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Things to Do In and Around the Chianti

Mare from Seattle

Plan to spend the good part of a day exploring the ancient town of Colle di Val d'Elsa (upper town). It is Italy's largest producer of fine glass and crystal. Refer to a guidebook for a list of sights and museums.

Spend a couple of hours in our favorite Tuscan village, Monteriggioni (population 60). This picturesque village with its fortified walls and 14 towers is one of the most perfectly preserved villages in Italy. In recent years, it has become a popular spot for tour groups so arrive either early or later in the day when the tour buses depart. See "Restaurant" section above for recommendation.

If you are interested in purchasing leather goods (purses, wallets, briefcases, belts, jackets, gloves, etc.), here is a place you will not find in your guidebook. LBG Italia, located in Greve in Chianti, is a manufacturer of fine leather goods. They manufacture items for top designers as well as their own brand name. We took a guided tour of the purse manufacturing facility. We learned about patterns for new purse designs, saw prototypes made from synthetic materials to simulate leather, saw types and colors of leather used to make pre-production samples, watched skilled technicians cut the leather, saw assembly workers molding the interior pieces for purses and technicians stitching the pieces and watched as completed purses were cleaned and sealed in plastic bags for shipping. LBG showroom/factory is located just outside Greve at Via G. Pastore, 3/A.

If you do not like crowds, stay away from Greve during the month of September because it hosts the biggest wine fair in Chianti.

We were very disappointed in Montefiridolfi. Our guidebook said it was an impressive fortified hamlet but we saw no signs of fortification-perhaps we missed something.

Stroll down the covered soldiers' walk in the 15th century defensive walls of Castellina in Chianti. The village has several excellent enotecas and interesting pottery shops. Try our favorite place for thin crust pizza, Pizzeria il Fondaccio, via Ferruccio, 27. They also offer the best deal around for antipasto; a self-serve bar loaded with good quality meats, cheeses, etc.

Be sure to stop by the picturesque medieval village of Montefioralle (1 km west of Greve). The village walls are intact along with old tower houses and two Romanesque churches.

Tour the majestic Castello di Brolio (10 km south of Gaiole). This beautiful castle was rebuilt after the war and in the 19th century Baron Ricasoli converted it into his fortified residence. You can sample and purchase wine and olive oil from the estate.

We collect Italian pottery so we were excited to tour Impruneta that is famous for its terra cotta including the tiles on Brunelleschi's dome in Firenze. This large town was totally restored because it was heavily bombed in WWII. Every October, the town hosts an annual terra cotta sale. This festival is known as "St. Luke's Horse & Mule Fair" (who would have guessed they were selling pottery). We were disappointed, as most pieces were very large, unpainted terra cotta, not painted pottery. To the contrary of what our guidebook claimed, there was no central exhibit area. To see the pottery it was necessary to walk or drive to each studio. As parking was at a premium, driving was not a viable option. Many studios were located next to industrial shops that produce terra cotta construction blocks and pavers. Perhaps we missed something; we would love to know if that was the case.

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