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Top Ten Things to Do

Greve, the commercial centre of Florentine Chianti, is a place for browsing for wine and foodstuffs. While there is little of cultural interest in town, the surrounding countryside makes for delightful pottering. From Greve, enjoy gentle hikes, along with scenic drives to neighbouring castles and medieval wine estates. Greve also makes a great base for cultural day trips to Siena and Florence, along with Chianti-based wine-tasting and foodie forays in the vineyards.

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 Gaiole, Radda, Panzano, Castellina, Castelnuovo Beradenga. Our additional Chianti guides cover Castagnoli, Volpaia, San Gusme, San Donato in Poggio, and Vagliagli.

Top Ten Things to Do

Take in Piazza Matteotti

Although Greve is an unremarkable market town, its main square commands attention. The porticoed Piazza Matteotti is a lovely place for taking in the bustling atmosphere. Browse the market, potter under the porticoes in search of Tuscan treats. Call into Bistrot Falorni for Tuscan fast food, a tasty taglieri, a Pecorino cheeseboard or a plate of hand-cured meats, along with a welcome glass of Chianti Classico. If you can tear yourself away from lunch, glance at the neo-Renaissance Town Hall, the Palazzo del Comune, and the parish church of Santa Croce, with its neo-classical facade. The church is a reminder that Greve flourished at the meeting place of several pilgrimage routes.

If time, call into the small Wine Museum. These ancient wine cellars hosted the predecessors to the slick the Chianti Classico consortium. Back in 1906 it was called the Chianti Wine Union and was restricted to local aristocratic landowners. After looking at the displays of old tools, farm machinery and corkscrews, tuck into a wine-tasting, which is included in the ticket price. The museum’s revamp is thanks to the Bencista Falorni family who own these cellars.

Before venturing forth on a wine trail, admire the monument to the great explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1885-1528), who explored the North American coast. If exploring is on your mind, consider the short drive to the explorer’s castle, Castello di Verrazzano, just north of Greve. Ponder a short hike to Montefioralle, one of the prettiest stone-built villages close to Greve. Or ponder discovering some of the Chianti’s finest vineyards, which lie just outside town. Badia di Passignano, a former monastic estate, makes a good start, especially as it is a shrine to Antinori wines.Greve can also be an amusing spot for people-watching. Set around 30 km south of Florence, the town has long been popular with the Chiantishire set, given its sought-after wine and oil estates and charming farmhouses. Unlike more remote parts of Tuscan countryside, the Chianti has not suffered from depopulation. The influx of the wealthy, olive-nibbling classes has helped maintain the positive trend, with tumbledown farmhouses snapped up by the Chiantishire crowd.

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Greve walk to Montefioralle

Perched on a hill just outside Greve is medieval Montefioralle, a tiny, walled `borgo.’ This hidden gem is just five minutes’ drive west of Greve but can also make a delightful walk. From Greve, it’s a short, steep but rewarding 2km hike ending in wonderful views. Start in via di San Francesco off via Roma. The winding route leads to the walled settlement, once the feudal castle. Although no longer a military outpost, Montefioralle is still fortified. The walls were once octagonal, bounded by four gates, parts of which survive.

Following the tides of Tuscan history, the village has belonged to the Ricasoli, Benci, Gherardini and Vespucci families. The village was the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci (1415-1512), who followed Columbus’ route to America. The explorer’s ancestral home lies along the main street, and is indicated by his coat of arms, incorporating a wasp. Wander along narrow alleys and secret passageways past well-preserved stone-built houses. The village is surmounted by the church of Santo Stefano but panoramic views also await in the local inns. Unless you’ve brought a picnic from Greve, opt for lunch in a local inn, such as the romantic La Castellana or the simpler La Taverna del Guerrino. La Taverna is a Slow Food inn but looks rather like a “hole-in-the-wall’ place, despite being blessed with a panoramic terrace. Typical dishes include Tuscan grills (cooked on a wood-fired grill) and pasta dishes. The best seasonal pasta dishes are tagliatelle al cinghiale (with wild boar), tagliatelle al tartufo fresco (with fresh truffles) and tagliatelle ai funghi porcini freschi (with fresh ceps).

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Wine-making experience at Fattoria Viticcio

In Fattoria Viticcio, a local wine estate, you can dream the winemaker’s dream. Unusually, you can also pretend to be a Tuscan winemaker for a while. This behind-the-scenes blending experience can be comfortably fitted into a morning or afternoon. The session allows you to blend your own wine and even take home a bottle of your personal wine. The process involves a guided tour and tasting, including sampling wine direct from the barrels. The estate lies only 2 km outside Greve in Chianti so makes for an easy walk through the vineyards to town. There’s no excuse for not indulging in a leisurely tasting. What’s more, as this is a family-run winery, the mood is more hands-on than at grander Tuscan estates.

The alternative experience is a winery visit and guided tasting of four wines (three Chianti Classico and one Super Tuscan, also known as an IGT). The wines are paired with Viticcio Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Tuscan salami and cheeses from the celebrated L’Antica Macelleria Falorni butcher’s in Greve. The estate produces not just Chianti Classico wines, along with Vin Santo and Grappa, but also wines from Bolgheri and Maremma vineyards, including full-bodied Morellino di Scansano. Their 60 hectares of vineyards encompass classic Chianti Sangiovese grapes, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Vermentino.

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Castello di Verrazzano - explorer’s castle and wine estate

Crowning a hill 3 km north of Greve, this castle was the birthplace of explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528) who discovered the Bay of New York. His feat is commemorated in the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York, between Brooklyn and Staten Island (an `r’ was lost mid-Atlantic). Verrazzano’s log books go further, recording the first-known descriptions of the Hudson River, the Bay of New York and large part of east coast America. The explorer’s efforts on behalf of King Francis I were rewarded with great honours, including the right to put the French fleur de lys on the family crest. This great Tuscan seafaring family included map-makers and admirals among its number before dying out in 1819.

Today, Castello di Verrazzano is best-known for its renowned wine cellars and wine museum. The estate produces high quality Chianti Classico wines, along with olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar. The castle was saved from near ruin by the present owner, Cavaliere Luigi Cappellini, who has restored it to its ancient splendour. Concerts are sometimes held on the magnificent roofed terrace, and wine tours take place in the castle’s 16th-century cellars.

The estate offers a range of different tours, from garden tours and gourmet lunches to food and wine experiences and straightforward wine-tastings. The rustic-elegant restaurant, L’Hosteria della Cantina, specialises in wild boar dishes and straightforward, seasonal Tuscan cuisine, including tasting menus and wine-pairing. On the menu are grills, T-bone steak and pasta with meaty ragu sauce or local herbs. All the produce is Tuscan and often organic from the estate vegetable gardens, A range of menus caters to everyone from foodies to vegetarians and small children.

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Badia di Passignano - medieval abbey & Antinori wine estate

Just west of Greve is a moody hamlet centred on a Benedictine monastery. Badia di Passignano was founded by the Vallambrosan order in 1049. All around are vineyards belonging to the Antinori Chianti estates. This particular Antinori wine estate is given over to vineyards of Sangiovese grapes and olive groves. This Florentine-based wine dynasty have been peddling the `nectar of the gods’ in Tuscany since 1385.  Before succumbing to the wine option, spend a bit of time in the fortified abbey where the great Galileo Galilei taught in the 16th century. Pre-book a guided tour with one of the handful of remaining Vallambrosan monks to admire a refectory decorated with a magnificently restored Last Supper by Domenico Ghirlandaio.

If more earthly concerns are on your mind, then the abbey can also sustain you. The Antinori’s Michelin-starred restaurant occupies part of the vaulted abbey, with the so-called `historical cellars’ located immediately below the abbey. At the estate you can sample Antinori signature wines, whether Chianti Classico wines or Super Tuscans. Famous names are Tignanello, Guado al Tasso, and Solaia, as well as Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Passignano. Book an Antinori wine-tasting and cellar tour, possibly even an oil-tasting, followed by lunch or dinner in their onsite fine-dining restaurant. L’Osteria di Passignano or their far simpler Trattoria della Fonte in a farmhouse nearby. Instead, L’Antica Scuderia is the best dining option for families or anyone fancying a pizza.

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Castellina in Chianti for a foodie foray

Visit neighbouring Castellina in Chianti, a charming town south of Panzano. Wander down via delle Volte, a quaint stone-vaulted street built into the side of the hill. 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.

Consider your first wine-tasting 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.
Go shopping for Tuscan foodstuffs, including cheeses, biscuits, cured meats and pastries. (For shopping suggestions, see our guide to Castellina in Chianti

Gelateria Castellina, Via IV Novembre 47, 53011 Castellina in Chianti
T: 0577 741337 & www.anticadelizia.it

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Vignamaggio – Renaissance villa estate and gardens

This Renaissance villa estate is linked to great art. Set 5 km southeast of Greve, the wine estate is delightful enough to have starred as a film set, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
The romantic villa lords over its Italianate gardens and vine-clad hills. The serene landscape supposedly inspired Leonardo da Vinci. The castle was remodelled as a patrician villa in the 14th century and belonged to the Florentine Gherardini family. Monna Lisa Gheradini, better-known as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, married into this family in the 14th century.  The villa boasts a crenellated tower, 16th-century corbelled arches and courtyard, with the top of the tower remodelled in Neo-Gothic style.

Centred on the lovely Renaissance villa, this tenuta is an established 65-hectare wine estate, and one of the oldest in Tuscany, dating back to 1404. The award-winning wines range from Chianti Classico and trendy Super Tuscans to a fresh Rosé, a Cabernet Franc, Vin Santo and grappa. Orchards, herb gardens, wheat-fields and thirty hectares of olive groves reflect the estate’s commitment to biodiversity. The villa grounds showcase Italianate, Renaissance-style gardens, complete with cypresses, clipped box parterres and rose-draped statuary. French owner and architect Patrice Taravella has recently spruced up the grounds, adding orchards, classical pool fountains and pergolas.

Vignamaggio now offers garden and cellar tours, as well as a free wine-tasting. The farm-to-table Ristorante Monna Lisa means much of the produce comes from the surrounding organic estate. Wine-pairing lunches are on offer, as are guided tours of the estate, ending in a sunset dinner. The seasonal menu celebrates Tuscan produce, from vegetable platters drizzled in home-produced olive oil to pasta with pistachio and garden-mint pesto. The pork and cured meats come from the estate's happy herd of cinta senese pigs.

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Indulge in a meat fest in Panzano

Panzano, just south of Greve, is the place to indulge in a passion for Tuscan meat, including Florentine T-bone steak. This Tuscan bastion is the meaty preserve of Dario Cecchini, a cleverly eccentric celebrity butcher with a mini empire in these parts. No one can wield a bloody meat cleaver better, still less while reciting Dante. Part butcher, part showman, Dario keeps his audience entertained as well as over-fed.

With several restaurants in town, all clustered round his famous butcher’s, Cecchini is still doing a brisk trade. The restaurants are fairly priced so there’s no sense of being caught in a tourist trap. The winning format appeals to most visitors, as does the conviviality and showbiz side.

T-bone steak predominates, at least in one restaurant. For any beef-loving Tuscan, bistecca alla fiorentina – a huge, tender T-bone steak, grilled over an open fire and seasoned with nothing more than crushed pepper¬corns, salt, and a hint of garlic and olive oil, served very rare – is the ultimate steak. Bear in mind that all is not bleak for vegetarians: there are strong meat-free menus for those of a more squeamish disposition. Basic wine is included in the price but you can also bring your own. See our Panzano restaurant listings for full recommendations.

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Art-filled Florence

Florence lies just 30 km north of Greve in Chianti. Despite devouring the checklist of must-see sights, steer clear of suffocating under the weight of treasures. Allow time for aimless wandering. Beyond the selfie sticks and statuary awaits a funky foodie haunt with sleek cafes, superb cooking and seriously edible markets. Florence is not fusty. Nor has the greedy city lost its gutsy Tuscan soul: traditional inns still serve earthy peasant fare, including macho steaks. Beware of trying to do too much on a day trip. Balance visits to galleries with wanderings in search of the perfect trattoria or the perfect view.

Begin in Piazza della Signoria, the city’s grandest square, with its copy of Michelangelo’s David and, beside it, the crenellated Palazzo Vecchio, with a well-presented collection. After a coffee at Rivoire, brace yourself for the Uffizi Gallery, the world’s greatest collection of Italian art. As such, the gallery is both a feast for the senses and an indigestible banquet so try and plan your visit in advance or even book a time slot online. After lunch, visit the Duomo, the biggest building for miles around. It is still Brunelleschi’s Renaissance dome that defines Florence. Out of respect for Brunelleschi’s achievement, the city forbade the construction of any building taller than the Duomo.

Clear your head in the Oltrarno, across the river Arno, where the Giardino Boboli (Boboli Gardens) act as an excellent antidote to the suffocating splendours of the Pitti Palace. The Medici dynasty created these statuary-encrusted gardens, which became the model for Italianate gardens for centuries to come. Before dinner, explore the Oltrarno neighbourhood's craft heritage on the so-called Left Bank of the city. This bohemian district is studded with stylish bars and buzzy inns interspersed with antique shops, jewellery-makers, picture-restorers and bijou art galleries.

Check our Florence guide to see what appeals most. If visiting a number of museums, consider buying a Firenze Card online (www.firenzecard.it) and also book a time slot at the Uffizi Gallery.

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Seductive Siena

Siena frames the southern end of the Chianti and makes for a magical day trip. Set around 40 km south of Greve, Siena is a Gothic city built on a human scale and is effortlessly civilised and at ease with itself.  All roads lead to Il Campo, the beguiling, shell-like central square, shaped like an amphitheatre. Sit at a terraced café on the sloping side of the square and spot the division of the paved surface into nine segments, recording the wise Council of Nine who governed Siena from the mid-13th century to the early 14th. Consider climbing the slender Torre del Mangia, with sultry views over a pink piazza and Siena’s rooftops, even if the views from the Cathedral rooftops are even better.

After an early lunch, a leisurely stroll leads to the Duomo, Siena’s pinnacled Gothic cathedral. The facade is a riot of green, pink and white marble, like a glorious iced cake. Siena Cathedral and the Cathedral Museum should be seen as one entity as they share several spaces. The Museum displays Pisano’s original statues for the façade along with Siena’s best-loved work, Duccio’s Maestà, the Virgin Enthroned. For many visitors, equally impressive is the rooftop walk, known as the Panorama from the Unfinished Façade. These are arguably the finest views of Siena. Facing the cathedral is the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, the most extraordinary building in Siena. It began as a hospital a thousand years ago and continued as one until it was reborn as a magnificent museum in recent years. In medieval times, it was always far more than a hospital. The art-studded complex embraces a former pilgrims’ hostel, an orphanage, frescoed churches and granaries.

Don’t let Siena’s art-studded museums blind you to the beauty of the backstreets. Here, the city history unfurls like a medieval banner. Walkable Siena has well-preserved walls and inviting gateways. Wind through a tangle of medieval streets and stumble across secret courtyards, fountains and surprisingly rural views. Check our Siena guide to see what appeals most.

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