.  Evening parking can be a real problem in this hill town.   Come early or take a cab.  Osteria di Passignano [***,$$] in La Badia, another small "castle" town in the Greve area.  The photo on the left shows how La Badia appeared as we first discovered it on one our our hikes.  Tour buses can also find their way here but we still HIGHLY recommend it.  For lunch with a view: Trattoria "da Pordo" in Valigondoli, if you happen to be touring this area around lunch time.  The A&W symbol came from a signpost near here.


Biking in Tuscany  Next door to the Chianti area is Siena and surrounding hill towns.  In June 2006 we explored those hills by bicycle, basing from another olives farm agriturismo: Arienda Agraria Montestigliano [**,$$].   


We found several day bike rides that could be stated at the Montesigliano or within a short car ride.  >>> Chiusdino: a pretty medieval town sans tourists (see limerick at right).  The route we took was -Montestigliano-Rosia-Frosini-Frassini-Chiusino-Montieri-Abbi di S. Galgano [*] and return.  We arrived in Chiusdino just for a late "home cooking" lunch at La Grotta Di Tiburzi [**, $$],  a lovely deli (cheese, salami, and wines) and restaurant, with a charming and helpful staff.  >>> Radicondoli: starting at Pievescola, returning by way of Catelletto.  >>> Colle di Val d'Elsa: also starting from Pievescola, but turning towards Casole d'Elsa, continuing to Colle Val d'Elsa, Capiglia, S. Donato, and S Gimignano.  The last town is a famous tourist destination and what a crowd there.  We were advised earlier to arrive in late afternoon to avoid the worst tourists period and see a sunset from the hilltop. >>> And finally a short but exceptionally scenic route: Asciano - Val d'Asso-Abby di M Oliveto Maggiore - and return by way of Monteconteri.  The Benedictine abbey is the goal and turning point of this ride.  Notice no mention of Siena.  Siena is not a suitable biking destination, both because its extreme topography and hoards of tourists crowding the streets.


After each hard day of cycling we didn't have to go far for a hearty meal.  Nearby (almost walking distance) are  three very decent dining establishments: Vecchio Tinaio Restorante Pizzeria (**,$), which has a covered veranda and excellent wood burning oven pizzas.  Le Torri di Stigliano (***,$$) - a very charming restaurant in the small town of Stigliano, run by sisters who have no formal culinary training, but you wouldn't know it from the superb dishes and service.  (Stigliano merited two visits in one week.)  And a restaurant in the tiny village of Orgia where the food was a bit less exceptional than the other two choices but the ambience was a sufficient reward.


We rented out bikes from Trovato Services (via Ricasoli, Siena).  Giorgio, the proprietor, is a lawyer turned travel services entrepreneur.  His services include bike rental shop,  tour planning, cooking school, etc.  (Giorgio is also a chef.)   The following words of advice to those interested in renting bicycles:  Trovato rents both road and hybrid or off-road bikes (and motor scooters too).  You will probably be happier with a hybrid/off-road model since it will give you the greatest flexibility in route planning.  Many roads are paved and suitable for road bikes, but there are also many cutoffs and back roads that are not paved and better handled by hybrid bikes.  When you pickup your bike (Trovato also delivers free of charge) do the following checks: tires air-pressure, tool kit for flat tire repair (make sure that the patch glue is fresh), smooth gear shifting, bike lock & key, and bike fitting to your size.  Giorgio recommends that you email your measurements ahead of time to be sure of getting a well sized bike.
















More Italy...

Busseto - home of Maestro Verdi



Valpolicella Country



Hiking in Chianti Country























A limerick by our friend Jack Goldberg captured the essence of Chiusdino.


Chiusdino is ancient and pretty
With a name no-one’s heard, tis a pity.
  No one knows it is there
  You can go without care,
And dodge the mobs in the glamorous city.