in the Chianti
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
Come early or take a cab. Osteria
di Passignano [***,$$] in La Badia, another
small "castle" town in the Greve area. The photo on the left
shows how La Badia appeared as we first discovered it on one our our hikes. Tour buses can
find their way here but we still HIGHLY
it. For lunch with a view: Trattoria "da Pordo" in Valigondoli, if you happen to be touring this area around lunch time.
The A&W symbol came from a signpost near here.
in Tuscany Next door to
the Chianti area is Siena and surrounding hill towns. In June 2006 we
explored those hills by bicycle, basing from another olives farm agriturismo: Arienda Agraria Montestigliano
We found several day bike rides that could be
stated at the Montesigliano or within a short car ride. >>> Chiusdino: a pretty medieval town
tourists (see limerick at right). The route we took was -Montestigliano-Rosia-Frosini-Frassini-Chiusino-Montieri-Abbi
di S. Galgano [*] and return. We arrived in Chiusdino just for a late "home
cooking" lunch at La Grotta Di Tiburzi [**, $$], 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.
- home of Maestro Verdi
Hiking in Chianti Country
Chiusdino is ancient and pretty
With a name no-ones heard, tis a pity.
No one knows it is there
You can go without care,
And dodge the mobs in the glamorous city.