Apparently the British have invaded Chianti, but as I pass through the area I don’t see much evidence to support that, apart from a few signs in English advertising wine tasting and cooking lessons. I’m completely taken by surprise by the scenery which is quite mountainous and forested. On the lower, gentler, sunny, southern slopes are the grape vines while on the cooler, northern slopes are the olive groves.
I first visit Castellina in Chianti, a medieval fortified village whose houses have been built into the walls and whose castle dominates the skyline. It’s a sleepy little place and most of the wine shops and art galleries are closed for the winter. At the north end of the town, set within the Hill of Calvary, is an ancient, 7th century B.C. Etruscan tomb. Four walled corridors lead into the hollowed-out rock chambers where the bodies were buried. Most are flooded after the heavy rains and inaccessible but the climb is worth it just for the views of the surrounding countryside.
20km north, and centrally placed within the region, is the town of Greve in Chianti. In September each year it hosts the Chianti Classico Wine Festival where local producers get together to celebrate their wine. Luckily, it’s possible to have a glass of Chianti at any time of the year and I do just that in Macelleria Falorni, a cavernous shop in Piazza Matteotti, selling salami, ham, cheese and wine. For €5, I am given an electronic card which can be used in several dispensing machines offering local wines. There are 3 sample measures and prices vary depending on the measure and on the quality of the wine. It seems such a novel and modern way to taste a variety of wines and I’m left to help myself, along with a few tasty nibbles on the counter of the other products available in the store. The shop also has free wifi, so I spend a leisurely 2 hours updating the blog while sipping my samples.