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Driving the Chianti Road, Italy

Greve in Chianti, Toscana, Italy
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Our last day in Tuscany was one to remember. We woke up early, and after a quick breakfast at Villa Campomaggio were on our way to drive the infamous Chianti Road, a beautiful stretch of Tuscan countryside south of Florence that is littered with wineries producing Chianti wine. While I have never been much of a Chianti drinker {I have always associated it with cheap table wine in straw-wrapped bottles} I was absolutely shocked by the amazing variety of Chiantis, some of which were wonderfully elegant.

We started at Villa Vignamaggio {my favorite winery of the day} and opted to take a tour of their facilities. We saw and tasted the red grapes, ready to be pressed. We toured the cellars where the wines sit for years, aging in oak barrels. But most interestingly, we were able to tour the villa and learn about its absolutely fascinating history. They don't exactly know when it was built, but they know for sure that it was prior to the 14th century. Even more mind-blowing was the fact that the vineyards were first planted by the Etruscans before Christ! The villa used to be the center of a completely self-sufficient town, and we saw where the town square was, where the little shops were, etc. During Medieval times the villa saw it's share of conflicts, being pillaged by enemy territories over and over. This history continued all the way through the second World War, in which the villa was first taken over by German troops then later American {both of which I was told drank many of their most valuable vintage wines}. During these times of turmoil, the owners would hide their most prized possessions, and it is estimated that bottles of wine, jewelery, and other precious items are still hidden throughout the property {some underground, some in the walls}. I am a total history buff, so I spent the hour and a half long tour picking our tour guide's mind, trying to learn as much as possible about the villa's past. Once the tour was over we sat on a terrace overlooking the forested Chianti countryside and tasted various wines and cheeses. After buying our favorite bottle of Chianti Reserve we wandered the villa's absolutely gorgeous formal Italian Gardens {where Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa!}

From there we were off to our second stop, Castello Vicchiomaggio, a castle that dates back to about 1400. The tasting room was located about about 10 minues down the hill from the castle in a small farmhouse, so after trying a few wines we drove up the hill to check it out. While the castle was most certainly beautiful {with a great view to boot}, there was a French tour bus there which made it a little too crowded for us to really enjoy the experience.

Lastly we visited Castello di Verrazzo, the once home of famous explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano {who discovered the Bay of New York}, that has been producing wine for nearly 900 years. We started with a quick lunch in their restaurant and then participated in the tour of the castle and wine tasting. The castle was beautiful and the tour was fascinating, but to my disappointment there were also tour buses at this winery that made the tour group quite large {probably about 50 people versus 8 at Vignamaggio}. None the less, it was very beautiful and commanded stunning views high above the countryside. The most interesting aspect of the tour for me was when we went into a room of the villa which was filled with vines and vines of white grapes, maturing until they were ready to be pressed into wine {it made for some really lovely photos}. At the end we sat underneath grape vines and tasted the castle's wines, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars.
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