Italy is one country, made up of 20 regions, each with vastly different climatic and topographic conditions. Within the various regions, each province and town has its own unique idiosyncrasies when it comes to food and wine. The offerings are endless, and Tuscany has some of the most well-recognised and esteemed wines in the world. But, for the savvy traveller, discovering new and interesting wines (not just the famous ones) becomes a true adventure.
Tuscany is renowned for its gorgeous landscapes, rich artistic legacy and high culture, and is regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The many landscapes range from the Apuan Alps and the rolling hills of Chianti to the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea, and the scenery is dotted with castles, churches and wine cellars - an extraordinary blend of natural beauty and a vast cultural heritage that ranges from the Etruscan times to the present.
The territory offers visitors an opportunity to discover and enjoy the wonderful food and wines of Italy in the best possible way: by presenting them in their own setting. Vintners and farmers are proud of their land and relish sharing historic and cultural references and creating a personal and unforgettable experience.
It's not just winery visits in Tuscany though, city lovers can visit Florence, Siena, Pienza and, of course, Pisa! Take in the magnificent architecture including Romanesque abbeys which are home to the culturally-significant Gregorian chants. Those who are spellbound by architectural feats will find plenty on offer including the Piazza Pio II, the Renaissance Cathedral in Pienza, the Renaissance town of Montepulcian and the Palazzo Publico and Duomo of Siena. Once you’ve seen all you think there is to see, take the time to bask in the magnificence of the medieval skyscrapers of San Gimignano.
WHEN TO GO AND FOR HOW LONG?
Wine holidays to Tuscany can be booked for anytime of the year as each season offers something different. We suggest that you spend a minimum of 4 days exploring Tuscany, but ideally take a week to make the most of exploring the vineyards.
During Summer and Autumn you could easily spend a week or two in a 15th century country Villa while you visit wineries, enjoy day trips to the sea, try cooking lessons and take in amazing sunsets over the Chianti landscape as you sip wonderful wines with family and friends. An advantage of visiting Tuscany in September/October is that it's possible to assist in the grape and olive harvests.
The winter months are a great time to spend in a city. Make your homebase a magnificent apartment in a historical, medieval palace. During this time of year the cities are not overrun by hordes of tourists, making for a more relaxed way to discover these enchanting places. As you stroll the ancient streets surrounded by architectural splendour, talk to the locals, visit artists’s studios, meet master artisans and soak up the unmatched atmosphere to immerse yourself in Tuscan culture.
WHERE TO GO?
Whether you're visiting Tuscany for the first time or you know the region well, there is an abundance of areas to explore and the many soil and climate variations allow for a diversity of wines and personal styles. The ten provinces of Tuscany offer 42 DOC, and 11 DOCG classified wines, not to mention the IGT, “vini da tavola” (table wines) and the unofficial, but world-esteemed “Super Tuscans”.
The Chianti area alone has several sub-zones, within this stretch of land that goes from Florence to Siena, we have the Chianti Classico also known as the heart of Chianti, as well as Chianti Rufina, Colli Fiorentini, Carmignano, etc...
The area south of Siena offers us the Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano.
The northernmost part of Tuscany, with its dramatic mountain peaks, marble caves, and sandy beaches, gives us Vermentino, Albarola and Massaretta. Lucca has the Montecarlo, surrounding Pisa the Colli Pisani, further south is the Etruscan coast which includes the Island of Elba and its wonderful Aleatico, Ansonica and Moscato. On the border with Umbria is the area of Arezzo with the Chianti dei Colli Aretini as well as Cortona.
To the north we have Pistoia and Mugello, which border with Emilia Romagna and offers us the Pinot Nero “Caldaia”.
The area of San Gimignano has the well-established Vernaccia, as does Bolgheri (Livorno) with Ornellaia and Sassicaia. This is just scratching the surface of what Tuscany offers us when it comes to great wine.
The above mentioned areas each have interesting historic, natural, and cultural points of interest. From the beautiful towers of San Gimignano, the marble quarries where Michelangelo would choose his blocks of marble for his masterpieces to the Etruscan tombs near Volterra, the charming hamlets of Amiata, and the incomparably spectacular view overlooking Florence from San Francesco in Fiesole, these are just a few of the places one can include in an exciting itinerary of the Tuscan wine country.
The highest suspension bridge in the world located very near to Pistoia.
For a wine festival head to Festa del Vino in Montecarlo di Lucca.
If the region's delicacies take your fancy, then the Truffle Festival at San Miniato and Chestnut Festival held in November will tantalise.
For something totally different head to the medieval city of Montepulciano in the South of Siena and witness the incredible Bravio delle Botti. This extraordinary barrel race takes place on the last Sunday of August and dates back to the 14th century when the main attraction was a race on horseback. Nowadays, inspired by the tremendous wine produced in Montepulciano, the race is run on foot with the added challenge of contestants pushing large wine barrels or botti through the streets. This strange and strenuous spectacle pits teams from the 8 different districts contrade of the town against each other, with the eventual winner awarded the coveted Bravio, a cloth depiction of the city's patron saint. The challenging event is followed by colourful parades and, of course, plenty of traditional food and wine samplings from the region.
Vino al Vino from the 18-21 September Panzano, offers some of the best local wines from the heart of Chianti, all accompanied by some great food and Jazz.
San Giovanni D’Asso holds its yearly white truffle festival. Take the steam train from Siena and spend the day tasting truffles, enjoying the wines from the Val d’Orcia , visiting the truffle museum, and enjoying the open market which features local artisans and their wares.
Vendemmia is held during the last weeks of September and there are local festivals all over Tuscany that celebrate the grape harvest. Just to mention a few: “Festa dell’Uva e del Vino” in Chiusi, the “Festa dell’Uva” in Impruneta, Scansano celebrates its’ Morellino, pairing the wine with traditional products of the area. These are animated festivities where the whole town revels in traditional games, often with allegorical floats and period costumes.
In Florence, they celebrate their patron Saint San Giovanni, on June 24. Each year the spectacular fireworks bring Florentines all along the Arno river to celebrate with plenty of good food and wine. The best spot to watch is from the Ponte Santa Trinita.