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The Chianti region of Tuscany is a popular Italian region between the beautiful cities of Florence and Siena. It is famous around the world because of the very popular wines produced in the vineyards here - and because photos of Chianti are often used on calendars and travel brochures as being typical scenic Tuscany landscapes!
The word chianti is said to come from the Latin 'clango-ere' (to screech or to play) and 'Clangor-oris' (barking dogs), perhaps in memory of the noisy baronial hunts in the woods once held around Certaldo to the west of the region.
Chianti is a very enjoyable region to visit, with a landscape of rolling hills covered with vineyards and olive groves and lots of small ancient villages and castles, and quiet roads that have less tourists than many regions of Tuscany.
The Chianti region occupies most of the area of Tuscany to the south of Florence and north of Siena, and as far east as the hills that rise towards the Apennine mountains. There are few major highlights to visit, and Chianti is a region where you can discover unspoiled countryside, sample the local wines or to stroll around a small village, and peacefully visit one of the many ancient castles and churches.
Most visitors follow the 'scenic route' through the area, called the Strada Chiantigiana (officially the SR222 road) and which is an ideal introduction to the highlights of the region.While many visitors drive the route it is perfectly possible - and extremely pleasant to cycle the route.
The most popular part of the Strada Chiantigiana is from Strada in Chianti to the north (south-east of Florence) to Castellina in Chianti in the south. Among popular diversions are the small village of Montefioralle to the west of Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti to the east of Castellina.
It is perfectly possible to complete the route and see most of the highlights in a single day.
The Chianti wine region is larger than the area mentioned here and extends beyond both Florence and Siena. The area usually referred to as Chianti is the area where 'Chianti Classico' red wines are produced, and includes the destinations below.
Chianti is also an exceptional region to explore by bike with the lovely scenery, gentle hills and quiet roads making it accessible to anyone. Hiking is also popular, just ask in one of the local tourist offices and they will be able to suggest walks through the countryside.
The two principal towns in the region are Greve in Chianti to the north and Radda in Chianti to the south, and both towns are pleasant to visit.
Greve in Chianti is the perfect place to sample the finest wines of the region, with wine shops on every corner and a pleasant central square surrounded by buildings with large porches operating as shops and cafes.
The village of Montefioralle is also part of Greve in Chianti and a lovely little village to explore as well as being listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy (it is in the hills a few kilometres east of Greve).
Radda in Chianti is an attractive small medieval town that retains some monuments of historical interest such as a fortress and defensive walls, and a 16th century palazzo overlooking the central square, and is set in hillier countryside to the east of Chianti. See the Radda in Chianti guide for details.
Castellina to the west of Radda is a small Chianti town that also has a small historic centre with medieval streets including a long vaulted passageway and nice views across the surrounding vineyards as well as some renaissance style palazzos. See the Castellina guide for details.
Elsewhere in Chianti there are several ancient castles and historic monuments to see but it will be the landscape that really stays in your memory, with vast expanses of countryside stretching as far as the eye can see
Italy This Way note: I found it hard to photograph the scale of the scenery so it is a bit of a challenge to convey in the sheer scale of the vistas that unfold before you - although these are still less impressive than the astonishing views around, for example, Volterra and Montepulciano!
The exceptional fortified medieval town of Monteriggioni is just outside the south-western limit of what is usually considered to be the Chianti region, but should be included as part of your visit.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.