I had no idea that the Chianti region was so close to Florence, but when we did a bit of research we realised it would make a great day trip. Provence and Tuscany are two areas that I’ve wanted to explore for some time. Having nailed Provence, I was keen to see if Tuscany lived up to the picture perfect image in my mind.

We took the scenic road south, heading for a town called Greve in Chianti. Within moments of leaving the campsite we were virtually alone with nothing but vineyards, rolling hills and olive groves before us.

The landscape was studded by cypress trees that have become synonymous with the region and it felt like everything we’d hoped for. It was so nice to get away from the fast driving on the autostrade and pull over whenever we want to take photos.

Our first stop was Castello di Verrazzano about 15 miles south of Florence. It’s a 220 hectare estate where Chianti Classico, grappa, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are produced. It took us 5 minutes to get up the long private driveway as we climbed high into the hills. The castle sits grandly above the estate.

Luckily the restaurant had space for us to eat and we sat in a pretty farmhouse style dining room with incredible views.

We shared some antipasti with amazing hams and salamis and then had pasta with a wild boar ragu.

All washed down with a glass of Chianti of course. I think this was actually the first glass of red we’ve had on the European leg of the trip. It’s been French white and rose in this heat.

Full and content we headed on to Greve but passed through because it didn’t seem particularly pretty or exciting. We continued on quiet back roads, meandering through wooded hills and perfectly tended vineyards until we reached Castellina in Chianti. It’s a small, ancient hilltop town with charming lanes and shops. It was a perfect stop over to stretch our legs, have a mooch about and sample the local ice cream. The town was really pretty and had lots of independent bars and shops all sporting the black cockerel emblem that once signified the medieval Chianti League.

Gary tried to tell me this was good luck – judging by the sheen and wear I’m guessing he is not the first.

As we walked back we found a kooky art shop with an Italian artist painting to music blaring out of his studio and his two pet rabbits casually hanging on the pavement. This caused a 15 minute interlude for petting and cooing.

The skies clouded over and we could see we were in for a thunderous return home. Miraculously we escaped most of the rain but the lightning struck and thunder clapped all around us, providing a suitably atmospheric drive back.

I suspect that we barely even scratched the surface of true Tuscany over the last few days but the scenery and food has been stunning and it’s whet my appetite for another trip or long weekend that takes in Sienna and the surrounding wine regions.

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