at Tuscany Wineries, northern
Anyone with even a hint of
romance in their soul has to come to Tuscany. This is where Michelangelo
designed rural hotel entrances you can still see today, where the Mona Lisa
was born and where lovers and wine lovers have been coming for centuries to
drink the wine and taste La Dolce Vita - the sweet life.
Florence and drive casually south through
the charming Chianti wine region, full of hilltop towns with great
little restaurants and rolling hills with patchwork squares of vineyards, sunflowers
and those red, red poppies.
Chianti wine is made from the Sangiovese grape, with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon
or other grapes allowed in the category known as DOCG. Top wineries
including Fonterutoli and Fontodi are here.
A great little wine town south of Florence is Greve, where you can
find a number of wine shops including Falorni.
ACCOMMODATION NEAR TUSCAN VINEYARDS
Accommodation near vineyards in Tuscany is often in
buildings hundreds of years old, including the charming Castello di Meleto
near Gaiole in Chianti.
The castle dates back to the 11th century and was originally
occupied by Benedictine monks intent on spreading the word of God.
However, its strategic location between the republics of Siena and
Florence ensured that the Castle was the scene of many wars in following centuries.
Today at Castello di Meleto you’ll find everything from rustic guest
rooms in the castle to cooking classes that will make you feel like an authentic
There’s also a wine shop offering fine wines from many of the surrounding
vineyards. You have a choice of rooms with four poster beds inside the castle,
through to quaint rooms outside or even a big apartment at the top of the hill
with its own pool.
Photo of Castello di Meleto castle near Florence
There’s another pool in the castle grounds which has magnificent views over
the Tuscan vineyards, and you feel at peace with the world looking out over
this beautiful landscape. Castello di Meleto is so popular that tour
buses come here regularly with passengers who gave enviously up at castle guests
giving them the royal wave from above.
The gardens here at Castello di Meleto are beautiful and the staff
are efficient, led by the lovely Katia who also acts as wedding planner to the
many couples who marry here.
West of Radda in Tuscany, you’ll find the more modern Podere
il Casello on the main road between Greve and Panzano,
run by Simone and Anna. Rates here start at 100 Euros
a night for a double up to 180 Euros a night for a family room in a charming
stone building - with those typical Tuscan tiles on the roof and a stylish interior.
Then drive casually down towards Cortona, the setting of Frances
Mayes' book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun.
This hilltop town also has superb views and although it's a little touristy
these days, you can still see the typical old men on benches in the sun-filled
square in the mornings.
Just north near Cortona in a little hamlet
called Castiglion Fiorentino, stay at the aptly named Casa Portagioia
(House of Joy). This is run by Terry and Marcello, who
have a wonderful rural property and cook up a storm as well.
RESTAURANTS NEAR TUSCANY’S HILL TOWNS
Just south of the wonderful wine town of Greve is a little village
called Panzano with what we consider to be the best restaurant in Tuscany. It's
called Oltre il Giardino and you can't miss it - just go the highest
point and be prepare to have your astebuds tantalised by the dishes including
a mouth watering pasta in wild boar ragu.
Photo of Oltre il Giardino Restaurant near Greve
The al fresco dining here is truly superb, enhanced by the dramatic views
in front of you looking out over some of Tuscany’s best vineyards.
The same Mama has run this place lovingly for the past 20 years, and the
sense of family here is very strong, with her knowledgeable son helping you
with every last menu detail.
When you ask where a certain wine on the wine list comes from, he’ll tell
you: “Signore, from the vineyard you can see down below a destra” (to
the right) And when you ask about another wine, he’ll say: “if you look
down below, it comes from that vineyard a sinistra (to the left).”
The Italian reds including Tuscan chiantis at this restaurant are
very, very good and the food here is excellent at a very reasonable price. It’s
so romantic arriving here at Oltre Il Giardino at twilight, with the
deep blue of the Tuscan sky contrasting with the earthy restaurant
stone building and the vivid green of the surrounding vineyards.
Photo of Il Celliere Restaurant in Tuscany at Castagnoli
There’s another excellent restaurant near accommodation at Castello di
Meleto in nearby Gaiole - the superb
Il Celliere a Castagnoli, which means the Cellar at Castagnoli.
The main feature of the little town of Castagnoli is this restaurant
- and Max, its passionate owner who lovingly describes the fresh local
ingredients that bring out superb flavours in his Italian cuisine.
The pasta is freshly home made daily and you can dine here from 6.30pm in
the typical stone Tuscan building with beautiful views over the Tuscan vineyards
below. The wine selection is also very good at this restaurant and the Tuscan
prosecco here is excellent, fine bubbles that are the Italian version of
As you head south from Cortona, head west as well to find more wonderful
hilltop Tuscan wine towns including Montepulciano and Montalcino.
The famous Brunello di Montalcino comes from here - it's also
made from the Sangiovese grape and if it's aged for 5 years, it
can be released as Riserva (Reserve). A
top winery here is Argiano.
Nearby Montepulciano produces
the Vino Nobile from Sangiovese grapes as well, but it has
Try for yourself at wineries including
Boscarelli and Avignonesi.
And you should really try the Barbi winery which is signposted like
many Italian wineries as a "Fattoria" (factory). The
name Fattoria is appropriate in Italy because many wineries are set
up for production, and not so much for the tourist.
But at Fattoria dei Barbi, there's a charming restaurant with
black suited waiters and their starched aprons, and some of the finest red wine
in Italy. Even the delicious main courses have a wine influence - try
the vino rosso gnocchi pasta which appears at your table decidedly
Tuscany is certainly among the world's best wine holidays.Photo
of view from Castello di Meleto hotel room in northern