Things to see
Radda in Chianti
Located in the Chianti region is Radda, a beautiful medieval town resting on a hill top between the valleys of Arbia and Pesa. The area has been inhabited by the Etruscans as far back as 2000 BCE, and a document from the 2nd century confirms the existence of a settlement named Radda. In the subsequent centuries, the settlement grew into a village, leading to the birth of a feudal society and the construction of medieval fortifications, some of which can still be seen today. When Radda eventually fell into the hands of the Republic of Florence in the 13th century, the town became the capital of the Chianti League as well as the seat of the Florentine governor, who lived in the beautiful Palazzo del Podestà. The historical centre was badly damaged during World War II but it has since been renovated and restored. The nearby Church of San Niccolò, which was also damaged and restored, is an ancient Romanesque church first built in the 13th century, with various improvements and extensions occurring over the years and giving it its present appearance.
Close to the town square is a more recent and curious monument: the Ghiacciaia of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Built in the 19th century, this peculiar pyramid-shaped construction served as an ice box, preserving snow and turning it into ice.
Not far from this square is the Grand Duke’s Ice house, built at the end of the 19th century to preserve snow and turn it into ice. The Museum of Sacred Art of Chianti deserves a visit. Set in the Franciscan Convent of Santa Maria in Prato, it displays several works of art from the Chianti region, including a valuable polyptich by Neri di Bicci (1474) depicting the Virgin Mary with child and saints.
In the surroundings of Radda you’ll find many castles and parish churches, such as the medieval Castle of Volpaia and the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria in Prato with beautiful flowered capitals in the Romanesque style.
Today, Radda in Chianti and its surroundings are famous destinations for relaxing holidays in Tuscany. Several restaurants and wine shops in town offer excellent Tuscan dishes and the opportunity to taste the Chianti Classico DOC produced in the area. A quick stop at the tourism office within Radda will help you find the nearest winery open for tastings on the particular day you visit.
Gaiole in Chianti
The city of Gaiole in Chianti is another important city within the Chianti Classico region, located along the river Massellone and on the road connecting Chianti to Valdarno. Thanks to this position, Gaiole has always played an important role as market center for the castles and towns nearby.
I have to say that the main attractions in Gaiole in Chianti are the wineries in its surroundings. Since it was a marketplace, it never had the need for defensive walls such as those in Radda in Chianti. In fact, its center was destroyed and rebuilt many times, and few buildings have been preserved from the past.
Despite this relative “newness”, I still recommend a stop in Gaiole for a short walk before moving on to your next destination. In fact, the real attractions of Gaiole, beyond its Chianti Classico wine, are its surroundings which include beautiful castles and parish churches.
Among the most beautiful is the Parish Church of Spaltenna, displaying a valuable 15th century crucifix, the Castle of Vertine,a small medieval walled village, and the Abbey of Coltibuono, a former monastery now turned into a wine estate.
Another important castle in the area I highly recommend visiting is the Castello di Brolio. Founded by Longobards, it has been home to the noble Ricasoli family since the 12th century who has produced wine for centuries. Descendants of the family still live in the castle so while you can’t visit the castle, I recommend you visit the gardens from where you can admire the breathtaking view of Chianti with the city of Siena at the horizon