Panzano in Chianti is right in the heart of Chianti’s wine growing region and has been one of our favorite Tuscan getaways for many years. The small town is located midway between Florence and Siena, on the Chiantigiana/Highway 222, making it the perfect location from which to embark on day trips to these beautiful Tuscan cities. Other popular destinations like San Gimignano, Volterra and Pisa are also within easy driving distance, as are lovely nearby towns like Radda, Greve and Castellina in Chianti.
We always rent from Sammie Daniels, founder of Stay Italia www.stayitalia.com. In Panzano, we’ve stayed at Casa La Rota and Villa Pecille numerous times. Both are located on vineyard property owned by the family behind Fontodi Winery and are situated on the Conca del Ora, some of the most gorgeous countryside in Tuscany. Casa La Rota is surrounded by vineyards and is a five-minute drive into town. Villa Pecille overlooks the Conca del Ora and is a short walk into the village of Panzano.
All the apartments at La Rota and Villa Pecille are fully furnished and equipped with just about everything anyone could need to feel at home. Some have fireplaces. The two properties offer a range of accommodations suitable for two to eight people and both have swimming pools, ample outdoor areas for relaxing, and laundry facilities.
Sammie, who is American, is an expert on the area having been here since 1985 when she opened a B & B in nearby Greve. She went on to remodel and manage the Vignamaggio Hotel, which was the setting for Much Ado About Nothing starring Kenneth Branaugh and Emma Thompson in 1993. In 1995, Sammie moved to Fontodi and opened Casa La Rota and has been there ever since. Sammie can assist guests with restaurant recommendations (I’ll share my favorites in another post), wine tastings, even organizing dinners prepared in your villa.
Sammie also has other properties in the area and several apartments in Florence. Detailed information on all of the villas and apartments is available at www.stayitalia.com.
While not a large town, Panzano has its own market every Sunday morning in the main square— Piazza Bucciarelli—until about 1 p.m. The market is a great place to pick up fresh produce, fabulous cheeses, hot roast chicken, pasta and sauces, clothing, and household goods.
The stores in town including the Coop (supermarket), pharmacy, and smaller shops near the main square and on Via Giovanni de Verrazzano, the road that leads up the hill to Santa Maria Assunta, are also open on Sundays but only until 1 p.m. There is also a much bigger weekly market in nearby Greve on Saturday mornings.
The town of Panzano is home to perhaps the most famous butcher in the world—the colorful, Dante- reciting Dario Cecchini www.dariocecchini.com. His Antica Macelleria Cecchini is technically a butcher shop but really so much more. Walk into his macelleria on a Sunday morning and it’s like there’s a party going on. He has a great spread of complimentary appetizers including his famous “Tuscan butter” (lardo), salamis, cheeses, olive oil, bread and wine.
In addition to superb meats ready for your grill or oven, it is possible to purchase prepared dishes like porchetta—a delicious roast pork dish, polpetti—giant meatballs, and other local specialties for a picnic or easy meal at home. Service is friendly and English is spoken—Dario’s wife is a Californian. The ever-accommodating Dario is often willing to pose for photographs for international visitors who make the pilgrimage to Panzano to see him.
Dario also has several restaurants: Solociccia, which is Tuscan slang for “only meat” and features cuts of beef from top to tail; Solociccino is a mini version of Solociccia and open for lunch only; Officina della Bistecca showcases sensational steaks including the famous Bistecca Fiorentina; and Dario DOC—which serves lunch from Monday through Saturday and is the only Dario restaurant where reservations are not required. All of the restaurants serve family style, multi course, prix fix meals, and while famous for top quality meat, vegetarian options are offered.
The butcher shop and restaurants draw people from around the globe-a lot of people. Dario’s Sunday lunches are especially popular so book in advance if you’d like to partake in these multi course extravaganzas. In the warm weather diners are served outside on long communal tables. We’ve met interesting people from all over the world at these delicious, leisurely meals. Dario also offers classes/workshops in butchery, which must be reserved in advance. All the details for the shop, restaurants and classes are at www.dariocecchini.com.
Wine tasting is a popular Tuscan past time and Panzano is a marvelous place to indulge in this pleasure. There are three wine bars or enoteca on or across from the main piazza—Enoteca Baldi at 25 Piazza Bucciarelli, Misticoteca at 13 Piazza Bucciarelli, and the newest, Il Cardo www.enotecailcardo.com at 50 Piazza Bucciarelli. These are all about a three-minute walk (or less) from one another.
Enoteca Baldi and Il Cardo offer a selection of light foods to accompany your wine. Misticoteca, whose delightful owner Misty always has a warm welcome for visitors, has olive oils, specialty foods and gift items available for purchase. There almost always seems to be a crowd there.
We were fortunate to have our recent visit coincide with the Giro d’Italia—a major bicycle race—and its attendant 15 Giorni di Rosa or 15 Days of Pink—an exhaustive calendar of public events ranging from bicycle themed films, musical concerts, theatrical performances, free lectures, and of course, wine tastings.
The events were held in Radda, where the race would begin; Castellina in Chianti, San Donato, Panzano, through which the race passed; and Greve, where the race would end.
The day before the race, Unione Viticoltori de Panzano in Chianti presented Vino al Vino Miniatura www.vinoalvinopanzano.com, a smaller version of the wine tasting event the group hosts every September. All members of the organization had their wines available for tasting.
Wineries represented at that festive Saturday afternoon event included Fontodi, Il Molino di Grace, Casaloste, La Massa, Cennatoio, Fattoria la Quercia, Tenuta degli Dei and Castello dei Rampolla, among other local producers, 20 in total by my count. A souvenir glass and the opportunity to taste all of the delicious wines on offer cost just 10 Euro. There was live music in the Piazza Bucciarelli as well as local art on display to keep participants entertained while they sipped.
We visited Fontodi www.fontodi.com and Il Molino di Grace www.ilmolinodigrace.com for wine tastings on this visit, and have toured and tasted at many others over the years. Visit www.vinoalvinopanzano.com for a list of local wineries, touring/tasting/direct sales availability, and other information.
Contact wineries directly to make arrangements for private tours and wine tastings prior to arriving in Tuscany. Some are open to the public and some are not. Some offer complimentary tastings and some charge a fee.
Panzano is also a fine place to have custom shoes, belts and hand bags made by local leather artisan Carlo Fagiani www.carlofagiani.com; visit a gallery that specializes in local artists’ work (we enjoyed a photography exhibition by Jeferson Silva Castellari and purchased one of his photographs on canvas); pick up antique or modern hardware; stop into a beautiful church– Santa Maria Assunta, which has a painting of the Annunciation attributed to Ghirlandaio and a 14th century Madonna from Botticini; or just relax with a coffee at our favorite bar, Caffe la Curva (it’s called Bar of the Curve because that’s where it is), or stop by for gelato and apperitivi later in the day.
However you chose to spend your time in this beautiful place, enjoy la dolce vita in Italia and perhaps you’ll understand why we’ve returned to Panzano in Chianti again and again.