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.