From Lavender in Castellina to a 1000 year old abbey to a bench in the midst of the Tignanello vineyards

There are many very unusual places to visit in the territory of Chianti Classico outside the route usuallly travelled by visitors.
These places are unique both from the cultural and landscape point of view. They change according to the season and are hidden to the less attentive visitor.

When they are revealed, they lend an air of authenticity and allow us to bring home an authentic piece of Chiatni. Here are some places to visit if you want to see Chianti as a native.

In Castellina in Chianti…lavender takes the place of vineyards

We start in Castellina in Chianti with a grower who preferred “herbs” to vineyards. We are at the Casalvento Farm at the beginning of town arriving from San Donato in Poggio.

Here, the owner, Lorenzo Domini, together with his wife Donata and son Alessandro, continue a tradition born 50 years ago and named “Lavanda del Chianti”.

The plant is grown and distilled in an artisan’s workshop which also uses technology. Lavander colors and perfumes this corner of Chianti.

Between June and July the flowering is spectacular. They don’t grow only lavender. There are Iris, “rose di Damasco”, “muschio di quercia”, sage, and rosemary from which they obtain essential oils and aromatic water. In the middle of the galestro rock we find varied rows everywhere. In the background, on a clear day, you can see half of Tuscany. The Etruscan road used to pass through here.

The magic of the centuries old Badia a Passignano Abbey and the Pesci Chapel

If you take the road that goes from Castellina in Chianti and pass San Donato, going down towards Sambuca and then climbing up the road again, you will arrive at one of the magic locales of this territory. It is the Badia a Passignano with its “Abbazia (abbey) di San Michele Arcangelo.

You arrive on a narrow road surrounded by stone walls. You can then see a unique site; the Abbey surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. We are in the middle of the new “Area Naturalistica Protetta’ (Anpil), in the center of a splendid walking and trekking route.

There are more than 100 species of animals living here, between mammals and birds. Rare animals and those of particular scientific interest are reproduced: the ‘quercino’ mouse, the minor woodpecker (the smallest in Europe) and the ”moscardino”.

Here we also find a heterogeneous biodiversity regarding species of flora which speak of the past history of the Abbey.

One time the climate was less temperate and closer to the environment of the Appenines. Most representative of this is the presence of the Giglio (iris) di San Giovanni and the “Maggiociondolo”, respectively flower and tree essence.

These animals and plants surround the monastery belonging to the Vallombrosa monks. Here, already in the 11th century, thanks to San Giovanni Gualberto (who died here in 1047), the monastic rule was adopted. It merits a visit.

You can admire the quiet and holiness of the place. It was in the Badia di San Michele Arcangelo a Passignano where, after a decade of restoration in the marvelous monastic refectory, you can find the frescoes of the “Last Supper” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, with two scenes created by Bernardo Rosselli in the pulpit. They contain stone elements and antique plaster.

A bit outside of Badia a Passignano is another extraordinary site, the Pesci Chapel. Here, San Giovanni Gualberto ordered some converted brothers to go fishing at the font of Camugnana, 2 kilometers from the abbey, in a place where fish had never been seen.

Instead, they found 2 large pike as recounted in the biography of Saint Andrea di Parma. The pikes were served to the visiting Pope. But the Badia water was not only known for its fertility.

The fountain was considered miraculous and cured even those who were terminally ill. One of these, don Jacopo Mindria da Bibbiena, had the Cappella dei Pesci built in 1510 as a witness to his cure and to offer thanks.

The bench facing the beautiful Tignanello

Going back up the hills towards Montefiridolfi you can visit a lovely corner which faces the most famous vineyards in the world, those which produce Tignanello wine by Marchesi Antinori.

We are along the road which leads from Campoli to Tignanello. Here is a bench where you can sit and admire a marvelous panorama.

It is called the “panchina di Max”, in memory of Massimo De Marin. It faces the “Casacce” farm in via della Villa Tignanello.