If there is one piece of advice that I can give you when touring Tuscany, it’s to rent a car (or at least a private driver to tote you from scenic town to scenic town). While it’s not my favorite wine producing region in Italy, Tuscany has a multitude of amazing things to offer the food & wine-centric traveler. A hub for centuries-old vineyards, olive oil producers, and some of the best food in the world, a day-trip through the Tuscan country-side makes for the best addition to your trips to Florence.
Using Florence as a home base, we recently rented a car to take us to our dinner reservations in Panzano. Since we weren’t looking to winery hop until reaching La Strada del Sagrantino in Umbria, we by-passed many beautiful wineries and made a bee-line to Greve in Chianti where we indulged in economical wine tasting at Le Cantine before heading to nearby Panzano for dinner.
Le Cantine, established in 1893, is a great alternative to those looking to get a taste of Tuscany without having to go through the process of drunkenly hopping from one wine producer to another. The process is simple. Buy a wine card that gets you a glass and mosey on over to one of their Enomatic tasting machines, individually priced and calibrated to provide you with a precise tasting pour. Harboring good relations with many of the region’s top producers, you won’t miss a beat here and will instead, have the benefit of finding the wine that best suits you while comfortably enjoying their beautiful tasting room. In addition to good wine at good prices, Le Cantine also offers light fare from Antica Macelleria Falorni, another premier butcher that has been serving the community since 1729 and is located less than a mile away. The meat board we got featured amazing salami and prosciutto of the highest quality and local bread.
Greve in Chianti is an adorable town that has many little storefronts and tasting rooms. Easy to find right off the highway, Greve also seemed to be a little more modern than its neighboring Panzano; even having a computer repair shop next to an antique shop and deli where you can get a tasty little Porchetta sandwich for only 3 euros. The beautiful thing about driving through this area is the scenery along the way. Stop into any of the towns, grab provisions for a picnic and find an open patch of grass or a rolling hill for a romantic little lunch.
A note to the geographically-challenged: There are certain areas where 3G & 4G cell phone service dies out for a while. So if you rely on your cell phone for maps or directions, I advise you invest in a road map of Italy just in case. This proved to be very handy for us when our cell phone batteries were waning. Also keep an eye out while you’re on the road– this part of Italy is VERY good at marking towns and telling you where to go without a map. Just be sure to pay attention when you come across one of the many round-abouts you’ll come across!