For centuries, Florence has been a magnet for travellers from all over the world – and while most come for its unrivalled Renaissance architecture, few leave without embracing the wine scene. The connection between the two is surprisingly deep-rooted, Tuscan wine producers having financed, built or owned some of the grandest palazzi of the historic centre.
Florence’s stunning 13th-century cathedral, famed for its vast, sweeping dome, is a focal point at the heart of the city and dominates the skyline from a great distance. Still today, the wine used at the most important masses is a sweet vin santo from the Chianti Classico area just south of the city.
Where to stay
Oscar-winning A Room with a View was filmed at the riverside Hotel degli Orafi by Ponte Vecchio bridge. Its spacious rooftop bar is a peaceful oasis, also open to non-guests, and serves intensely fragrant Chianti Classico from the owners’ historic Ormanni winery, where farmhouse accommodation is also available.
Where to eat
Florence has a great many relaxed trattorias serving local specialities such as tasty stews and soups, pasta and steaks. Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, a local lunchtime favourite,
is one of several around the Mercato Centrale. Heading towards the river Arno, on the ground floor of majestic Palazzo Antinori, home to the illustrious winemaking family for more than 600 years, at Cantinetta Antinori wine is the focus. The seasonal restaurant menu offers seafood and Florentine dishes including T-bone steaks, while the wine bar provides tastings and serves platters including charcuterie from Antinori’s own estate-raised speciality breed Cinta Senese pigs. Across the river, on the way to the Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint, the friendly Enoteca Fuori Porta is also popular for its crostini and pici pasta with wild boar, and especially for its extensive, ever-changing list of wines.
Where to drink
Near Mercato Centrale, old-style Fratelli Zanobini, run by the Zanobini family since 1944, is one of the city’s many wine bar-shops. No food is served and there’s little seating, but it’s perfect for a glass, perhaps of their own Chianti Classico, after visiting the market. Among the many options in the Oltrarno district, just south of the river, Obsequium has about 2,000 wines, roughly half Tuscan reds, both well-known classics and from small-scale wineries. Try a thematic tasting or enjoy a bottle with a platter of Tuscan Pecorino cheeses.
Places to visit
Twenty kilometres south of Florence, the contemporary Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery built into the hills couldn’t be in greater contrast to the monumental city-centre Palazzo Antinori. Still in Chianti Classico, the family also runs the striking Badia a Passignano abbey estate, with its Michelin one-star Osteria, and low-key countryside resort Fonte de’ Medici at the heart of the Tignanello estate where the celebrated SuperTuscan is made.
Despite its fame, the Chianti Classico area between Florence and Siena maintains an authentic, rural charm with quiet villages, rows of vines patchworking the hills, abundant woodland and postcard-pretty stone farmhouses, many of which offer accommodation, tastings or meals. Just south of Greve in Chianti, where Expo Chianti Classico is held in the distinctive triangular piazza each September, one of the loveliest is Il Palagio di Panzano at Panzano. Monia Piccini, who grew up here, runs the winery and agriturismo with her husband Franco who restored the furniture, while Monia’s father renovated the centuries-old stone farmhouse set in a gorgeous panoramic garden. Book to stay or for a lunchtime tasting with food pairings to try characterful Sangiovese Chianti Classico from their 6ha under vine.
Closer to Florence, Fiesole is an easy trip from the city (20 minutes to the northeast by bus). Opposite Fiesole cathedral with its landmark tower, Bibi Graetz’s winery occupies a stylishly converted former hotel. Take a private tour to see where the artist’s old-vine red wines are made and try them along with white Ansonica from his Tuscan islands vineyards.