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Great Greve Indulgence in Chianti, Italy

Rignana-Setting-Oct03-D1572 Greve Tuscany Jo Wedlock
La Cantinetta di Rignana Greve Tuscany Jo Wedlock
La-c-di-Rigna-inside-9-Jun- Greve Tuscany Jo Wedlock
Badia a Passignano Greve Tuscany Jo Wedlock
La-c-di-Rignana-9-Jun-00R Greve Tuscany Jo Wedlock

Great Greve Indulgence in Chianti, Italy

story by: Jo Wedlock

No food and wine story is complete without a discussion about Italy, and in turn, no story on Italy complete without a visit to Chianti.  Most travellers know the word in association with the lovely classic wine bottle that has the straw covered bottom halves and littered the world of Italian restaurants during the 1980’s as candle holders.  Pronounced Key-Anti, it’s actually the name of the region the wine comes from and is a wonderful place to explore of a visit to Tuscany.

Due to the huge popularity of the famous style of wine, you could be forgiven for thinking that Chianti is a bustling main centre such as Florence or Siena.  You would be wrong!  The main street of Greve in Chianti (Chianti is the region and Greve the main town) is just a few shops and buildings.  The region is vast and spread with wineries and countryside.  You really need a map and a guide book telling you where the good eateries are, or some specialist knowledge from the experts telling you where to find the hidden gems. 

When looking at travelling around this region to sample wine – look for the black rooster on logos, bottles or wineries. Chianti Classico seal is a black on gold. Legend has it that in 13th century Florence and Siena decided to dispute a funny horse race to end their fights for Chianti. The meeting point of two knights, who had left respectively from Florence and from Siena when the rooster sang at dawn, would be the border of their territories. Florentines got a black rooster and kept it for a few days in a box with no food. On the race day when they took the rooster out of the box he sang much earlier than dawn and the Florentine knight left before the Sienese one and met him only 20 km from Siena walls. Since then the black rooster has been the symbol of Chianti: fist of the Chianti League in 13th century and then of the Chianti Classico Consortium for wine production.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Chianti and the heart of Tuscany is all about wine, but there are plenty of activities for the teetotaler also!

The area of Chianti around Greve provides an endless range of interesting things to see and do. For those interested in architecture and history - or simply picturesque views - the main sights in the area of Chianti to the east of Greve among the Chianti hills and the slopes of the Val d'Arno are the innumerable castles and tower houses.

This is the stuff that those tourism posters are made of – the images that made you want to travel to Italy in the first place are a dime a dozen in this part of Tuscany so make sure you have plenty of space on your camera for photos!

The principal structures open onto the courtyard, which is reached by passing along an avenue of cypresses. Among these is the Church of Saint Michael Archangel, which apparently dates back to the 13th century, based on the facade which is covered in "filaretti di albarese", and the bell tower, both of which are unfortunately much restored. The crypt of the church, roofed by cross vaulting resting on four columns with simple capitals derives, in contrast, from a preceding Romanesque structure.

The vineyards that surround Greve on every side are also packed with things to see and do, especially those attached to the important villas and castles dotted along both east and west slopes of the valley of the Greve stream: Vicchiomaggio, Verrazzano, Uzzano, Colognole, Montefioralle, Vignamaggio and several others.

For those who like open air markets, both Greve and Panzano have weekly markets, and there are numerous annual fairs and events taking place in Chianti, both in Greve and Panzano.

Of course, the reason one does head to Greve is for the food! We found one of our favourite restaurants in all of Europe, hidden over the hills about 30 minutes over gravel roads in the heart of Chianti.  So hidden away was La Cantinetta di Rignana that twice we tried to turn back thinking we must be going in the wrong direction (seriously gravel roads? And not nice gravel roads but pitted, steep Italian gravel roads!) but we persevered and found a small, extremely busy and amazing restaurant nestled atop a hillside overlooking the vineyards of the region. The restaurant is 4 km west of Passignano. It’s worth the drive and has the best food in all of the restaurants we tried in Italy! 

On Sunday afternoons this old-fashioned trattoria is teeming with lively Italian families. Grilled meats are the specialty of the house. If you have room for dessert, the kitchen whips up a mean tiramisu. Enjoy the farmhouse feel of the dining room, or choose a shady table in the garden overlooking the vineyards.

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