The Chianti landscape is known as the symbol of Tuscany throughout the world, beloved, dreamed of and famed in abundance. But how can we live up to the dreams of tourists from every corner of the planet who are enchanted by this perfect balance of forms and colours, by the harmony between nature and man that seems to come so easily here, by the beauty of a countryside that transforms into wholesomeness on the canvas?
There are many ways to experience and get a taste for this extraordinary region, but one of the best is surely exploring it at the slow pace of a hike: a complete immersion in the territory, discovering more than just the typical places and images and savouring the more genuine reality.
The hike that we propose takes us to Greve, one of the municipalities that make up the heart of the Chianti.
Our itinerary begins in the centre of Greve, considered the “gate” to the Chianti region. The town, dating to the Middle Ages, gravitates around a beautiful triangular piazza, at the centre of which is a statue of the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, one of the town’s most illustrious sons, who went down in history for discovering the bay of New York.
The palaces surrounding the piazza on all three sides are adorned with porches, highlighting the important role that Greve played over the centuries as a market centre, located in a strategic point between the Val d’Arno, Val di Greve and the road that connected Florence and Siena. Under these porches, today’s visitors can find restaurants, wine bars and food shops, all offering the chance to taste the territory’s delicious typical products.
Let’s leave the town behind and head along via Roma, via San Francesco (where, in the historic convent, you can find an interesting museum of sacred art) and via Montefioralle, immersing ourselves almost immediately in the Chianti landscape.
The route includes various stretches of asphalt roads, but this is anything but annoying: you’ll come across very few cars as you walk these cypress-shaded streets, winding along the curving hills, an irresistible invitation to discovery as we continue our journey.
Continuing our hike, a little more than one kilometre outside Greve, we’ll come across the small hamlet of Montefioralle, one of the gems of the Chianti, which sits atop a high plain, a position far too strategic to not have been, in the distant past, a headquarters for something.
And indeed, it was: the houses in the small town surround a historic castle and, in some places, are still protected by the old defense walls. Legend says that one of these houses belonged to Amerigo Vespucci, or at the very least, to his family, affirming yet again a curious calling of these rural lands that seem to have produced men that were destined to cross the furthest oceans…
A stroll along the town’s small streets is a must, but we should eventually continue on our way. Head back into the wavy hills of the Chianti region, along the dusty dirt road that winds through rows of vineyards and the silvery foliage of olive groves, before reaching the provincial road that leads to the hamlet of Panzano.
And if you’re allergic to asphalt, after a few hundred metres, head right and follow the cart track in the village of Cinciole, which leads to the same destination.
Today, Panzano is one of Greve’s most populous hamlets, boasting its own identity and certainly proud of its thousand-year-old history, which since the 12th century has seen the town on the frontlines in the defense of the Florentine territories from Sienese raids.
If you’re diligent hikers, the kind that departs at sunrise, you’ll probably arrive here by mid-day, the perfect time to take in not only the stones of the old castle, but also the fragrances coming from the workshops and restaurants facing onto the small piazza and its alleys. The choice is yours, but take care not to wander around too much, because here, as is usual, wherever you land, you’re sure to stay…
Continuing the walk on a full stomach and legs relaxed by a glass of the good stuff isn’t easy, but fortunately, the road back to Greve is all downhill! Just “roll” down the provincial road for a bit and, at the first sharp turn, turn onto via Case Sparse (directions for the restaurant Valle). The white road winds through the countryside almost all the way to the gates of Greve, where it merges with the provincial road. To avoid your daily dose of asphalt, you can walk this stretch of the route on a dirt road that leads off from the right just after the Casanova farm. Turning to the left at the first crossroads and a crossing the Greve stream, you’ll be on the road that takes you past the football fields and to the main piazza.