Arriving in Greve in Chianti {Tuscany, Italy}

We departed yesterday from the Lake Como town of Cernobbio with mixed emotions. We were sad because it was such a beautiful place to retreat for four days, and we were just getting into the habit of waking up, having breakfast, reading, eating lunch on the terrace, napping, cooking dinner, listening to concerts from the city center, watching a movie, watching fireworks, going to bed... and repeat. It was so nice and simplistic, and a great way to slow down our budget.

However, we were also excited to explore another new area, be in a room with AIR CONDITIONING (!!!!!) and also do some activities where we'd have interactions with the outside world. I was also glad to get away from the swarms of mosquitos surrounding the LC area as I literally got ravaged by them and had to go to the pharmacist for help. The mosquitos here are really, really bad and somehow I never read that before this trip or I would have come prepared!

Italian roads are full of hairpin turns and switchbacks, bumps and gravel. We had envisioned in our mind that our 4.5 hour trip from Lake Como to Chianti was going to be full of hassle, but the Italians have built majorly beneficial roads for commuting... for a price. It was so glorious to travel on these monopolized expressways with wide lanes, high speeds and plenty of room to pass and turn. However, it cost us a pretty penny as you have to take a ticket when you enter the expressway, and then pay at the end when you get off. Your cost is based on how long you were on the expressway for. A trip from Como to Greve cost us 30EUR... But, Timothy felt it was worth every cent since he has been the one navigating through Europe on less-than-ideal roads for 3 weeks!

Tuscany is general is absolutely beautiful. It's hard to imagine that something could top Lake Como, but there is a really satisfying feeling walking around in dry heat with cypress trees all around, a cool night air, no humidity, and a golden sunset across thousands of acres of vineyards. I guess this is why they made a movie about it!

We're staying in another fabulous Airbnb rental-- this time at an actual B&B, where she advertises her rooms on airbnb but also on Trip Advisor as well and in the local community. It has been wonderful to receive the hospitality of a true B&B but with airbnb prices-- a surprise to us as we had no idea it was a real bed & breakfast! Our villa is located at the entrance to the main part of Greve in Chianti and is only a 5 minute walk from the piazza and many great restaurants. Greve in Chianti is the first major town in the Chianti region, and is also one of the most popular for tourists. Thankfully it hasn't been too crowded, although we can see that this is the area of Italy where many Europeans take their summer holidays. I highly recommend Greve in Chianti as a home base to explore Tuscany from, because it has a little of everything while not being too big or bustling yet.

Our living space + bed in the B&B

Dining area in our B&B room

The exterior of the B&B

Views from the front of our B&B


Downtown piazza in Greve in Chianti

Breakfast!


Kitchen area of the B&B


Chianti really is the center of Italian wine. I haven't seen so much wine everywhere before-- souvenier shops are filled to the brim and "enotecas" (wine shops) can be found on every corner, selling local wines for the many different wine makers. There are way more enotecas here than coffee shops, that's for sure.

A unique thing about coming to Chianti for wine tasting is that if you want to visit a vineyard, cellar or winery, you need to schedule an appointment in advance or call the owners. It's frowned upon to just drop in, as many of the wineries are also the personal homes of the growers so they don't want a bunch of tourists coming in unannounced. The wine tasting fees, when you do get an appointment, are generally higher than in the US because the vinters want to show you Italian hospitality by taking you on a tour of the vineyard, providing some snacks and sampling their wines. Wine tasting, when you visit an actual vineyard, takes around 1.5 hours. It's not like, say, Oregon or Napa, where you pop from winery to winery tasting what you want and where you want.

However, because there are SO many (and I mean so many-- hundreds, if not thousands) of wineries, growers, vineyards, etc. in the Chianti region, the enotecas serve as a gateway to wine-taste without having to arrange appointments and drive around to many different vineyards. I do recommend scheduling at least 1 - 2 appointments just because it is so great to hear from the winemakers themselves on the process and learn about their pride in the work that they do, but if you want to taste some good Chianti Classico, visit an enoteca on an off day. An enoteca is a place that sells many different bottles of wine, almost like a wine distributor, and offers tastings of those wine as well. Basically like a wine shop that also does wine tastings.

What is interesting about the enotecas here in Chianti is that they have many different sampling stations set up featuring wines all around the region, and from specific varietals and cities as well-- Montepulciano, Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva (the best of the best), Montalcino, and more. The stations are set up with at least 15 different wines from each region and they rotate new wines in and out to taste. Guests receive a tasting card and put a certain dollar amount on it, and then pay for each tasting they have and whatever size of a taste they want. Most tastings are around 75 - 80 cents, but higher-end wines can have a $1.50 tasting fee as well. In reality it's quite reasonable because most wineries in Oregon charge a minimum $10 tasting fee and you might get to taste 4 wines. If you spent $10 here, you'd get to taste at least 10 wines.




We stumbled upon an awesome meat cafe today which had prosciutto hanging from the ceilings all over the place, and then they'd pull one off the ceiling and slice the meat up to serve customers on their charcuterie boards. It was the most delicious salami and prosciutto I have ever had! You could immediately tell the freshness, and it was a great place to grab a quick lunch.






Last night we wandered around Greve in Chianti and ate dinner there and had some gelato, and then today we went in all of the artisan stores since they were open during the day only. It is a really cute town with many Tuscan hand-crafted goods. The only unfortunate part is that they sell the exact same things (exact) in the neighboring towns as well-- from the same companies even-- so you know they are just targeting tourists who want to bring home a little bit of Tuscan goodness. I have a love/hate relationship with the tourism economy...


The shopping area of Greve in Chianti


We drove an hour after lunch to the hill town of San Gimignano, and I was kind of disappointed because it was SO crowded. We planned to visit Siena tomorrow which is even bigger than San G., but I don't know now. We were in Tuscany exactly two years ago as of yesterday and visited the small Tuscan hill towns of Montepulciano and Pirenza. They were exactly what you'd picture when you imagine strolling through Tuscany and wandering through cobblestoned streets and around tiny alleys with hanging laundry above. I loved those towns so much, and knew that San G. is another popular hilltop city so I thought it would be the same. Problem was, so did the other hoards of tour groups. Restaurants with photos of their entrees and menus in English overtook the streets and alleys and contented tourists sat talking at their tables in loud English and taking pictures with their selfie sticks. It kind of takes the charm out of such a beautiful Italian city-- especially when we had to drive around for 30 minutes just to find a parking spot in one of their 4 major parking lots. The sad part was, all of the shops along the alleys in San G. were filled with the exact same items I had just purchased in Greve in Chianti-- literally identical everything.



Anyway, I digress. I'm in Italy and it's beautiful and I love it, but I completely understand why Italians don't care for tourists because Italy is just so touristy. And yet here I am, being hypocritical, as a tourist in Italy. :) In planning our route for tomorrow, let's just say I'm looking for some quiet, sleepy hill towns where we can experience some authenticity, instead of the stopping in the popular 3 Tuscan cities of Siena, Assisi and Florence.

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