Day Trips from Florence
Following the wine and art trail in the heart of Tuscany
A great wine and a city replete with art. A journey like no other, in the company of Super Tuscans, great DOCG [Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin] wines and UNESCO world heritage sites, a treat for your senses and the best way to discover the landscapes, fragrances, colours and bouquets that have inspired great artists and great vignerons over the centuries.
Chianti & Siena
We’ll start with Chianti, the first Italian DOC wine, which gets its name from the rolling hills between Siena and Florence, that historical region of Chianti Classico. What is the Chianti emblem? The famous Gallo Nero (Black cockerel), the historic symbol of the Chianti Military League, painted by Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence. Your itinerary, which you can either follow by yourself, or under the guidance of top sommeliers, includes vineyards and historic wine cellars. As you drive down one of the most atmospheric roads in Italy, you will encounter l’Impruneta, Bagno a Ripoli, Castellina in Chianti, Radda di Chianti, and on the way to Siena, Colle Val d’Elsa, Sovicille, Monteroni d’Arbia, Murlo and Rapolano Terme. Masterpieces wherever you look.
If you are travelling in the picturesque Crete Senesi, from Monteroni d’Arbia to Rapolano Terme, then you are in the heart of the first landscape of Italian art. Shall we prove it? Go into the Palazzo Pubblico di Siena and admire Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s marvellous fresco from 1338, il Buono e Cattivo Governo. You will see the same fields, the same hills, the same vineyards. Everything is still exactly as it was then, just as if nothing in Siena has changed, from the Piazza del Campo to the Duomo, from the Torre del Mangia to Fonte Gaia. And wherever you look, your eyes will feast on artistic wonders, look no further than Duccio’s Maestà in the Museo del Duomo and Michelangelo’s sculptures on the Piccolomini altar. We should also remind you of that globally unique event, the Palio horse race, which runs every year on 2nd July and 16th August.
Tignanello & Badia in Passignano
Are you fans of Tignanello and Sassicaia? In that case, all you need is the name of one of the oldest families in Italy, the Marchesi Antinori, “vinattieri (wine merchants) since 1385”, and you’re all set to start your journey. Just one wonderful stop, at the magnificent Antinori wine cellars in San Casciano Val di Pesa, where you can discover, under the guidance of renowned sommeliers, each production stage of these extraordinary Super Tuscan labels, from vinification to aging. What should you do to get yourself in the mood for the visit? Visit the Cantinetta Antinori, which opened exactly sixty years ago, in 1957, and is at the entrance to the Palazzo Antinori in Florence. And now let’s drink a toast to that venerable anniversary!
Badia a Passignano
We’re still in the realm of the Antinori, contemplating the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badia a Passignano. We guarantee that this delightful town and its magnificent “badia” (an ancient monastery), inaugurated in 1049 by San Giovanni Gualberto, who founded the Vallombrosano order, will be a treat for all of your senses. The monastic complex that sits on a hill, the proud emblem of the Tuscan landscape, is an ensemble of several buildings dating from the XIII to the XV centuries. Don’t miss a visit to Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo and to the monastery (on Sunday afternoons a monk will give you a guided tour upon request). Let yourself be transported by the peaceful, spiritual atmosphere.
Vernaccia & San Gimignano
Dante mentions this wine with golden reflections and flowery and fruity aromas in the Divine Comedy. But Vernaccia di San Gimignano has seduced other famous sommeliers, such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Ludovico il Moro and Lorenzo il Magnifico, who in 1466, chose it for the wedding of Lucrezia di Piero de’ Medici and Bernardo Rucellai. Even Michelangelo, who used to stop at San Gimignano en route to Rome, loved to refresh himself with a glass of this superb white wine. The medieval version of Vernaccia was most probably sweet, with a high alcohol content. Today’s Vernaccia, which has been DOCG classified since 1993, is dry and harmonious on the palate, with an almond after taste. We recommend you explore this wonderful town and to sample the grapes, which grow only in the San Gimignano region.
San Gimignano, a UNESCO world heritage site, is famous for its impressive number of medieval towers, 72 to be exact. The oldest is Torre Rognosa, dated circa 1200, and the tallest is Torre Grossa, standing at a height of 54 metres. Building began at the start of 1300, four months after Dante visited the city. We can assure you that as you stroll through the ancient streets of this XIII century Manhattan, you will find yourself immersed in the same atmosphere that delighted that exalted Italian poet.
Brunello di Montalcino & San Quirico d’Orcia
Montalcino is the temple of Italian oenology and Brunello is its emblem. Its personality and character are unmistakable. What is its secret? The incredible richness of the climate and the soil. The itinerary includes the best wine cellars in the region against a backdrop of one of the most enchanting landscapes in Tuscany. Here’s another idea, why not accompany your wine with the exquisite flavour of the famous “cacio” cheese, Pecorino Stagionato Toscano D.O.P, which was loved by the ancient Romans and described by Plinio il Vecchio in his Naturalis Historia. Are you also partial to oil and honey? Then you’re in the right place.
San Quirico d’Orcia
One of the first travellers to savour the delights of San Quirico d’Orcia was Sigeric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who travelled the length of Via Francigena between 990 and 994 to get to Rome. This delightful medieval town is just as beautiful today. What should be the first thing you photograph? The symbol of the Tuscan landscape, San Quirico d’Orcia’s famous cypress trees, in Località I Triboli. You should then go into the town to contemplate the impressive Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giuditta, dating back to the XII century. Get back into the car and drive just a few kilometres to Bagno Vignoni, famous for its wonderful “Piazza delle sorgenti”, a natural thermal spring pool. Pope Pius II, Saint Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo de’ Medici were just some of the venerable personages who enjoyed its therapeutic effects.
Nobile di Montepulciano & Pienza
The ancient wine of Etruscan origin, Nobile di Montepulciano, which has been drunk since Medieval times, is produced in the magnificent settings of Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO world heritage site. In the XVI century, this Rosso Scelto from Montepulciano was the preferred wine of Pope Paolo III Farnese, also a staunch admirer of Michelangelo. So let’s raise our glasses to the great artist and to the Last Judgement (Il Giudizio Universale), commissioned by Paolo III himself, in 1534.
The perfect city. This is Pienza, a UNESCO world heritage site, dreamed up by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pope Pius II, in 1458. One of the greatest Renaissance architects, Bernardo Rossellino, designed it in 1462. The Palazzo Piccolomini, the Palazzo Vescovile and the Duomo all face each other in the trapezoid piazza. This perfectly proportioned, harmonious jewel of a city is a tribute to the pontiff’s name and his incredibly human belief in the beauty of the Renaissance. A little anecdote: Pius II wanted an austere church and threatened to excommunicate anyone who tried to decorate the inside of the Duomo, which remains pure and unspoilt to this day.
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