Greve-in-Chianti: A Wine Market Town

Although situated midway between the two important cultural centers of Florence and Siena, Greve-in-Chianti has retained its own unique character and architecture. A wide variety of historic residences, churches and castles built between the 5th and the 15th centuries remain in the town and in the surrounding hills, most of them exhibiting the dry stone wall construction typical of the area. Many of these have been converted into wine vaults.

Noteworthy are the Castello di Uzzano and the Castello Vichiomaggio, where the owners offer tastings of their excellent wines and local cuisine. But the largest winery in Greve can be found at Castello di Verrazzano, once the home of Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first European to glimpse today’s Manhattan Island.

Born in Greve in 1485, Verrazzano was educated in Florence and soon after became a navigator. In 1523 he was commissioned by Francis I, king of France, to find a passage to Asia with the expectation of providing the king direct access to trade with the Orient. Verrazzano’s ship La Dauphine set sail in January of 1524 and, in early March, reached the coast of North Carolina at Cape Fear. He continued his voyage north as far as Nova Scotia, exploring the eastern seashore of North America and along the way visiting the bays of New York and Narragansett – fascinating discoveries indeed, if still a good deal short of the Orient Sea.

A magnificent monument honoring Verrazzano can be found in New York City’s Battery Park. It is seen by thousands every day who take the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The six-lane upper deck of the huge bridge spanning the entrance to New York harbor joining Staten Island and Brooklyn was opened in 1964 and named the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge in honor of the Italian explorer. And Greve-in-Chianti, not to be outdone, has erected its own formidable statue of Verrazzano to grace the town’s main piazza.

In Greve’s Church of Santa Croce there is a fine collection of paintings by the school of Fra Angelico as well as a 15th century diptych by Bicci di Lorenzo. Each week on Saturday morning the open market in the town square offers locally grown produce, as well as the standard fare of all contemporary Italian open markets: cheap household goods from China (Verrazzano, take note!). And in September, Greve hosts the largest wine festival in the Chianti region where far more than just a potable plonk can be enjoyed.

On the outskirts of Greve-in-Chianti is the Benedictine Abbey of Badia di Passignano; its monks belong to the Vallombrosian Order. Since medieval times they have devoted their days to scientific research in classical literature and musical texts, while at the same time tending their famous vineyards.

In 1932, the production area of the Chianti wines was officially expanded, with Greve at the center of this new production.  This included production of the so-called Super Tuscan wines that use distinctive combinations of grapes or specialized varieties of the Sangiovese grape. The region also supports other types of agriculture and food production, including olive oil, truffles, pork products (including wild boar or cinghiale) and game.

The surrounding countryside is especially attractive for the way that human impact is integrated into the natural landscape, and thus makes an ideal setting for walking and hiking tours, such as our Chianti Walking Tour and our Walking Among Tuscany’s Hilltowns tour.