Nov 022015
 

A day in Chianti begins

By now, it’s not a secret that Mr. TWS and I were smitten with Tuscany on our first visit to the region. Each day brought new experiences in the hilltop villages, historic towns, and countryside. On this day with the promise of more tasty and interesting activities ahead, Mr. TWS and I were driving along Tuscany’s country roads among the vineyards and olive groves enjoying the burst of colorful spring blooms on the wooded hillsides.

Vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Tasting Chianti

Chianti, a well-known name to wine drinkers and Italian restaurant patrons worldwide, is a wine zone in Tuscany that grows the grapes used in its namesake wines. What better way to begin a day in Chianti than in one of the foremost wineries of Tuscany with a tour and tasting?

Wine and architecture

Antinori nel Chianti Classico (Cantine Antinori)
Via Cassia per Siena, 133
San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Bargino

Newly opened in October 2012, Cantine Antinori is a striking work of architecture on the Chianti landscape. Created with local materials and a focus on having minimal impact on the environment and saving energy, it complements the natural surroundings of its rural hillside location in Bargino.

Tuscany countryside reflected in the glass of the Marchesi Antinori winery in Bargino -- innovative architecture in harmony with the landscape (designed by Italian architect Marco Casamonti of Archea Associati)

Tuscany countryside reflected in the glass of the Cantine Antinori in Bargino — innovative architecture designed by Archea Associati in harmony with the landscape

Usually, I’m not much for introductory films before tours, but the very interesting video at the beginning of our tour explained the Antinori family’s history in the wine business and particularly how innovation has always been a driving force in their operations. In 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori, head of the noble Florentine family, began the centuries-long history of producing wine. Through 26 generations, the family has remained directly involved in management of the winery. Antinori built the new facility and moved its headquarters from Florence to this location to continue advancing their innovative approach to wine making while honoring their long traditions. As Marquis Piero Antinori, current head of the family business, says: “Ancient roots play an important role in our work. But have never been a limit to our innovative spirit”.

Innovative architecture and design of Cantine Antinori -- From top left: A circular skylight fills the lobby with light; "Biosphere 06" art by Tomás Saraceno installed in cellar stairway; ; views of Tuscan hills from lobby; soft and colorful seating in lounge area; looking up through the spiral staircase from the parking lot

From top left: A circular skylight fills the lobby with light; “Biosphere 06” art by Tomás Saraceno installed in cellar stairway; views of Tuscan hills from lobby; soft and colorful seating in lounge area; looking up through the spiral staircase from the parking lot

The geometric and abstract designs of the structure and interior decor are eye-catching as you peruse the Antinori family art collections and information exhibits on the main level. I particularly liked the views of the Tuscan hills and Antinori’s Sangiovese vineyards through the expansive glass windows (top right above).

From top left: Time for tasting after the tour; alluring display of wine bottles in the shop; terracotta vats for olive oil production; vaulted wine cellar

From top left: Time for tasting after the tour; alluring display of wine bottles in the shop; terracotta vats for olive oil production; vaulted wine cellar

There are several guided tours available that cover the wine-making process from the vineyard to the bottle and provide an excellent introduction to Antinori wines.

When in Italy … Although still before noon, Mr. TWS and I had no problem sampling a few wines during the tasting at the end of the tour. We began with a Bramito Chardonnay from Umbria that was perfect for early imbibing, followed by two of their signature Chianti Classico vintages. Chianti Classico is a designation that not only refers to a geographic district in Chianti, but also to the particular blend of grapes with Sangiovese being at least 80% of the blend.

Cheese and more wine

Fattoria Corzano e Paterno
Via San Vito di Sopra snc
San Pancrazio, San Casciano

But this day in Chianti wasn’t all about wine. Much to our pleasure, cheese was also involved.

Ancient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno in San Pancrazio, San Casciano, Italy

Ancient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno

Across the River Pesa, down winding tree-lined rural roads through hills dotted with Tuscan estates is Fattoria Corzano e Paterno, a family owned and operated cheese factory and winery. In the 1970s, with visions of living closer with the land as he began a new chapter of his life, the late Wendel Gelpke, a Swiss architect, came to Tuscany and bought two centuries-old farms — Corzano (in 1972) and Paterno (in 1976). We were given a tour of the farm by Arianna Gelpke, Wendel’s daughter and the winery’s assistant winemaker.

Touring the cheese factory with Arianna; luscious cheeses on racks at Corzano e Paterno in San Casciano, Italy

Touring the cheese factory with Arianna; Antonia’s luscious cheese creations on racks in the factory

The cheese

Since 1992, the cheeses of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno have been produced by hand using traditional methods using the milk from the farm’s Sardinian sheep, chosen for their adaptability to the hilly terrain of Tuscany. The original small herd of 50 sheep purchased in the early 1970s to help clear the fields for vineyards has grown to 650 sheep, managed by Wendel’s son, Tillo. Reflecting the farm’s belief in sustainability and giving back to the land, the sheep also provide manure that enriches the soil in the vineyards and olive groves.

Antonia, wife of Wendel’s nephew Aljoscha, is a master cheesemaker who has managed the dairy since 1986 and has created many varieties of cheese. Among her inventions are the popular Lingotto (with smoked bacon aromas) and Rocco (a creamy and tangy cheese).

The wine

Aljoscha is the winemaker whose experience began 30 years ago when he helped his uncle on the original six hectares of land, which have grown to 18 hectares. Arianna assists Aljoscha and is in charge of the newer wine cellar built in 2005. Their grape varieties include Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Malvasia, Trebbiano(each common to the Chianti area), as well as other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

The tasting

A highlight was sampling the freshness of Corzano e Paterno with a wine and cheese tasting in the courtyard in front of the shop where their wine, cheese, cured meats, and other local products can be purchased. On this warm afternoon with flowers in bloom, the Il Corzanello Toscana IGT Bianco was a perfect accompaniment to the cheeses we sampled (described below). We also tasted one of their red wines, Terre di Corzano Chianti, a Sangiovese and Canaiolo blend, and we couldn’t resist buying a bottle before we left.

Corzano cheese wine

Top left: Marzolino (soft cheese like mozzarella), Erbolino (fresh pecorino with garlic, parsley and hot pepper), and goat cheese; on the terrace with our guide Babeth and Arianna enjoying Il Corzanello Bianco 2014; fresh eggs in the shop; beautiful irises at the dairy

Luxury country holiday villas

Within easy reach of Cantine Antinori and Corzano e Paterno are two of Este Villa’s luxury holiday rentals near the town of San Casciano, Borgorosa and Casa Mattei. Although we didn’t stay in these villas, we toured both of these properties and were instantly impressed with them as options for stays in Chianti. Each is distinctive in its accommodations and amenities, but being in the heart of Chianti, they both share convenient accessibility to many of Tuscany’s alluring cities and attractions, including the gorgeous Renaissance city of Florence which is only 18 km.

Borgorosa

Borgorosa holiday rentals in a restored barn (left) and olive mill (right) in San Casciano, Italy

Borgorosa holiday rentals in a restored barn and olive mill

Filled with history in a secluded setting among the cypress trees of the Chianti hills is Borgorosa, a historic estate with holiday rentals. At the beautiful and grand villa adjacent to the rentals, Mr. TWS and I enjoyed meeting the owners, Andrea and his wife Claudia whose family has owned the property since the 1700s. During a tour and gourmet Tuscan lunch with our gracious hosts, we also liked learning about the history of the villa.

A memorable dining experience in Renaissance ambiance with Andrea and Claudia in Villa Caserotta

A memorable dining experience in Renaissance ambiance with Andrea and Claudia in their villa

The villa was first built in the 13th century as a lookout tower to watch for enemy factions. As many of these types of structures in Italy, it was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt during the following centuries. In 1520, the villa was purchased by the famous Florentine noble, Matteo Strozzi, for a summer residence. He had it enlarged and decorated in grand Renaissance style by the most important sculptors and painters of the time. We had a glimpse of some of the ornate and richly-furnished rooms of the villa, including a stunning ballroom, but because photography was not allowed we are not able to share. The private chapel has stunning frescoes (top left below) painted by Michele Tosini, a student of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, a renowned Renaissance painter. Claudia’s ancestors in the Cancellieri Ganucci family bought the villa from Strozzi in the 1700s.

Lovely gardens and exterior of Borgorosa (Villa Caserotta); top left-- private chapel with Renaissance frescoes; top right-- elegant loggia for weddings and receptions

Lovely gardens and exterior of Borgorosa; top left– private chapel with Renaissance frescoes; top right– elegant loggia for weddings and receptions

Besides being a summer home for the nobility, the villa has seen its share of history through the centuries. According to Claudia’s grandfather’s diary, during World War II the villa was first occupied by the German Stasi command and then by the American army when the Germans had withdrawn.

Borgorosa holiday rentals

Crossing the wide expanse of lawn to the Borgorosa holiday rental buildings from Villa Caserotta

Crossing the wide expanse of lawn to the Borgorosa holiday rental buildings from the family villa

Across a wide expanse of lawn from the main house are Borgorosa’s holiday rentals located in two buildings (shown above and below).

Borgorosa rental unit with private courtyard and outdoor dining area

Borgorosa rental unit with private courtyard and outdoor dining area

Andrea and Claudia have shown great style in the furnishings of the rental units (completely restored in 2011) using classic terracotta floors, original artwork, and tasteful antiques. A few of the comfortable and cozy rooms of the units are shown below.

A glimpse of interior rooms of Borgorosa rental units in San Casciano, Italy

A glimpse of interior rooms of Borgorosa units

Five units accommodating up to 22 people in 11 bedrooms are located in the restored buildings — three in the former olive oil mill and two in what was previously the barn. The units can be rented separately or together. Each unit has full kitchens, living areas, and private outdoor areas for al fresco dining in addition to outdoor common areas for all guests. Below the units among the olive trees is the inviting pool. Nearby activities that may interest guests include horseback riding, golf, and tennis.

Borgorosa seemed a great spot for a couple’s getaway or for large group and family gatherings, especially with the elegant loggia in the villa that would be perfect for special occasions.

Lawn and terrace of a Borgorosa units overlooking pool surrounded by olive trees

Lawn and terrace of a Borgorosa unit overlooking pool surrounded by olive trees

Casa Mattei

At Borgorosa, we were met by Babeth, the lovely property manager of Casa Mattei, the next villa we would be visiting just a few minutes away, partially along an unpaved road. At first sight, I knew I would be taken with Casa Mattei, a former monastery that dates back a thousand years.

Casa Mattei EV4

Casa Mattei

The building was completely restored in 2006 and its rooms were meticulously decorated in contemporary fashion. Enjoying refreshments with Babeth on the terrace with expansive views of the wooded countryside, I could easily envision a festive family gathering or vacation with friends here.

Enjoying refreshments on the terrace of Casa Mattei

Enjoying refreshments on the terrace of Casa Mattei

Casa Mattei’s spacious and beautifully-designed interior looked ideal for family and group gatherings, accommodating 5 to 6 couples or a family of up to 14 people. The main rooms include a large dining room that opens onto the terrace, two kitchens, a spacious living room, cozy sitting rooms, five bedrooms (each with a private bathroom), and a wine cellar.

Spacious living areas, large kitchen, bright dining area, and wine cellar of Casa Mattei

Spacious living areas, large kitchen, bright dining area, and wine cellar of Casa Mattei

Next to the villa is a separate small and charming building (shown below bottom left) that can sleep 2 additional people.

Olive trees and flowers on the grounds; outdoor pizza oven (top right); separate unit (bottom left) at Casa Mattei villa in San Casciano, Italy

Olive trees and flowers on the grounds; outdoor pizza oven (top right); separate unit (bottom left)

I felt the peaceful character of Casa Mattei as we strolled with Babeth on the lawn outside to the organic gardens (where they grow artichokes, tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables), the olive groves, and next to the freshwater mosaic-tiled swimming pool. The view of the pool and villa below seems to epitomize the luxury of life in Chianti.

Casa Mattei's pool and Jacuzzi

Casa Mattei

And so a day in Chianti ends

We would have liked to spend more time relishing the ambiance of Borgorosa and Casa Mattei, tasting wine, and enjoying the company of the gracious people we met this day. Passed by an occasional Ferrari (apparently a popular tourist driving experience in Tuscany), we were on our way through the beautiful countryside while reflecting on our day and looking forward to the next day’s exploration in Tuscany.

Ferrari-spotting on the country road in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Ferrari-spotting on the country road in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Grazie to our hosts at Borgorosa and Casa Mattei for making our day in Chianti so enjoyable.

Take a look at the EsteVillas website for details, more photos, and booking information for Borgorosa, Casa Mattei, and other properties in their collection.

  26 Responses to “A Day in the Heart of Chianti”

  1. Great article Catherine !

  2. Wonderful! Tuscany looks like a paradise not only to wine lovers but also to cheese fans. The interior of these countryside villas is amazing! Such a lovely mix of old and new, traditional and modern. I think this was very stylish. I hope to visit Italy soon.

    • During our tour of several villas, I was impressed with the diversity of styles of furnishings and decor. Yet each of them retained a Tuscan feel.

  3. You covered a lot of territory in one day, Cathy!
    The older I get, the more I’m interested and impressed I am by people who can trace their families back as many generations as these two can. What a sense of place and belonging it must give them to be able to carry on the traditions – and to mix it seemlessly with the new.
    And by the way, I was sure that was you two in the red Ferrari!

    • As much as I loved our little Fiat 500 rental while we were in Tuscany, I wouldn’t mind taking a drive in the hills in a red Ferrari. I loved learning the histories of some of the people and places we visited. It’s so amazing to be in a place, like Andrea and Claudia’s villa, that is so historic.

  4. Wine and cheese? All we need now is a baguette and I am there. Loved this delicious read and those villas – how rustic, how Italian! I really loved Casa Mattei most of all for Tuscan country living! Great article my friend!

    • No problem — I can get you a baguette. 🙂 Casa Mattei is, indeed, a villa that exudes Tuscan country luxury. Sigh….. I can easily picture myself at the pools of Casa Mattei or Borgorosa sipping a Prosecco…

  5. So tempting this, Cathy! Luxury, history, architecture, fab food – Tuscany seems to have it all 🙂

    • That all is a wonderful combination, isn’t it? Loved our time in Tuscany for those reasons and the awesome beauty of the area. Oh, and wine…..

  6. As always, you inspire! I so want to follow in your footsteps here (especially the cheese!)…

    • Oh, the cheese! Add wine & Tuscan sun, you’ve pretty much got perfection. We really enjoyed visiting Corzano e Paterno — what a wonderful family business story.

  7. Yum, Catherine! You had me at the winery but the cheeses sealed the deal. How wonderful to discover luscious history as well as flavors on your meander through Chianti. Both Borgorosa and Casa Mattei look like great bases for exploring the region, too, in a Fiat or a Ferrari 🙂

    • I love how food, wine, history, and beautiful countryside go hand-in-hand in Tuscany. Definitely craving another drive around Tuscany — in any kind of vehicle.

  8. Even as I sat here reading your account on a fall day in Philadelphia, your narrative was evocative enough that I felt myself slipping away to Tuscany and Chianti. Thanks for taking us along.

  9. I am CONVINCED that everywhere in Italy is a dream. Where else are the homes dripping with ivy and the food so delicious! Looks like a lovely day.

  10. We have friends who live in Castellina in Chianti and love visiting this beautiful part of Italy. Thanks for sharing this beautiful day!

  11. What a wonderful and well laid-out article about a region which I love! I so much enjoyed reading it and seeing all your great photos! Thank you!

  12. Such a sense of timelessness and history with a family that can trace its business and roots for 26 generations and homes that go back centuries. I can certainly understand why you’re smitten with Tuscany – absolutely lovely and it goes way beyond the description of picturesque!

  13. Sounds like the perfect vacation! I’ve been thorugh quite a lot of Italy though haven’t yet made it to Tuscany yet, and even though I’m not a huge expert on wine, it’s one of those experiences I think you just have to take up in your lifetime!!

    The villas look like something straight out of the pages of a romance novel or fairytale. I can’t wait to visit Tuscany!! Thanks for this feature – excited now!!

  14. It looks like you had a lovely time filled with wine, cheese and blue skies. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I do love the way wine and cheese seems to go together so well in Italy! Add the beautiful villas and sense of such history and you’ve put together a perfect formula for a great vacation. Where do I sign up for exploring Chianti~driving an Italian vehicle optional.

  16. Oh my gosh — your Italy posts are SO luscious, between the food (cheeeeese!), architecture, and nature… I’ve got to get there!

  17. Hey Cathy, your Italy posts (not to say your others aren’t) infused with so much love that any day now I expect to hear that you and Mr. TWS are moving (or have moved) to Italy. And each post I read, I think: why haven’t I gone yet? It’s got all the things I love – amazing food, fabulous wines, and superb architecture and unbelievable ambience. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to see what I’m missing.

  18. Chianti is such a gorgeous region! I’m not really that much of a wine drinker, but I could put cheese on everything! Those big blocks look delicious!

  19. […] with history in a secluded setting among the cypress trees of the Chianti hills is Borgorosa, a grand historic estate with holiday rentals adjacent to the main villa. Two […]

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