Panzano in Chianti is located in Tuscany, midway between Florence and Siena. It’s a tiny place, and most people come to have dinner at Mac Darios. I spent about five days visiting a friend, and enjoying some of the best views in Chianti – not to mention there are some pretty interesting people that call Panzano home.
I filled my carry-on with stories of the local people and photographs of the hillsides blanketed with olive orchards, vineyards, and wildflowers. Panzano may be small, but I returned home with an abundance of memories and a few good photos. Here are my recommendations on what to see and do in Panzano, illustrated in pictures.
Every Italian city has an important church or duomo. Panzano is a hill town and the church, Santa Maria Assunta sits next to a castle at the highest point in the city. After all, what’s a castle if you can’t see who’s coming to visit long before they can see you?
On the corner in front of the church is Il Vinaio – Enoteca and Pub, one of a handful of restaurants in Panzano. It’s a great place for a casual meal, a cappuccino, or to buy a pack of cigarettes. I ate my lunch sitting outside in this pretty little garden. And yes, they speak English. Be sure to ask for Brian.
A few doors down (in my opinion), is the most interesting place in Panzano, Accademia del Buon Gusto. The owner, Stefano Salvatori, has created this unique and eclectic space where you can not only taste the local wines, there is also olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and local honey. The only problem is you will want to take it all home with you – that’s what UPS is for.
By far the best thing about Accademia del Buon Gusto, is Stefano. His love of life emanates from his sparkling blue eyes and his easy smile. Stefano is the kind of person who never meets a stranger and is happy to share wine and philosophy, as long as you care to stay.
The first Sunday of each month, there is an outdoor market with produce, cheeses, antiques, hand-made soaps, olive oil, honey, fresh produce and most anything else you can think of. All of the cheese, olive oil and honey vendors offered tastings. The market begins in Piazza Bucciarelli, and continues up the hill towards the church. I coveted a globe from the 1970’s with colorful, graphic, constellations. There was also a nice selection of vintage jewelry.
Mac Darios is a happening spot in Panzano, especially on the weekends. People come from all over the Italy, indeed all over the world, to eat, drink, talk, and just enjoy the scene at L’ Antica Macelleria Cecchini. There’s always an antipasti spread, and wine served from straw wrapped bottles. I had to pass Dario’s every day as I walked towards Piazza Bucciarelli. One day I heard Slave To Love, by Bryan Ferry blasting from inside. That got my attention. It was a combination of wine and music that evoked memories and emotions long forgotten. I just didn’t expect it to happen while passing by the butcher’s shop! I don’t really eat meat outside of an occasional slice of salumi but if you are a carnivore, or just enjoy a good party, this is the place for you. Mac Darios is the restaurant across the street. Probably best to make a reservation.
This was the view from my friend’s place one foggy morning. I remember seeing the fog rolling in, and not knowing at first what it was. I thought it was smoke from a fire in the distance. It kept growing and swirling around like a living thing. I think it’s the first time in my life I’d seen fog like that.
Of course the story would not be complete without a stop at a vineyard. There are many to choose from. It seems around every turn there was a sign announcing another vineyard. This lovely vista was a five minute walk from my friends’ house. Just drive until you see something interesting, you can’t go wrong.
Finally, I have to thank my friend David, for extending the invitation and providing the opportunity for me to see another side of Italy. Some of the most interesting people in the world either live in Panzano, or travel there on a regular basis. If you need a great driver check out his website:
Follow Your Nose.