We’ve been visiting several of the beautiful hill towns in Chianti, but the one that is the most memorable is Montefioralle. We arrived there after driving up a long winding hill and parked in a beautiful shaded area at the base of the wall that surrounds the tiny village.
Montefioralle is nestled in the heart of the Chianti region on a hilltop facing the Greve valley. The views are ones you dream about – vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees. Narrow stone streets climb through the village, surrounded by ancient stone houses, beautiful old doors with a golden patina, and cascading flowers in window boxes. It feels magical – a step back in time where you only hear birds and the wind rustling leaves.
The village and castle of Montefioralle were an important stronghold during the wars between Florence and Siena – which we have heard quite a bit about since arriving. A house in the circular main street is the birth-place of Amerigo Vespucci. The doorway is identified by the wasp (“vespa”) and V of the Vespucci family. As a bit of history, America is named after Amerigo Vespucci. He was an explorer and the first person to recognize North and South America as distinct continents.
As you walk through Montefioralle it’s so quiet and deserted you have the feeling no one lives here, and then you come upon a small For Sale sign – 50 sq meter/one room, terrace, basement. Needs work – no price. You can own a little bit of heaven. But for what price? I think it could be worth looking into.
Note: click on photos to enlarge and open a slideshow.
Welcome to Villa il Castellaccio located near Lucolena, Figline and Greve in Chianti, Tuscany. This is home for our two weeks in Italy. We arrived on June 7, and loved it from the minute we drove down the long meandering gravel lane to the villa.
Villa il Castellaccio is an agriturismo with one large villa (sleeps up to 12) four apartments, gardens and swimming pools. There’s also a barbecue area and wood burning pizza oven – which we tried out the other night. It’s in a beautiful rural area surrounded by peaceful vineyards and olive groves. The property is a farm that has been in this family for several generations and currently produces olive oil and wine. The owner, Leonardo, is warm and welcoming, ready to answer questions and help plan activities.
We’re about 20 minutes from Florence by train, from the station in nearby Figline – where we also do our grocery shopping. Driving to Florence takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on the route – back roads vs. freeway. We’ve done both and love the back road route.
This is a great location for visiting all of the little towns in Chianti – Greve, Castellina, Radda, Panzano and Montefioralle are just a few that we’ve visited. All are beautiful, quaint, charming and special in their own way. The vineyards and wineries in the surrounding hills seem to be around every curve and down cypress lined lanes.
The origins of Castellaccio go back to Etruscan times. The gravel lane running through the property is Roman and overlooking the main pool is an ancient 11th Century church, now a private home. Up on the hilltop above us is an ancient chestnut grove, where we’re told you can find the ruins of the original Castle, “Castel d’Azzo”, destroyed in the 14th Century in a battle between the Guelfs and Ghibellines. We hope to do a little exploring to see if we can find it.
So how did I find Villa il Castellaccio? By pure luck after spending hours on the internet looking at villas and agriturismos. After spending a week here I think I was very, very lucky.
Last night we drove into Florence to watch the sunset and see the city lights. We parked at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a square on a hill above the Arno River, overlooking Florence. As the sun began to set, we watched the sky fade, the hills beyond the city darken, and the twinkling lights surrounding the Duomo and towers appear. The square is a large parking area with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David, vendors and a promenade to walk along and view the skyline. Across from the square is La Loggia, a restaurant, originally intended as a Michelangelo museum.
By day the views of the Duomo, Palazzo Della Uffizi and skyline are breathtaking. At night they are stunning.
This morning we went to the Saturday market in Greve’s square and could hear thunder rumbling while we picked up fresh fruit, vegetables and whatever looked good to add to pizzas we’re making for dinner tonight. The rain held out until we were back to our apartment, but it’s been one cloud burst after another. Since I had some time to kill, I decided to work on black and white photos. These are a few from Florence, Castellina in Chianti, and the area around the farm where we are staying.
We added Milan to our itinerary, but only as a brief stop on the way to Tuscany last Saturday. Chris found a subway station in the outskirts of Milan (Molino Dorino) with a park and ride garage where we could leave the car for only a euro a day. Driving and parking in the city would have been a nightmare and expensive. We knew it was going to be a tight fit and still arrive on time in Greve, but a short stop is better than none.
We wanted to see the Piazza del Duomo (“Cathedral Square”), the main piazza (city square) of Milan and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Our subway stop dropped us in the piazza. Coming from the underground stop to the huge, open square square filled with people, in the shadow of the the Duomo and surrounded by some of the most historic buildings in the city was worth the extra time out of our schedule. What immediately struck me was that even with size of the space and number of people, the piazza sounded like being in a room.
The piazza marks the center of the city, geographically and because of its importance from an artistic, cultural, and socially. It’s about 183,000 sq ft and is dominated by the Duomo. The piazza was built in 1862 following a design competition, and following the final completion of the Duomo – after 500 years of construction.
Housed within a four-story double arcade with a huge arch entrance, the Galleria is named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was built between 1865 and 1877 and can hardly be called a mall by current standards. Constructed of steel and glass, with beautiful mosaic tiled floors, statues and murals, it’s often called Milan’s living room.
Upscale stores, cafés and restaurants and restaurants fill the Galleria. If a Mercedes or Louis Vuitton bag are on your list you’ve come to the right place. We found it a great place for a gelato break.