Classic Italian Drives - Strada Chiantigiana
The SR 222 (Strada Chiantigiana) is one of Italy?s classic rural drives This back road runs through Tuscany?s famous wine country to Chianti''s small cities and towns such as Greve, Radda, and Gaiole, between Florence and SienaThe SR 222 (Strada Chiantigiana) is one of Italy?s classic rural drives. This back road runs through Tuscany?s famous wine country to Chianti''s small cities and towns such as Greve, Radda, and Gaiole, between Florence and Siena. It winds its way southward along a network of secondary, two-lane roads, with vistas of rolling hills and Tuscan vineyards before joining SP408 to connect to Sienna.
This is a 100 km drive through some of the most stunning scenery in Europe. So don?t rush and make sure to allow plenty of time to stop at wineries and local eateries and to explore the charming towns and villages along the way.
Greve, 35 km from Florence, is a necessary first stop along the way, since it has the area?s largest tourist office. First stock up on brochures, then sit in the Piazza Matteotti, at one of the coffee shops or wine bars, before purchasing picnic lunch supplies at one of the many food shops. If you?re here in September, you?ll enjoy Greve?s annual wine fair, a major Chianti event.
As you are in the heart of Gallo Nero country, look for the symbol of a black rooster and try some Chianti Classico wine. There are also some fine medieval castles in the district that you may like to check out.
Approximately 10 km further south, along the Strada Chiantigiana is the medieval town of Panzano, built around the remains of a castle. Light meals and local wines are on offer at Enoteca il Vinaio, where you can take in the vineyard scenery from the terrace. Panzano?s Romanesque San Leolino church, 1 km south of town, is set on a pretty hilltop and features several Renaissance frescoes.
Just 12 km to the south of Panzano is the hilltop town of Castellina, an important crossroads in Etruscan times, and an area fought over by neighbouring Florence and Siena. Etruscan remains in Panzano include four tombs and a well, and there are many palaces remaining from medieval times.
From here you could deviate 20 km eastwards and travel via Volpaia to the area around Radda and Gaiole. Just 6 km north of Volpaia are more Etruscan ruins, as well as grand wine estates. Retrace your way back and take the turn to Gaiole, where you can visit the Badia a Coltibuono, an abbey set amongst a forest of cedar trees. The market town of Gaiole is surrounded by old castles and small rustic churches. To the south of the town the restored Castello del Brolio is open for inspection. From here you can see all the way to Siena and the hills beyond.
Back on the Strada Chiantigiana, drive the final 30 km southwards to Siena. Its city centre is pedestrian-friendly, with its medieval palazzi and many specialty shops, cafes and restaurants lining its narrow laneways. Twice a year, on July 2 and August 16, the famed Piazza del Campo is layered with straw and soil for the running of the dramatic bareback horse race known as the Palio di Siena.
Rod Ritchie, a travel writer and editor, writes for many publishers including AA Publishing and Fodors. Cottages to Castles have been offering high quality Italian holiday villas for over 25 years. Visit Cottages to Castles at www.cottagestocastles.com for a wide selection of quality holiday villas in Italy.