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Top Six Things To Do

Lecchi lies in the southern Chianti and so is well-placed for cultural outings to Siena. Closer to home, it’s all about contemporary art in vineyards and outings to the lovely Chianti towns of Radda, Gaiole and Castellina in Chianti. It’s also about the Chianti dolce vita, with wine-tasting tours, fine dining and rustic inns, including in castles. That’s in addition to cycle rides, Vespa tours and summer swims in the local river. It’s an outdoorsy lifestyle. Florence and San Gimignano are further away but still make tempting day trips for culture-lovers.

This is just a taster to the Chianti. See our specific guides to top Chianti towns and villages nearby, all accessed through our Destinations listings, For starters, check out our guides to Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, Panzano, Radda, Castelnuovo Beradenga and our general Chianti guide. Our additional Chianti guides cover Castagnoli, Volpaia, San Gusmè, San Donato in Poggio and Vagliagli.

Top Six Things To Do

Castello di Ama for contemporary art

Castello di Ama, Lecchi’s most local `castle,’ is actually not a castle but a hilltop estate and villa restaurant, doubling as a centre of contemporary art. This leading Chianti Classico producer a mere 2km north of Lecchi is a working wine estate known for its superb, full-bodied reds. At first sight the Castello is yet another traditional borgo, a stone-built hamlet nestling in the Chianti hills. Slowly, it becomes clear that wine, food and contemporary art are all part of the picture. This was the wine estate that entranced the Obamas on their post-presidential tour of Tuscany.

The wine is master-minded by Tuscan Marco Pallanti, regularly crowned wine-maker of the year, with wines often in the world’s top ten lists. The estate’s San Lorenzo is a Chianti Classico gran selezione DOCG, a category considered the finest expression of its kind. The 80 hectares of vineyards cover different terroirs, from rocky schist to clay and gravel, with another 40 hectares given over to olive groves. The olives end up in the estate’s extra-virgin DOP Chianti Classico olive oil.

The grounds are home to a world-class collection of contemporary art installations. This ambitious collection, Castello di Ama per l’Arte Contemporanea (Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art)
The sculptures respond to the setting, much as the wines do, and are being added to each year. Castello di Ama repurposes original buildings, such as an on-site church and wine cellar, to showcase art installations in a striking way. The art is hard-core contemporary rather than soothingly pastoral. 

The site-specific contemporary art is commissioned from artists of the calibre of Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren, Louise Bourgeois, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Lee Ufan. The most engaging and accessible is the show-stopping mirrored installation by Daniel Buren that reflects the rolling hills. A Louise Bourgeois sculpture entitled Topiary is ingeniously hidden beneath a grate in the wine cellar floor and depicts a female form flowering into a male phallus.  Aima, a thought-provoking Anish Kapoor light installation, illuminates the estate’s tiny chapel.

Book a wine tour and tasting, come for lunch, visit the sculpture park, or simply visit the estate’s Enoteca to sample and buy the wines, olive oil and nature-inspired home fragrances.

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Dievole estate cycling, picnicking or wine-tasting tour

Consider a cycle ride or a gourmet picnic in the vineyards around Lecchi if you want more than a wine-tasting experience. A variety of tempting rural experiences can be booked through the Dievole  estate, which may well end with a candlelit dinner in one of the estate restaurants.

Just south of Lecchi lies an appealing cycle route that takes you past rolling vineyards in leisurely fashion. Expect flitting butterflies, trilling birds and the smell of baked earth as you cycle. The route begins in the hamlet of Vagliagli, with an intriguing 26 km trail around vine-clad slopes. At its heart is the Dievole wine estate, a 400-hectare property 12 km north of Siena. Although it’s a private estate, anyone is welcome to ride the trail, which has recently been revamped and signposted. The `new’ trail was devised by an estate-worker, who knows the land like the back of his sun-leathered hand. In one sense, the trail is as ancient as the hills and was used by Tuscan sharecroppers for almost a thousand years. Ideally consult the Dievole estate before setting off on the trail and consider booking the gourmet picnic option.

The Dievole 80-hectare wine estate has been cultivated since 1090, when it was a monastic holding. Today, the property also produces award-winning olive oil. From the highest point of the vineyards stretch views of olive groves, deep woods and cascading vineyards planted with the grapes required for Chianti Classico. The estate offers gourmet picnics and cycle tours, as well as wine and olive oil tastings, complete with Pecorino cheese and crostini drizzled with olive oil. If won over by the spot, linger over a romantic gourmet dinner at Ristorante Dievole, or just a light lunch in the same place. The fallback restaurant, Giardino del Tasso, is another recommended spot for a candlelit dinner.

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Radda in Chianti day trip - for wandering, wine and a goat farm

Radda in Chianti is a mere 9 km north of Lecchi and makes for the perfect day out, whether for couples or families.  In this delightful market town, begin with a visit to the region’s foremost shrine to wine, the Casa Chianti Classico. After a fun wine induction there, including a wine quiz at the Wine Museum, stay for a wine-tasting and rustic lunch in the centre. Then head to the Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm, just north-east of Radda, to meet (and pet) the region’s silkiest and best-loved cashmere goats. Learn how sustainable farming is producing the finest cashmere and be tempted to buy a keepsake. Then either return to Lecchi or drive a few km north to explore Volpaia, one of the Chianti’s moodiest villages, and stay for dinner there.

Begin in Radda’s Casa Chianti Classico, housed in an 18th-century Franciscan monastery in the upper part of town. In its Wine Museum sign up to a 90-minute wine class or restrict yourself to learning all about Chianti before facing an entertaining multimedia wine quiz. Learn how Radda has been quietly prosperous since the 16th century when it was already exporting wine to England. Later, in 1716, Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, officially delimited the production zone of Chianti wine. Along with Radda, the main centres in Chianti Classico remain Greve, Panzano, Castellina, Gaiole and Fonterutoli. The boundaries and strict rules still apply, even if the responsibility for enforcing them has passed to the Chianti Wine Consortium. Members include some of the same families that have been wine barons since medieval times, including the aristocratic Antinori, Frescobaldi, Mazzei and Ricasoli dynasties. After doing a wine-tasting and dutifully going through your tasting notes, you deserve lunch in the Enoteca. Even better, it features a charming terrace surveying the Chianti vineyards. 

If you’ve got young children in tow or are simply tired of wine estates, then visit the quirky Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm, just north-east of Radda. It’s fun but also represents sustainable farming at its best. At this stone farmhouse with a view, the kids can hold, pet and bottle-feed the kid goats. The goats are guarded by fluffy white Abruzzo shepherd dogs who act as guard dogs to keep any wolf pack at bay. The American-born owner knows all the shepherds, herders, growers and weavers and cares for her goats as if they were family. After getting your fill of cute goats and puppies, turn your attention to the cashmere itself. Cashmere is the fine, fluffy, downy undercoat produced by a cashmere goat and is apparently ten times lighter and warmer than wool. At the goat farm you can buy home textiles hand-made in Tuscany as well as hand-woven cashmere scarves, shawls, throws, hats, socks and baby blankets. From here it’s home to Lecchi or onto atmospheric Volpaia, just north of Radda, for a memorable stroll in the medieval hamlet and dinner there, with homely or fine-dining options covered in our Volpaia guide.

Chianti Cashmere, Azienda Agricola La Penisola, La Penisola, 53017 Radda in Chianti
www.chianticashmere.com

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Easy Chianti e-biking then dinner in Gaiole in Chianti

Lecchi is a mere 10 km south of Gaiole in Chianti, a sleepy Chianti market town. The attractions mostly lie outside town and are best viewed on a near effortless cycling trail that takes in the countryside, castles and wine estates south of Gaiole. This is prime cycling country so make the most of it, even if you are not a fitness fiend on a racing bike. Best of all, you can do it on an electric bike on a full-day or half-day tour. These power-assisted bicycles are easy to use, even for first-timers.

The reason the Chianti is so scenic is because it's so hilly. If you lack thighs of steel or the desire to face steepish ascents, then consider an e-bike. Based in Gaiole, Tuscany E-bike Rental run guided or self-guided e-bike tours in the Chianti area. On downhill slopes, they work like a conventional bicycle but on long, flat runs or if you’re going uphill, the electric motor cuts in and provides the help you need to reach your destination without breaking into a sweat. The e-bikes can be rented for as little as an hour or as long as a week. One typical guided route from Gaiole could take in the rolling hills of the Chianti, the Castello di Brolio and distant views of Siena. All this including a light lunch and wine-tasting on an atmospheric estate. This particular tour is a three-hour, 46 km affair reaching an altitude of 518 metres. There are plenty of easier or more challenging routes that can be suggested.

After returning your bikes, consider dinner in L’Osteria al Ponte in Gaiole, a fuss-free, family-friendly inn in Gaiole. As a reward for your cycling exertions, dine on crostini neritagliatelle with truffles, wild boar stew, or pasta with porcini mushrooms. Sit on the summery terrace and knock back a glass or two of the underrated local Chianti Classico from Rocca di Castagnoli or Castello di San Sano estates.

L’Osteria al Ponte, Via Antonio Casabianca 25, 53013 Gaiole im Chianti
T: 0577 744007

Chianti Bicycles, via Chianti 40, 53019 Castelnuovo Berardenga
(+39) 3473184044 & www.chiantibicycles.it

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Castellina in Chianti day out

Visit neighbouring Castellina in Chianti, a charming haunt 17 km north-west of Lecchi. Explore the Archaeological Museum to see finds from Etruscan tombs, including an amphora depicting drinking and feasting, showing that wine was a sign of status, drunk at rituals and ceremonies. Even though the tombs were built nearly 3,000 years ago, the creators can feel very much like ourselves. Climb to the tower-top walkway to enjoy sweeping views over the Chianti mountains, San Gimignano and the Val d’Elsa. Wander down via delle Volte, a quaint stone-vaulted street built into the side of the hill.

Consider your first wine-tasting at an enoteca as Castellina is awash with Chianti Classico. The trademark on bottles of Chianti Classico is the Black Rooster (or Black Cockerel), the historic symbol of the Chianti Military League. In the late 13th century, Castellina was the first site of the Chianti League, a group of three Florentine feudal castles. Call into L’Antica Trattoria alla Torre for lunch. Set on the main square, this old-fashioned inn serves Tuscan treats on a summery terrace. Tuck into the Florentine T-bone steak, grilled meats and Pecorino cheeses, all washed down with Chianti Classico wines, of course.

After lunch, devour delicious ice cream at Gelateria Castellina, known for its experimental ices. The flavours range from ricotta and fig to chilli and chocolate or lemon and kiwi fruit. There’s also the owner’s favourite creation, cantuccini and Vin Santo: almond biscuits with sweet Tuscan wine. There’s no escaping wine in the Chianti. Before leaving, stock up on Tuscan foodstuffs, including cheeses, biscuits and cured meats.

Address: Castellina Archaeological Museum, Piazza del Comune 17, 53011 Castellina in Chianti
Web: www.museoarcheologicochianti.com

Address: L’Antica Trattoria alla Torre, Piazza del Comune 15, 53011 Castellina in Chianti
Web: www.anticatrattorialatorre.com

Address: Gelateria Castellina, Via IV Novembre 47, 53011 Castellina in Chianti
Web: www.anticadelizia.it

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Chianti Sculpture Park

The Chianti Sculpture Park, set in Pievasciata, south of Lecchi, makes a refreshing change from eating and drinking your way through the Chianti, lovely though that is. This harmonious Sculpture Park, also known as the Parco Sculture del Chianti, fills a small oak wood and even spills out into the local community. The route there covers a patchwork of olive groves and hills draped in vineyards, with sublime views unfolding around every hairpin bend. Once there, simply follow the wooded trail that winds past sculptures cast in a multitude of materials and styles.

The Sculpture Park is curated by art-dealers Piero and Rosalba Giadrossi, who often help out so you might well meet them. The concept comes from the ancient Italian tradition of creating site-specific artworks for the outdoors. Around 40 contemporary sculptures by different artists are dotted through the woods of this 17-acre site. Along the way, you can spiral through a life-size labyrinth made of glass cubes, and gaze at a sculpted cypress-like sculpture that looks more vivid than the real thing.

Given such a diverse collection, some sculptures will speak to you while others won’t. Most are thought-provoking. Thinker by Ichwan Noor from Indonesia is a homage to Rodin's Thinker but features a workaday character rather than a noble being. Suspended Stone by Mauro Berrettini is ingenious, a light-seeming sculpture made from travertine quarried from Rapolano, south of Siena. Energy, by the Greek sculptor Costas Varotsos, reveals a cypress-like structure perched on a rocky location. Labyrinth, by the British artist Jeff Saward, was inspired by a stone labyrinth in stone found in Val Camonica, Naquane dating back to 700-800 BC. This one is octagonal, not round like the original. In general, the materials used range from true marble and granite sculptures to more modern installations involving neon lights and sound. There’s also a bridge of bright blue tiles that, on clear days, frames the distant skyline of Siena. Some works are now found outside the park so look out for the artily incongruous British red telephone boxes, for instance.

There’s also an amphitheatre in the park for outdoor summer concerts, with genres embarcing classical, opera, jazz, folk, Gospel and tango. Even the amphitheatre is arty, made of slabs of white Carrara marble from Michelangelo's quarry, black granite from Zimbabwe and the stage covered with lava-stone. Definitely pick up an audio guide to the Sculpture Park from the entry kiosk or download the app before you visit. 

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