Tavarnelle Chianti – The Good Life

Tavarnelle Chianti – The Good Life

Tavarnelle is a municipality in the Chianti region of Tuscany situated in the beautiful countryside between Florence and Siena. Think fields ribboned with grape vines, ruby red wines and medieval hilltop hamlets – so much to love!  I recently spent a fabulous few days on a blog tour organised by the municipality of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, my first visit to Tuscany, to discover its food, wine, history and beautiful countryside.  Let me tell you about ‘Chianti da Vivere’ the good life’.

Tuscany more than lived up to expectations with wildly beautiful views of ancient hilltop villages surrounded by billowing fields of budding vines and olive groves.  Dramatic skies spiked by lofty Cypress trees, misty mornings and a feeling of freshness in the air gave us a taste of springtime in Tavarnelle.

Tuscan Vineyard

Tuscan Vineyard

Tuscan Food

We sampled delicious Italian food during a farmhouse cooking class with Wilma at Podere Torricella where we cooked up, dished up and polished off some mouth-watering rustic cuisine.  We dropped by Agriturismos; these old estates and farms produce olive oil, wine, honey and serve delicious, locally sourced or home-grown food.

Tuscan cheese, salami and olives

Tuscan cheese, salami and olive platter

Chianti Wines

You wouldn’t visit the Chianti corner of Tuscany without dropping into a vineyard or two so we checked out a few – from the oldest of wine cellars to the newest, state of the art, winery at Cantina Antinori.

Tavarnelle Art, History and Artisans

Something that surprised me about the Tavarnelle region was an abundance of artefacts, museums and ancient architecture; some of the buildings which date back as far as the 10th century housed some exquisite relics.

Artisans are still hard at work  in the Tavarnelle region and we saw two craftsmen, one over 80 years old, at work in Argento Firenze, Sambuca, creating beautiful hand-made silver and enamel pieces.

San Donato

I’ll be telling you much more about our trip to Tavarnelle in the coming days but before that I’d like to introduce you to the medieval town where I stayed for two nights during the blog trip.  San Donato in Poggio (Poggio means on a hill) is a gorgeous walled hamlet on the old Roman road from Florence to Siena (about half an hour’s drive from Florence).

San Donato in Poggio

San Donato in Poggio

Records date the castle back to 989 and to this day part of the fortress wall remains, two entrance gates; Porta Florentine and Porta Sienese together with a lookout tower, the Torrino and a bell tower, the Campanone.  Narrow, cobbled alleyways lined with quaint houses and arches dripping with Wisteria lead to the main Piazza Malaspina.  The octagonal well in the main square is overlooked by Palazzo Malaspina which houses the tourist office, exhibitions and art collections, the church of Santa Maria della Neve and the Palazzo Pretorio – all medieval structures and one housing the Museo Emilio Ferraria; a small farming museum.

Octagonal Well in San Donato in Poggio, Tavarnelle, Tuscany

Octagonal Well in the main Piazza

Just outside the walls of the hamlet stands a Romanesque parish church dating back to 989, which houses a glazed terracotta baptismal font, attributed to Giovanni della Robbia (1513) and a painted crucifix attributed to Taddeo Gaddi, an apprentice of Giotto.  Other works are now preserved in the Museum of Church San Stefano on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Pieve di San Donato

Pieve di San Donato

I stayed two nights at a wonderfully quirky B&B, a medieval building located right on the Piazza and run by the charming Valeria. The Terrazze del Chianti, named so for good reason, as it has stunning views from the terrace across the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Country-style furniture and a wood-burning stove in my room made it really cosy and a huge collection of retro toys and memorabilia was fascinating.  I loved the kitsch collection of cooking implements in the dining room which reminded me of times spent in my grandmother’s kitchen as a child.

Le Terrazze del Chianti B&B, San Donato, Tuscany Breakfast was excellent and whatever your taste in coffee was freshly made to order.  Fresh fruit and juice, cereals, yoghurt, eggs, local cheese and salamis and home-baked bread and pastries were all delicious and a great start to a busy day exploring Tavarnelle.

Le Terrazze del Chianti B&B, San Donato, Tuscany

Disclosure:  Accommodation and meals were sponsored by the Municipality of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa but all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for Tuscany are my own.  My thanks to all the people of Tavarnelle who helped make the trip so enjoyable.  The “#chiantidavivere” blog tour took place during the first weekend of April 2014.

Florence – A Fleeting Visit

Florence – A Fleeting Visit

A few hours in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is such a tease. Just enough time to catch a fleeting glimpse of the city that pays homage to the Renaissance. A living showcase of art, history and architecture…

A few hours was all I had before heading on the train to the Chianti area of Tuscany. I was determined to make the most of my time in the city. Join me on a mini-tour of photogenic Florence.

Florence Panorama

Church of Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella is the only one of Florence’s major churches to possess an original facade.  The square in front was used by Cosimo I for an annual chariot race – The Palio dei Cocchi.  Two obelisks, which each sit on four bronze tortoises, marked the start and the finish of the race. This is just one of many fun facts about Florence.


You might like to read Two Days in Florence


 

Church of Santa Maria Novella

Church of Santa Maria Novella

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, is the city’s main focal point and the dome is symbolic of Florence.  The duomo is the perfect reference point when sightseeing and the top is open to the public for views of the city – an alternative is Giotto’s Bell Tower if you’re happy to climb the 414 steps.  Florence is an extremely walkable city with all the main sights not more than 30 minutes from each other.

Carousel on Piazza della Repubblica

Carousel on Piazza della Repubblica

Even the street art in Florence is special…

Florence Street Art

Florence Street Art

Piazza della Signoria is pretty much an outdoor sculpture gallery and here, amongst the cafes and street life, there’re replicas of the original statues which now reside behind the doors of Florence’s museums.  Michelangelo’s Statue of David is housed in the city’s Galleria dell’Accademia, but there’s a replica outside Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza if you’re short on time.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

In front of Ammannati’s Neptune fountain is where, in the 1490s, Savonarola held his Bonfire of the Vanities.  Here the Florentines burned their wigs, mirrors, paintings and symbols of decadence, however,  his puritanical endeavours lasted only a few years before he was hanged and burned on the very same spot.

Neptue Fountain, Florence

Neptune Fountain

The River Arno and Ponte Vecchio

A few minutes walk from Piazza della Signoria runs the River Arno, the second most important river in central Italy.   Florence’s rowing club The Canottieri has raced on the Arno for over 100 years and I watched some rowers power by as they trained in the warm Spring weather.  In the distance Ponti Vecchio, ‘The Bridge of Gold’ straddles the river.  Dating back to the 900s it’s lined with small shops; goldsmiths, jewellers and souvenir sellers.  Above the shops runs the Corridoio Vasarianoa a passage which was used by the Medici family to travel in privacy from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

The River Arno, Florence

The River Arno, Florence

The Best View of Florence

If, like me, you’re a sucker for a city view then cross over the river and head over to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun set over panoramic Florence.  It’ll take a bit of legwork up some winding, narrow lanes and two flights of steps, but it’s worth the effort for the best view of Florence you’ll ever see.  Stay awhile and maybe reward yourself with a gelato as the sun sets and the lights of Florence reflect on the River Arno.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence at dusk from Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence at dusk from Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence at Night

Florence at Night

After watching the sun slip away and the lights gradually illuminate the city I headed back down the hill and walked along the south side of the river.   Ponte Vecchio was quiet, the shops shut and the shutters closed.  I found myself a little pizzeria in a side road before heading back to the B&B.  A fast and fleeting view of Florence and one that has me aching to return.

Ponte Vecchio at Night

Ponte Vecchio at Night

A few hours in photogenic Florence, Italy - a photo tour

I was hosted in Florence at the delightful  Johanna I B&B and my thanks to them and to Luca for his tips on what not to miss in Florence.

Florence Trattoria

Florence Trattoria