Entering the Chianti a Renaissance landscape

Entering the Chianti a Renaissance landscape

Step into the Uffizi Gallery or any of the frescoed family chapels around Florence and you’ll notice a recurring theme: behind the depictions of miraculous saints and pious Florentine donors are sweeping vistas of olive-clad hillsides and medieval skylines, dissolving into soft background hues.. No mere figment of the Renaissance artist’s imagination, these are the timeless landscapes that still surround Florence, and they can be seen and felt today on an exploration of the Chianti.

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Entering the Chianti: a Renaissance landscape


Step into the Uffizi Gallery or any of the frescoed family chapels around Florence and you’ll notice a recurring theme: behind the depictions of miraculous saints and pious Florentine donors are sweeping vistas of olive-clad hillsides and medieval skylines, dissolving into soft background hues. No mere figment of the Renaissance artist’s imagination, these are the timeless landscapes that still surround Florence, and they can be seen and felt today on an exploration of the Chianti, one of Italy’s world-famous wine regions.     

Entering the Tuscan landscape is a sensory experience, and nowhere is this more evocative than in the Chianti region. Situated between Florence and Siena, it not only conveys the feeling of having slipped into a Renaissance masterpiece but also offers a tasting banquet of award-winning wines, delectable local dishes, and a landscape dotted with hilltop towns unchanged since the Middle Ages.      


Wine and gastronomy

The Chianti is steeped in tradition; strict rules govern the production of its Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva wines, and you’ll often find wineries run by family members spanning three generations, practising artisan methods with passion and dedication. Innovation is embedded in the DNA here: the Etruscans were known to have experimented with grafting and hybrid techniques as early as 2500 years ago.

   

It’s a place to prepare for with an empty stomach and a ready palate, as many wineries also produce their own grass-green olive oil, drizzled over everything from the humble ribollita (a classic bread-based soup made with beans and vegetables) to the decadent bistecca alla fiorentina, a coveted cut of seared steak from the gargantuan breed known as Chianina. While the Chianti’s roaming cinghiali (wild boars) may pose a pest to local farmers, they also form the basis of some of the region’s tastiest recipes, such as the slow-cooked peposo stew from the tiny town of Impruneta, and a range of cured salami, traditionally served on wooden platters alongside a selection of pecorino cheese.   


Timeless landscapes

One of Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest works, the Annunciation in the Uffizi, already reveals his mastery of light and atmosphere, with characteristically Tuscan cypresses standing silhouette against a background that seems to disappear into vapour – a classic Leonardo touch and yet also a quality of this region’s nebulous light. This is especially the case right now in early spring, when Tuscany’s hills take on a mesmerising watercolour-like hue before the colours harden and brighten into the brilliant shades of summer.    

The Chianti region is also linked to the Renaissance masters in more ways than one: the enigmatic Lisa Gherardini, widely believed to be the unknown sitter in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, is thought to have spent time on the family farm in the Chianti when she was growing up and, according to local legend, is also buried here in a local church.

 


Medieval cityscapes

Visitors peering closer at Ghirlandaio’s frescoed Tornabuoni Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence might notice the lone villas and faraway medieval skylines that form a backdrop to his scenes. One of the remarkable features of modern Tuscany is the feeling of time travel it evokes, as historic villas and towns like these can still be explored in their original state, and nowhere is this more awe-inspiring than at San Gimignano

An extraordinarily well-preserved relic of the Middle Ages located between Florence and Siena, San Gimignano is characterised by its bristling skyline of ‘medieval skyscrapers’, imposing reminders of the feuds that once raged between the city’s noble families in the struggle for power. Visitors can climb the Torre Grossa, the town’s highest tower, and enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding countryside, while those who would prefer to soak up the atmosphere in the shade can do so with a glass of Vernaccia, San Gimignano’s famous white wine (made locally since 1276) or an artisan gelato from the tiny gelataria that has won the Gelato World Championship twice in recent years.      


Wine, gastronomy, Renaissance landscapes and time travel: a day spent exploring the Chianti and beyond is certainly an unforgettable experience. 


Photo Credits: utravelshare.com - miranda.com

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