Touring Chianti means exploring the heart of Tuscany, one of Italy’s most beautiful and fascinating regions. The Chianti area, famous all over the world for its wines, is also the cradle of art and culture, with many towns and hamlets to visit, and lovely, hilly landscapes to meander through, perhaps on a motorcycle.
Chianti. For a lot of people this word simply means good, red Italian wine. But behind this short word there is the story of a rich and precious land. A land that is worth exploring, full of natural beauty, amazing art and fantastic food and wine. My personal advice is to to discover the Chianti area on a motorbike: why not give yourself an unforgettable motorcycle tour experience? It is the best way to appreciate all the wonderful things the area has to offer. In this article we will describe the characteristics of the Chianti area and what is worth visiting during a holiday in its beautiful hills. Let’s go!
Visiting Chianti, the land of good wine and great food
Chianti is an area of about 20 square kilometers in Tuscany, which can be found between the famous cities of Florence, Siena and Arezzo. It would actually be better to talk about the Chianti Hills or Chianti Mountains. The whole area is in fact full of gentle hills – the highest mountain, San Michele, doesn’t quite reach 900 meters (2900 feet). Within the Chianti area there are several towns (more about these later), and picturesque hamlets, with a long and glorious past.
What is Chianti famous for? This is an easy question to answer: for its wine, the Chianti Classico. This is a ruby-red, dry wine, made from Sangiovese grapes. E perfect match with tasty, flavorsome meat.
Talking about Chianti wine, there is a legend worth telling about its symbol: the Gallo Nero (Black Rooster). The story behind this design has roots in the Middle Ages, and the terrible rivalry that then separated Florence and Siena. After years of bloody battles, the two cities decided to resolve their differences in a very original way. On a designated day, two knights would each leave their home-cities at the crowing of the first rooster; wherever the men met they would trace the new boundaries. Siena chose a white rooster, that they petted and revered till the designated day; Florence instead chose a black rooster, whom they treated badly. The day of the challenge, the black rooster, fed up of how it was treated, was the first bird to crow, well-before dawn, so the Florentine started off with a great advantage. The white rooster took its time to wake up, and the Siena knight set off too late. And thus Florence managed to conquer the biggest part of the contended territories.
What to do in the Chianti area: art, culture and winetasting
The story above gives us a good idea about just how much culture and tradition the Chianti area has.
Touring the Chianti area really means revelling in everything it has to offer.
If you enjoy museums and historical monuments, there are endless choices. Here are just a few:
- Museo di Arte Sacra – San Casciano Val di Pesa
- Museo di Arte Sacra – Greve in Chianti
- Museo del Tesoro di Santa Maria dell’Impruneta
- La Gerusalemme di San Vivaldo
- Antiquarium di Sant’Appiano a Barberino Val d’Elsa
- Museo delle Ceramiche
- Parco Sculture del Chianti
- Museo Archeologico del Chianti
But the real attraction of the Chianti area are its winetasting experiences. It is simply impossible to travel through the area without stopping at one of the many wineries; you would be missing out on a truly unforgettable event.
Now let’s go on to my favorite part: the Chianti Motorcycle Tour. What follows is my personal experience.
Discovering Chianti on a motorcycle
“E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare” (“Sinking in this sea in sweet to me”), is the last verse of the poem “L’Infinito”, written by Giacomo Leopardi, a masterpiece that brilliantly describes Man’s soul. And although I might be exaggerating a little, I do feel that travelling on a motorcycle on the roads in Tuscany, and especially in the Chianti area, is like sinking into a sea of infinite beauty, which for me evokes a unique feeling of absolute freedom. It only takes a few minutes to feel at one with the immense beauty of the surrounding scenery, dominated by the endless Sangiovese vineyards.
For us bikers, the Chianti area is a true paradise of gentle curves that open up onto spectacular scenery, where ancient, severe olive-trees watch us pass; we drive swiftly through small, dark oak woods that abruptly turn into secluded meadows where sheep graze peacefully.
The Queen of all Chianti roads is the SR22, known to the locals as the “Chiantigiana”. It goes from Florence to Siena, and is approximately 70kms long. It is a road that brings out my emotions, where every bend surprises me: the small ruins of a roofless church nestled in a brightly coloured valley; homesteads built with ancient stone; a city made of towers; long, cypres-lined avenues leading to amazing villas; sudden drops between hills; breathtaking slopes.
On the way it is natural to stop in the piazza of one of the many small villages perched on the Chianti hills. In Greve in Chianti you will see the majestic Giovanni da Verrazzano statue, the first mariner to reach New York. In Panzano, at the Macelleria Cecchini, you can taste the fantastic bistecche alla fiorentina (florentine steaks). In Castellina in Chianti you can’t possibly miss the opportunity of buyinfg a bottle of red wine in one of the many wine-cellars, which you can pack into your top-box and drink once you get home.
Yes, the Chianti area is truly an infinite sea that continuosly tickles our need for beauty. It’s time to leave the “Chiantigiana” and head towards San Gimignano, a splendid Medieval town surrounded by its 13th-Century wall, also known as “la città delle torri” (the city of towers). Another choice could be to go beyond the Chianti area and visit San Galgano, a stunning roof-less abbey, and the little church of Montesiepi, home to our very own “sword in the rock”.
By the end of the day our eyes will be brimming with beauty, but our stomachs will be shouting out with a vengance. So: on to Siena, to amble through its ancient streets, into the marvelous, majestic Piazza del Campo, and, finally, it’s time to put our legs under a restaurant table and celebrate a day in which we have let ourselves be gently lulled in the beautiful, green, Chianti sea!
On my Tuscany tour we stay three nights in Siena. So there is also time to enjoy a Chianti Wine tasting event. I organize it at the end of one of the riding days. The winery owner of the Famiglia Losi, comes to the beautiful hotel where we stay to give us a lesson all about the Chianti Wine. So the Tuscany experience is complete. First we ride Chianti then we drink Chianti!