Tavarnelle Val di Pesa - Bargino - San Donato
Tavarnelle Val di Pesa
One of the most important archaeological sites in this municipality is the parish church of San Pietro in Bossolo, a religious building situated just outside the village dating back to the 11th century. The distinctive features of this place are the church’s three naves divided by arches supported by quadrangular pillars, an ancient, monolithic, hexagonal baptismal font, a marble ciborium from 1522, and several pieces of art. Other important works of art are kept in the Museum of Sacred Art (free entrance) in the presbytery of the parish church on the first floor. Other curiosities about this place include the small museum dedicated to the old farm works and a small space dedicated to embroidery, source of inspiration for peculiar women shoes by the famous designer Ferragamo.
Bargino (San Casciano Val di Pesa)
Then we headed to the Antinori cellars of Chianti Classico in the municipality of San Casciano Val di Pesa (hamlet of Bargino). The innovative building designed by the Archea Associati architectural studio is an extraordinary feat of architecture, hidden among the olive trees, vineyards and forests of oak trees. One hour is enough to visit the cellars. It is a journey through the history of the Antinori family, which has been producing wine in Tuscany since 1385. The tour - which covers all the stages of production, starting from the vineyard to the glass – ends with the tasting of three wines.
San Donato in Poggio
The medieval hamlet of San Donato in Poggio is the next destination. Situated on the Roman road that connected Florence to Siena, the hamlet was a “castrum” in a strategic position on the top of a hill and controlled this strategic area. The village is a proper hidden gem: destroyed and rebuilt in 1289, it follows the medieval rules of fortification. It has a high wall, two main entrances to the castle (Florentine and Sienese gates), each one with a tower, and inside the castle there is a main square, Palazzo Pretorio and the public cistern. You can visit all these places and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the ancient buildings adorned with beautiful flowers, the silent streets and the surrounding landscape. There is also a small farming museum called MEF (Museo Emilio Ferrari), which displays the implements and instruments of this difficult job.
Just outside the hamlet there is a Romanesque parish church dating back to 989, where you’ll find a glazed terracotta baptismal font, attributed to Giovanni della Robbia (1513), and a triptych by Giovanni del Biondo (1375). For the rest of the evening we visited some wonderful historic villas and some typical Chianti farmhouses. There are many country houses, cellars, oil mills and ovens, and you can even enjoy a cooking class and dinner featuring freshly made products. We visited the farm of Montecchio and Podere Torricella.
Badia a Passignano - Sant'Appiano - Astronomical Observatory
Badia a Passignano
The hamlet of Badia a Passignano is the starting point of the second day of our trip. It dates to before the year 1000 and is surrounded by wonderful vineyards. A visit to the castle with its gates and walls is a must, as too is a trip to the Abbey: it dates to Longobard times and is situated in a strategic position between the Pesa and Greve valleys. The monastery extended and occupied the castle, including the church of San Michele. There are many important pieces of art here: the cloister of 1472, the fresco of the Last Supper by Ghirlandaio in the refectory (currently under restoration and seeking funding) and the Antinori cellars underneath the Abbey.
After a visit to the ancient castle, which is now home to the Castello del Nero luxury hotel and spa, we headed to the ancient town of Semifonte, besieged and completely destroyed by Florentines in 1202. Even though was an edict in force that prohibited any construction on the Semifonte hill, as an exception granted by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de’ Medici, a chapel was built here. It is called the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel and is one-fifth of the size of Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Then crossing the ancient hamlet of Petrognano, we arrived in Sant’Appiano, where we admired the remains of buildings dating to the Etruscan-Roman era, the Romanesque church of Sant’Appiano and the Antiquarium containing archaeological discoveries of this area, including funerary urns carved in marble.
Chianti Astronomical Observatory
The last stop of the second day was at the botanical park of Montecorboli, where we admired typical Tuscan plants, and at the Chianti Astronomical Observatory, where we observed the sky and we were able to see Jupiter and the Moon thanks to the observatory’s scientific equipment. For information about the guided tours here, just check out the official website.
We started the third day in the hamlet of Sambuca, already known in 1053 thanks to a famous castle. Here you can find a stone bridge with three arches rebuilt in 1415, but originally constructed in 1100. Sambuca also preserves ancient traditions and artistic craftsmanship. For example, we visited a workshop that creates silver and enamelled jewels. We saw the craftsmen at work, from the raw material to the various phases leading to a hand-chiselled object. The last step of the tour was a visit to a large 16th-century villa called Il Paganello, where you can enjoy Tuscan food and a great view over the Chianti landscape.