Rolling green hills dotted with vines as far as the eye can see and impressive medieval stone hamlets nestled on the hilltops, all against the backdrop of a wonderful pink and terracotta-hued sunset. Sigh. Welcome to the beautiful Chianti Italy wine region. Chances are, if you love Italian food and wine (and of course dreamy scenes like the one just mentioned), you’re going to want to visit the Tuscany wine region at some stage.
Whilst wine grows everywhere throughout Tuscany, the Chianti region in Italy is the most famous worldwide. If you’re curious about planning a trip to Chianti Tuscany, keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
Where is Chianti Italy?
First things first, it might surprise you to know that Chianti isn’t the name of a town, but rather a wine-growing region in Tuscany. If you’re wondering where is Tuscany, it’s located in the middle of Italy and borders Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Umbria and Lazio. You’ll find Chianti in the very heart of Tuscany roughly halfway between the capital Florence and Siena. This wine-producing area is rather small with just 65 square miles and includes little villages and towns including Castellina, Greve in Chianti, Radda, and Gaiole.
Chianti Italy Map
Have a look at the map of the Chianti Italy wine region below for a better idea of the area.
How to get around Chianti?
Whilst Chianti is relatively close to the capital of Tuscany, you really do need a car or a driver to get around the region. Public transport is pretty limited and whilst there are two train stations in Poggibonsi and Castellina, they are still a drive away from the main towns. Either fly into Pisa International Airport (this is the main airport in Tuscany) where you can rent a car, or train to Florence or Siena and pick up a car there.
Florence to Chianti driving time is around 45 minutes via the beautiful winding road known as the Via Chiantgiana (SR222). Alternatively, you can take the SR 429 which runs east to west and connects Castellina in Chianti with Radda.
For those planning to visit wineries and indulge in some wine tasting, you may want to consider joining a small group tour or hiring a driver so no one has to play designated driver!
What are the main towns in Chianti?
There is so much to see in gorgeous Chianti Italy, that you could easily spend a week or longer tasting and sipping your way around the region. The main towns and villages to explore in the Chianti region include:
- Panzano Italy
This quaint little town is one of my favorites largely in thanks to an iconic butcher! This is home to the infamous Dario Cecchini Macelleria where you can enjoy some of the very best Tuscan meat of your life. Considered by many to be the ‘world’s most famous butcher’, he has a very deep respect for animals and uses the whole beast in his cooking as a sustainable way to eat meat.
- Greve Italy
Also known as Greve in Chianti, this is considered as the capital of the Chianti region of Tuscany. It’s a quiet wine town immersed between vineyards and Tuscany’s signature olive groves. If you’re looking for sweeping views and a gorgeous-looking base, this isn’t for you though – I remember being a little underwhelmed the first time I visited. Enjoy people-watching in Piazza Matteotti or go wine shopping in one of the town’s many enoteche or wine shops.
- Radda Italy
Radda is a small village and it’s worth wandering along its impressive medieval defensive walls that still encircle the town. Enjoy gorgeous views of the surrounding vineyards thanks to the town’s position perched high on a hilltop.
- Montefioralle Italy
For classic ‘I’m in Tuscany’ vibes, you can’t miss a wander through the stone wall-lined streets of pretty Montefioralle. The medieval walls still encircle the town with a population of only around 100 people and some well-fed Italian cats. It’s just 5 minutes away from Greve in Chianti, making it the perfect detour en route to your next winery.
- Castellina in Chianti Italy
Castellina is one of our favorite towns in the entire region thanks to its lively town center and impressive castle. It’s got a bit more happening with lots of restaurants to choose from, wine shops, and more to explore. There are also lots of accommodation options in town and on the outskirts which makes it an ideal base. Plus, it’s home to one of our favorite wineries in the area famous for its dinners in the vineyard during the summer season!
- Volpaia Tuscany
Volpaia is our most beloved town in Chianti thanks to its breathtakingly beautiful sunsets over green vineyard-draped hills. The first time we visited one balmy August evening, we could almost have cried with happiness at the sheer beauty of the drive up around the winding hills. Volpaia is teeny tiny and in fact, the entire town (or hamlet really) is a fortified village that belongs to a family from the area. There are only three or four restaurants/eateries in town, and they’re all fantastic! Be sure to try the town’s organic wine too.
- Lamole Tuscany
Nestled between Greve and Chianti, Lamole is another tiny town in the Chianti region. Visit for a glimpse of the famous Renaissance Villa Vignamaggio and the Castello di Lamole. One of our favorite restaurants in Chianti is nestled in this town – see below for details.
Another medieval walled town, Monteriggioni is a little off the tourist track compared to some of the other towns. Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, there are still 14 medieval towers standing in the town! Pop your head into the charming 13th-century church, and go for a walk around the tiny town to soak in the Tuscan vibes.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, Gaiole is another lovely town to visit in the area. It has a wonderful market on a Saturday morning worth visiting in the main piazza. Don’t miss a visit to at least one of the imposing castles dotting the town, which conveniently all offer excellent views over the countryside. There are some great restaurants in town and plenty of shops for wine and olive oil tasting!
What is Chianti wine?
Whilst once thought of as a cheap and easy table wine, today Chianti wine is one of the most sought-after in all of Italy. The Chianti grape is Sangiovese which has grown in the region since the time of the Etruscans! It is always a red wine made up primarily of Sangiovese (in fact at least 70%) but can include other varieties including Canaiolo and other white grapes. Traditionally, the Chianti bottle or ‘fiasco’ has a round body held inside a straw basket. That’s the simplified version and there are lots of rules to follow if winemakers want to be included in the DOCG (more on that below)!
Within the Chianti area, you can find wine labeled simply as ‘Chianti/Chianti Classico’, superiore or riserva and each has different aging requirements with slightly different rules depending on the subregion they’re grown in. You can expect to start seeing some ‘Chianti wine’ ready to sip just 6 months after the harvest, but many are held back to age depending on the rules of the area.
Where is the Chianti Wine region?
The Chianti wine-growing appellation is the broadest area of vineyards and within it, you’ll find smaller appellations and subzones. Think of it as the border around a big area of land. The region occupies the area between Florence and Siena and is about 100 miles total in size. Within Chianti, you’ll find the renowned Chianti Classico, which is a separate appellation; as well as Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Senesi, which are subzones prized for their high quality and the varieties you’ll find most easily in the US.
You may or may not know that there are pretty strict rules when it comes to winemaking in Italy and the EU and Chianti is not exempt from them. The rules of the broadest appellation require a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and a maximum of 10% of Malvasia and Trebbiano (white grapes). This wine, simply labeled as ‘Chianti’, can also include indigenous red grapes including Canaiolo Nero and Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
Different areas of land are classified as DOCG and if wineries choose to follow their ‘quality control’ rules, they can label their wine as a DOCG which is kind of like a quality stamp (at least in the eyes of the consumer). The Chianti DOCG region is made up of seven subzones in total including:
- Chianti Rufina
- Chianti Colli Aretini
- Chianti Colli Fiorentini
- Chianti Colli Senesi
- Chianti Colline Pisane
- Chianti Montalbano
- Chianti Montespertoli
Within the Chianti DOCG you can look out for two higher-quality categories for something extra delicious – Superiore, which are wines made from lower yields (eg higher quality), and Riserva- for wines aged at least two years before release.
What is Chianti Classico and where is it grown?
If you’ve had friends come back from Italy, we’re sure you’ve heard them confidently tell you that they’ll only drink Chianti Classico when it comes to Chianti wine – they’ve got standards after all! The Chianti Classico DOCG is generally considered to be the very best when it comes to wine in this area.
Incredibly, the wine zone dates back to 1716, when the Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici declared the appellation as Chianti Classico! In more modern history, Italy created the Chianti Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1967, which included Chianti Classico as a subzone. in 1984, it got Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status (eg the country’s highest level of wine classification), before finally becoming its very own DOCG in 1996 (and separate from the ‘Chianti’ zone). The area is divided into 9 communes including:
- Barberino Val d’Elsa
- Castellina in Chianti
- Castelnuovo Berardenga
- Gaiole in Chianti
- Greve in Chianti
- Radda in Chianti
- San Casciano Val di Pesa
- Tavernelle Val di Pes
When it comes to the grapes used in Chianti Classico Italy, it has to be a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and maximum 20% of other red grapes like Colorino, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Different from the ‘Chianti’ grape variety rules, it’s not possible to use white grapes since 2006.
It’s really easy to spot a Chianti Classico thanks to the sweet black rooster or gallo nero emblem on its bottles. Why the rooster? It dates back to a legend that says roosters were used to resolve a border dispute between Siena and Florence (who were always at war). The black rooster was the symbol of Florence, while the white one represented Sienna.
What does Chianti wine Italy taste like?
Overall fresh, rounded and medium-bodied and it goes really well with food! The Chianti color is transparent ruby red and the most ‘basic’ of the wines are meant to be drunk while they’re young as they’re at peak freshness. The Chianti flavor is all about big acidity and lots of black and red cherry. It’s common to taste or smell violet, herbs, spice and earthiness and tannins are normally on the light to medium side.
If you’re ordering a Chianti Classico DOCG instead, expect even more refreshing acidity, juicy cherry, violet and spice. These wines should overall taste of better quality so expect elegant tannins and a better body/structure to the wine.
The best Chianti wines Italy to try in 2023
This is our personal list of the best Chianti Italy wine to try in 2023. There are so many delicious types of
Chianti wine from Italy to choose from, so we’re here to give you a few pointers:
- Chianti Classico Riserva 2019 Castello di Volpaia: One of the top-rated wines this year and winner of Gambero Rosso’s ‘Tre Bicchieri’ Tuscan awards. Enjoy notes of violet, candied blackcurrant, lavender and cherry.
- Ruffino Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva 2019: This one blends 80% sangiovese with 20% merlot/cabernet sauvignon. It’s another award winner from Gambero Rosso and has a really elegant nose. We like that this one focuses heavily on the spices – tobacco, clove and even eucalyptus!
- Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2019: From Radda in Chianti, this Riserva wine from Brancaia is fruit driven and extra juicy. Expect aromas of cherry, black fruit, spice, and leather on the nose. It’s one of the top picks from the Slow Wine 2023 guide too!
- Castello di Monsanto Il Poggio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2017: Crack open a bottle of this 2017 beauty and enjoy how fresh and juicy this wine still is even with age. It’s got a super mineral flavor with delicate fruit notes and a great savouriness about it. Really good long finish. Another top recommendation from the Slow Wine 2023 guide.
- Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2018: For a fantastic organic certified Chianti Classico Riserva try this! It’s a really elegant interpretation from Gaiole and amps up the fresh and floral notes of Sangiovese.
- Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2019: Isole e Olena was probably the first ever Chianti Liv tried in Australia! In fact, Isole e Olena is one of the most well-known brands of Tuscan wine around the world. Their Chianti Classico 2019 is made with Sangiovese, Canaiolo and a tiny amount of Syrah. Expect berries, ripe Morello cherry, crushed raspberry, white pepper and star anise on the nose and palette. It’s a great wine to drink now or keep aging for a few years in your cellar.
The Best Chianti Italy wineries to visit
There are so many Chianti wineries Italy, that it can be difficult to choose which to visit. In fact there are at least 5000! If you’re planning a trip to the Chianti wine region, you must book your winery visit ahead of time (or join a tour- see below!) Some of the best wineries in Chianti Italy to visit include:
- Querceto di Castellina : One of our favorite wineries in Tuscany. Their wines are all organic and it’s still a family-run business that we love to support. L’Aura (named after the owner’s mother) is their Chianti Classico DOCG and the best every day, easy-drinking red. Pop in for a tasting at this Chianti winery Italy, or enjoy a dinner in the vineyard during the summer season.
- Lornano Chianti Classico: Another lovely boutique winery in Chianti Italy that’s family-run since 1904. Nestled between Castellina and Monteriggioni. They organise a tasting and tour from just 20 euros and even have a restaurant on-site.
- Antinori Chianti Classico: Probably the most famous/well-known winery in Chianti Italy. In fact, it won first place in the World’s Best Vineyards in 2022!! Choose from a range of different tours depending on price point, length and selection of wines to taste.
Chianti Italy Wine Tours
When you visit a winery in Italy, it’s important to note that it’s a very different experience from winery hopping in Australia and the US. You’ll be hard pressed to slot in more than 2 wineries in a day and you must have a reservation to visit. Especially for smaller, family-run wineries, it’s not possible to simply turn up unannounced to the vineyards in Chianti Italy. Between designated driver problems and coordinating bookings in Italian, a great thing to do is join a wine tour! These Tuscan winery tours will take you wine tasting in Chianti Italy and look after everything, so you can simply sit back, swirl, sniff and sip. We like the sound of that! Why not join one of these tours in the Chianti wine region Italy:
- Private Chianti Wine Tour from Florence with Liv Tours
Looking for something romantic? Why not join this private tour with pickup from Florence! The tour begins visiting one of the longest standing Chianti producers with a tasting and tour. Next, you visit a small, traditional family-owned winery and have the chance to try their delicious wines. Sit down for a tasty traditional light lunch paired with the family’s wines and soak in the breathtaking views of the Tuscan hills and San Gimignano.
- Chianti Small Group Tour with Take Walks
A more budget friendly option is joining the small group of travelers with Take Walks. Pickup from Florence before speeding ahead to Greve in Chianti. You’ll have time to explore the town and learn about its rich history. Next, head to a nearby winery and enjoy a tasting of two of their wines paired with schiacciata and cold cuts. This tour also includes a visit to our favorite Castellina in Chianti for a guided walk with a gelato. The final stop is another lovely Chianti winery where you can enjoy a tasting of three wines paired with bruschette, brochette, and pecorino.
- Chianti Classico Group Tour with Ciao Florence
Another pickup/drop-off from Florence, join Ciao Florence on a wonderful Chianti Classico tour. Learn all about how the wine is made, and exactly what Chianti Classico means before a tasting of the estate’s 4 different wines paired with local cheese, bread, olive oil and salumi. Next you’ll visit the second winery for the day and tour the vineyards as you taste three different wines before heading back to Florence.
Try these Chianti Italy Restaurants
No trip the region would be complete without trying some of the delicious Chianti food at local trattorie and restaurants. The cuisine is rustic and full of lots of vegetables as well as hearty stews and of course, the famous bistecca alla fiorentina which comes from chiannina cows from the Val di Chiana. Cinghiale or wild boar is a very popular gamey meat on the menu and often served with pappardelle or in a stew. For those looking for a veggie boost, order a bowl of ribolitta soup, or visit during porcini mushroom season.
If you’re looking for the best restaurants in Chianti Italy to try during your trip, try some of our favorites including:
- Ristoro di Lamole in Lamole
- Osteria Volpaia in Volpaia
- Ristorante Albergaccio di Castellina in Castellina in Chianti
Best Vineyards in Tuscany to Stay in 2023
Perhaps one of the most quintessential Chianti experiences you can have is to stay a night or more at a winery. Wake up nestled in the Chianti vineyards Italy and start your day with a wine tasting followed by a delicious Tuscan lunch and an afternoon exploring little hilltop towns. What could be better?! Some of our favorite vineyard hotels include:
- Querceto di Castellina : Querceto is one of our favorite wineries in the region and famous for their spectacular ‘cena in vigna’ throughout the summertime. It’s a dream to stay here, so get in quick if you want to make a booking.
- Fonte de’ Medici: This gorgeous hotel is situated on the wine estate of Tenuta Tignanello. They’re famous for their Super Tuscan wine so be sure to book a tour when you check-in!
- Borgo Casa al Vento: A lovely wine estate just outside of Gaiole In Chianti. There’s an on-site restaurant, winery and pool.
Best places to stay in Chianti Italy
When it comes to choosing a home base in the Chianti Italy region, Castellina and nearby is a sensible choice for the biggest range of accommodation and restaurant options. That said, any of the towns we mentioned above would make for wonderful bases to explore the wine area further. Here’s some of the best hotels in Chianti Italy to consider booking for your upcoming trip:
- Residenza del Sogno: Little B&B run by an adorable older couple just outside of Castellina. We stayed here in 2021 to attend the dinner in the vineyards at nearby Querceto. It’s a little rustic, but a very comfortable hotel in Chianti Italy.
- Castello La Leccia: A gorgeous medieval hamlet, where Liv stayed a few years ago when visiting Chianti. There’s a pool with a view that looks out to Siena and a wonderful on-site restaurant.
- Borgo San Luigi: 4 star hotel just outside of pretty Monteriggioni. There’s a pool and restaurant on site too.
- La Pensione di Vignamaggio: A gorgeous guesthouse outside of Panzano. The rooms are super stylish and there’s a swimming pool to cool off in the summertime.
- Podere Lucignano Secondo Agriturismo: If you’re looking for a villa Chianti Italy, this is it! Surrounded by vineyards and nested in the countryside, this is Under The Tuscan Sun vibes times 10.
Inspired to visit Chianti in Italy? It’s one of the most picturesque wine regions in the whole world and sure to inspire an everlasting love for wonderful Tuscan wine.