Tuscany is not public transport friendly. As I have a Eurail train pass, I figured I would train myself around in order to make use of the money I had to fork out for the ticket. However, 4 train’s and 1 bus later I was stuck in the middle of no where, my only option was to take a bus back to Florence and that was day 1 of my Tuscan wine adventure done. The horrible thing was that not one drop of vino touched my tongue until I decided to drown my sorrows with a couple of bottles of cheap Chianti from the local supermarket to aid my dinner that night.
Thank-fully day 2 was much more productive and I have to say probably my most favourite wine-inspired day in the whole 6 months that I have been traveling Europe. If you are backpacking like myself and relying on public transport there is a way to get past making someone sober for the day by hiring a car. I stayed in Florence and from there you can easily take a 1-hour bus to a small village called ‘Greve in Chianti’ (pronounced gravy!) and it only costs you around 3 Euros.
Greve in Chianti is what you imagine when you think of Tuscany’s wine country. You jump off the bus to find a cute little village surrounded by rolling hills full of grape vines and olive groves. Not to mention as you walk through the village every second store is something to do with wine, whether that is a wine bar or enoteca. They even have a wine museum (5 Euros per person to enter).
After spending the morning in the nearby hilltop walled-village of Montefioralle (post to come soon!) we spent the afternoon at the most dedicated and fun touristic wine experience I have ever encountered. Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti is a large semi-underground cave that is full to the brim with Italian wines. Everything from young Chianti Classico’s to the famed Super Tuscans like Sassicaia and Tignanello.
The reason I spent about 3 hours in this particular place is that it is also somewhere where you have the opportunity to taste all of these wines. When you enter one of the welcoming staff will explain to you ho w the Cantine’s wine experience works. Basically you buy a ‘wine card’ of whatever value you wish, whether that be 5 Euro or 50 Euro. Once you are equipped with your card you can either ask the staff or browse through the celar-files on the desk to get a better understanding of what you are in for. The large facility is broken into area’s for all the different types of Italian wines; you have your proseccos, the young Chianti Classico’s, Chianti Riserva’s, Brunello’s, Super-Tuscan’s etc. Once you have chosen what you want to taste, you pop your card into the enomatic machine and the buttons light up corresponding to the different bottles. You pop your glass under the bottle that you wish to taste and press the button, and that’s all there is to it! Around the room there are various tables and chairs to sit and relax at as well as plenty of spittoons and fresh drinking water taps to cleanse the palate. You can also grab some notepaper and pencils from the counter to jot down all your tasting notes along the way.
The tastings vary in price from .60 cents up to 4 or 5 Euros (a taste of Tignanello will set you back 4 Euro), if you visit the Cantine with someone and don’t mind sharing gubbas I would suggest sharing so that you can try more for less. Since I am now in the ‘backpacker’ categorary this is what I did with my boyfriend. So in the end we spent about 15 Euros and we tasted 15 different wines as well as a limoncello to finish off. Another bonus is that they have free salami tasting (however they only put out a certain amount at a time) and free olive oil with bread tasting.
It is a fun way to drink your way through an afternoon whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just on the look out to taste a bit of Tuscany. I expect they get busy with tour buses and such at certain times of the year, however when I visited in November we were the only people there over the 3 hours except for 1 or 2 people who popped their heads in from time to time. For more details, please check their website here.