From the time of the Etruscans
To the south of Florence, you will come to a small village perched on a hillside. Rows of vines add colour to the surrounding countryside, while ochre walls . An air of purity and tranquillity seems to preside here – welcome to Panzano. The place has been inhabited since time immemorial: in fact, the first traces of human habitation date back to Etruscan times, as evidenced by a stele that was found from the 6th to 5th century BCE. Way back then, this civilisation understood that this region, with its bountiful nature, would make an ideal place to live.
Since then, the Romans, regional leagues and Italians followed on from each other, yet the Tuscan countryside has remained the same, like a picture postcard frozen forever in time. As you arrive in the village, it is easy to imagine the vineyards being prepared and then the grapes and olives being harvested down through the centuries. This land is ingrained with the age-old labours of man and that is part of its charm.
Once you reach the top of the hill, take a look at the remains of the castle which dates back to the 12th century. True, its thick walls and medieval architecture with machicolations were damaged, even destroyed, during the many violent conflicts that took place on Tuscan soil. But just from the sheer size of the remaining corner towers and some of its defensive walls, you get an idea of Panzano's strategic importance. The place was the scene of clashes between Florence and Siena in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. Difficult to imagine the battles that took place there, though: the old stones, the rustle of trees and valleys covered with olive trees and vineyards below provide you with a sense of calm and harmony.
Make the most of your time here to visit the Santa Maria Assunta church whose bell tower is built into one of the castle's renovated corner towers. The central porch sits at the top of a few easy-to-climb steps. Completely rebuilt in brick and stone in the 19th century on the site of the original church, it houses a 14th-century painting of the Madonna and Child. It is a masterpiece of delicacy and expressiveness. You will also admire a poplar polychrome statue of Christ on the cross from the very early 16th century, attributed to Jacopo Sansovino, and a scene from the Annunciation painted in the workshop of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, also dating from the Renaissance.
Église Santa Maria
Via della Celluzza 2
Panzano in Chianti
A land of plenty
When you have visited the above, it is time to take a stroll through the village streets. You come to the main square, Piazza Bucciarelli, lined with small shops. In the middle of the square, there is a pond where a statue stands tall, brandishing a bunch of grapes in her hand – a tribute to local wine production. If you are in town on a Sunday, linger a while in the weekly outdoor market. A palette of colours and flavours is on show to delight lovers of good local produce. It is a spectacle of sun-ripened vegetables, flowers and local cheeses to accompany a fine cut of meat from Dario Cecchini. But let us make this clear: Dario is no ordinary butcher. Panzano born and bred, he is famous throughout the world for his expertise in the trade and for his commitment to quality breeding, respecting both the animal and its environment. Today, his Antica Macelleria (butcher's shop) is a linchpin in the life of the village, run by a master butcher who loves to put on a show! You cannot miss it as its facade is painted in striking red and white stripes. If you do not have the facilities to prepare your own meals, you can also buy his homemade dishes which showcase the best of traditional Tuscan cuisine.
Via XX Luglio, 11
Panzano in Chianti
+39 055 852020
The wide Chianti family
The area around Panzano is the cradle of Chianti wine and it owes its prosperity to it to a great extent. Today, the name Chianti Classico distinguishes it from other Chianti appellations with more extensive and lower quality production. After discovering what the village has to offer, take a walk through the vine-covered hillsides. Whatever the season, the scenery is stunning with bright, picture-perfect views in all directions. Among the thirty or so family-run vineyards in the area around Panzano, the one belonging to the Alessi family – Gabriella, Leandro and their son Emiliano – enjoys an excellent reputation which extends far beyond the Italian border. The estate is called Cennatoio. Make sure you let them know you are coming; you will get a great reception. On the way, you can see the building with its red facades in the distance. A striking touch of colour nestled amidst the vines, cypresses and olive trees.
At the estate, the owners will share all their passion for this hard and stony land which is particularly well adapted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese Grosso grape varieties. They will also explain how they were ahead of the curve when focusing on well-grounded and certified organic grape cultivation. Furthermore, Panzano hosts the annual Organic Wine Festival which attracts an international audience converted to this principled method of production. So, put your trust in them as they help you sample an O'leandro, an Etrusco or a Sogno dell'uva, a highly sought-after wine with under 2,000 bottles produced each year. With a bit of concentration, you will detect the body and roundness of these award-winning wines; with a bit more training, but always in moderation, your nose will recognise the aromas of violet and black cherry.
Via San Leolino, 35
Panzano in Chianti
+39 055 85.21.34
Art in all its forms in Panzano
With its rich history, it was only natural that over the centuries Panzano has become the focal point of an intense cultural scene where art, spirituality and ecology meet. The village's churches house art treasures dating from the Renaissance. Besides Santa Maria Assunta, you must visit Pieve di San Leolino with its cloisters, 15th-century triptych and two glazed tabernacles attributed to Giovanni della Robbia, a renowned Renaissance ceramist and sculptor.
However, Panzano does not only cultivate its historic heritage; art continues to come to life in its most contemporary forms. In the heart of the village, you will come across the gallery of Jan Praet. There, under ancient vaulted ceilings, you will discover a collection of modern and abstract paintings as well as a series of delicate bronze sculptures. You may very well come across the artist himself working on one of his creations; a very special moment indeed.
“Art is in the soul of the people of Panzano” as Dario Cecchini likes to remind us. On his initiative and starting this year, the village will host the Panzano Arte festival every summer, conceived as an artistic trail through the village and surrounding area. Each year, a contemporary and renowned artist is given carte blanche. The only watchword is that art and nature become as one. And so, artistic creations, predominantly sculptures, mingle with the green landscapean eminently bucolic atmosphere. In addition, four great wine estates – Fontodi, Renzo Marinai, Tenuta Casenuove and La Massa – are taking part in the event. In this way, vineyards turn into a kind of exhibition space. In Panzano, wine production, fine food and art come together for your greatest pleasure.
Jan Praet Art Gallery/Studio
Piazza Bucciarelli, 39,
Panzano in Chianti
+39 339 870 2628
Panzano in Chianti
Every summer, from the end of June to mid-September (as of 2019)