Tuscany, Italy: Rolling hills and wine

The rolling hills of Tuscany don’t need their virtues touted, but it should be noted that there are plenty of places in the tourist-friendly region that have yet to be invaded by selfie stick-wielders and tour buses. One of these sub-regions is the picturesque area of Chianni, and villages such as Terricciola (which is technically part of the Pisa province – not Chianni. But close enough, nonetheless).

After a hard day traipsing the ancient streets of San Gimignano and its surrounds, and eating your own body weight in cheese, bread, pasta and wine at the agriturismos, take a short drive into one of the surrounding villages. Terricciola, for example, is set on the top of a hill overlooking the undulating, lush green hills below. It’s a spot frequented only by the locals, and life just does not get any better than cracking open a bottle of Chianti in a spa on the balcony.
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San Gimignano
San Gimignano from afar

Do

Explore the countryside
This part of Italy is best explored by car, so do us all a favour and tick off that bucket list item and hire yourself a Fiat 500 (or a Fiat Panda in our case, which – we must stress – are two very, very different vehicles). We picked up a car in Pisa and drove down to San Gimignano, explored that area, and then headed back up to Chianti for the night all in a day. It’s a picturesque region, with plenty of gorgeous little spots to stop on the way.
Inside the walls
Explore San Gimignano

This walled medieval village is actually a delight to just take in from across the vineyards, before even stepping foot in it. Known as ‘the Town of Fine Towers’, this quaint spot is famous for its medieval architecture, central to which is its preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses. It’s a spectacular skyline considering its locale atop a grassy hillock, and encircled with stoney walls.

Within those walls, the village is just as picturesque, what with its cobblestoned streets, Romanesque and Gothic architecture and old churches. The best idea is to just wander through the town at your own leisure, stick your head into a few galleries and churches and check out the market which is often set up in the main square. The centre of town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its also known for the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape – which produces some damn good wine.

Eat

Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Agriturismos and fattorias basically litter the countryside in Tuscany, but this absolute gem of a find should top whatever list you’ve got going. This is an organic estate five kilometres from San Gimignano, overlooking rolling hills and lush fields – with the towers of San Gimignano clearly visible on the horizon. Quite simply, the view from this place is almost worth a trip alone.  Everything used in the cooking at this place is produced on the farm, which is also probably why it’s going to be the best meal you’ve ever had. The farm is a family business, where the parents and children still work every day, and consists of over 100 hectares of grapes, olive trees, orchards, wheat, oats, sunflowers, barley and livestock. Their local variety of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is phenomenal, as is basically every other type of wine they produce. And, luckily for you, wine accompanies every meal.

For a measly 23 euro a person our ‘light lunch’ was more of a banquet than we’d ever get in New Zealand for half that price.
It included:
– The freshest bruschetta of all time
– Pert, fresh pasta with beef or tomato sauce
– Pork loin with potatoes aka delightfully roasted, herby and salted potatoes accompanied by tender pork straight off the farm
– Vinsanto dessert wine with (a very large bucket of) almond biscotti
– Cake (my boyfriend’s birthday, and the friendly team organised the whole thing)
– Coffee
– Vernaccia and Chianti wines throughout the meal.
And if that’s not enough, if you want any more of the above – your plates (or glasses) will happily be replenished. If this is what constitutes a ‘light lunch’, I’d hate to think what the next calibre of meal is.
This was by far one of the best meals we’ve ever had IN OUR ENTIRE LIVES. And if that’s not a glowing enough recommendation, we don’t know what else we can say. Just go.
Check out their website here.

Stay

Borgo La Ripadoro apartment, Terricciola

Think all the scenery you’ve just explored all day, laid out in front of you as you recline in a spa on the balcony of a beautiful Italian village in the middle of absolutely nowhere: that’s what you’ll get at these apartments in Terricciola. One of the highlights of our trip to Tuscany was this apartment, with its hot tub on the balcony, stone walls and old school feel, and we couldn’t have been more happy staying there. For breakfast, you can choose fresh pastries from the bakery just down the street, or a hike up to the nearby hamlet of Chianni, for one of the most extensive Italian buffets we’ve ever seen. This apartment in Terricciola is connected to the Palazzo Del Borgo hotel in Chianni, but from what we could tell, it’s much nicer and a bit more isolated if you want some privacy. The absolute dream.

Get around

Hire a car! It might not have been a Fiat 500, but we scored a Fiat Panda for approximately 8 GBP for two and a half days. Sure, the man was just about in tears by the time he finished attempting to make us buy their extortionate insurance policy, it was November, and it was still a Fiat Panda but that’s a steal in anybody’s books. Just make sure you’ve got your international driver’s licence, and can speak angry Italian via flailing gestures while behind the wheel – you’ll get a lot of those.

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