Trekking in Chianti

In the last several months, I have been searching high and low for winery maps of the Chianti Classico region.  I finally found the perfect ones online, created by wine enthusiast Alessandro Masnaghetti.  After contacting Mr. Masnaghetti himself, as well as his English and American distributors, I finally found the regional maps I wanted to purchase – Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, and Panzano in Chianti.  Although all of these are major wine towns in the Chianti region, I was a little embarrassed that we were buying these maps and we’d never actually been there to see the cities or taste their wines.  This weekend, we decided to change that!  We found Gaiole in Chianti’s tourist office online and they provided some wonderful information about hiking in the region, so we set off to take in the sites.  Unfortunately, 11 miles and some 5 hours later, our legs were exhausted and we were too tired to go wine tasting.  The Chianti trekking experience wasn’t difficult, but it was long and hot.  Really hot.  Nevertheless, we’ve tested the waters and will definitely return.

Gaiole in Chianti hiking map

We chose the most remote and longest (of course!) path on the map, the number two yellow route.  A few days ago, we signed up for the “Trekking Italia” group in Firenze and we will join them for our first group hike next weekend.  Figuring our bodies needed some conditioning so we didn’t get left behind by some Italian retirees, we justified our rather rigorous path today.  We parked in front of the local library in Gaiole in Chianti, bought some panini(s) for the hike, and started the 18 km (11.1 mile) journey.

View of the town of Barbischio in the distance

We started on a paved road in Gaiole in Chianti, which turned into a dirt road in the town of Barbischio, which later turned into a horse path.  In all, we climbed 407 meters, or 1335 feet.  We hiked pretty slow because we wanted to take photos and snack along the way. :)

These would have come in handy in some of the muddy spots…if only they were in my size!

Medieval tower in Barbischio

There are vineyards as far as the eye can see

…and lots and lots of wildflowers

After just the first 20 minutes, it was too hot and Bobby had already sweat through his shirt.  See the backpack-shaped stain?  Excellent.

Hard to see…but trust me, there was a large stain

We were thrilled to see the forest, as it would be a welcome respite from the heat.  However, this is where we encountered some of nature’s “beasts.”  On every menu in Tuscany, there is something called “cinghale,” or wild boar.  We always wondered where they got all boars.  Well, we started to see hunting signs and it led us to believe we might be heading through cinghale territory.  Not five minutes later, we heard some loud snorting and saw two very large boars and two piglets run across the hiking path about 15 feet in front of us.  I did have my camera in hand, but I think I was too stunned to do anything.  We stood paralyzed, in fear that the boars might hear us, turn around, and charge.  We had cell phone service, so just in case, I Googled “what to do if you see a wild boar.” Really, I did.  Turns out, you are supposed to confidently walk away, talking to it/them in a soothing voice.  Most of the time, boars don’t attack unless they are threatened.  I was still a little scared as “most of the time” still wasn’t particularly reassuring at that point.  Nearby, Bobby found a large stick (more like a tree limb) and we pulled out our pepper spray just in case.  Luckily for us, our new friends didn’t return, but I felt pretty uneasy walking through the rest of the forest, jumping at every rustle I heard along the way.

Here’s where the fun began

For those of you that don’t know what cinghiale look like:

They are larger than they appear

And this is why they are scary!

Back out in the light/heat, I felt a little calmer.  I particularly enjoyed seeing all the roses along the way.  Why put roses at the end of vines, you ask?  Both roses and grape vines are susceptible to the same diseases.  Actually, roses act as early warning of mildew, which is a fungal disease.  If the farmers see signs of the fungal diseases in the rose bushes, they know they must treat their grapevines right away.

Beautiful

Red variety

…and pink!

More vineyards along the way

This is the tower of Barbischio…we are almost back!

After our pretty long hike, our bodies were feeling it.  We decided to take a driving tour of some of the nearby towns (instead of getting around and walking around).  Radda in Chianti in particular had a lovely historical center.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any shots, but I did get some photos of the beautiful landscape surrounding the town.

Radda in Chianti vineyards

Looking down on the valley from the old part of town