The scent of intrigue and wine, the pull of antiquity, the allure of the countryside — all were calling us away from Florence. We were finished with the biggest of cities on our itinerary and were beckoned by olive groves, stone farmhouses, and imposing stone castles in the rolling hills of Tuscany. On this day, we would make our way from Florence to San Gimignano, stopping in several Chianti towns along the way. This region produces the grapes used in Chianti and Chianti Classico, world-famous red wines.
We had everything ready to go at our Florence Airbnb by 9:00, and we handed over the keys to Paula, Niccolò’s mother. We always leave our rental places in tip-top shape, so of course she returned our security deposit. She gave us suggestions of places to stop on our way to San Gimignano, along with a postcard advertising apartments she had available to rent near Florence.
As we bid Paula “Addio,” she encouraged us to drive to the top of a hill near the apartment for a panoramic view over the city.
One of the places Paula suggested we stop was the tiny hilltop hamlet of Montefioralle, about 2km west of Greve in Chianti. It is the ancestral home of Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), the merchant, explorer, and navigator from whose name the term “America” is derived.
Tradition associates the image of Venus in Sandro Botticelli’s painting, Birth of Venus, painted sometime in the 1480s, with the famous beauty Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, an Italian noblewoman from Genoa, the wife of Marco Vespucci of Florence and the cousin-in-law of Amerigo Vespucci. She was known as the greatest beauty of her age in Italy.
We stopped for a walk around the quiet, nearly deserted little town.
Our next stop was Greve in Chianti, the hub of the local wine industry. If there is a capital of Chianti, apparently Greve is it. Here, an arcade with cafes, enoteche (wine bars), and craft shops cluster around the Piazza Matteotti, the gently sloping and asymmetrical central plaza. In the center is a statue of Giovanni da Verrazzano (1480-1527), the discoverer of New York Harbor.
We stopped at a butcher shop, where we were almost frightened off by the stuffed boars outside, Macelleria Falorni. We also browsed in a bike shop, where Mike bought a new biking shirt.
We stopped for a coffee and pastry at a Pizzeria.
We strolled around the little town, poking into shops here and there, and simply enjoyed the small-town ambiance.
Then we were on our way to Panzano in Chianti.
*Thursday, May 2, 2019* (morning)