There are so many little towns and communities dotted around the Italian countryside, you are spoiled each time you venture out for the day. One amazing little place we stumbled across was Chiusdino, just under an hour from Siena and ninety minutes from Florence.
There were so many wonderful things to see on our trip around Italy and so many dog friendly ways to get to all the sites we wanted to see, or at least what we could fit in to three weeks. Although most of our travel was by car, local transit or on foot, we did break from our regular programming and rented a couple of Vespas to visit Chiusdino in the Siena region of Tuscany. Would this stop us from from bringing our dog along to enjoy the afternoon? A big ‘heck no’! Check out our fun little video of Tikka riding a Vespa in Tuscany:
As we settled into spending a few days in the Tuscan countryside after leaving Florence we found we weren’t short of fun dog friendly activities. Knowing that one of our days would be spent exploring the Siena countryside on Vespas with our dog Tikka with us we sought out an easy adventure to get her used to being carried in her new backpack.
We took a couple bikes out from our hotel (check back for an upcoming review) and traveled up the road a few miles to explore the surroundings and only 15 minutes into our trip we stopped at the incredible Abbey of San Galgano.
Once you turn off the main road, you are welcomed by an incredible row of cypress tress, leading you to the Abbey. It’s a fantastic spot for a leisurely picnic with your dog as it has everything: Open fields for having a good run around, gorgeous views, lots of quiet places to set up lunch, and a bit of history that you can absorb at your own pace with your dog right beside you.
The Abbey of Saint Galgano is nestled between the towns of Chiusdino and Monticiano, in the Siena province of Tuscany. It’s a beautiful Gothic structure built in the 13th century by the Cistercian Monks. The roof has long disappeared due to a history of looting and corruption (removing the lead supports to sell off) but this gives it a unique, open air quality to the structure as the sky opens above you when you stand in the middle of the Abbey looking upwards.
Located at the same spot, just up a little hill is the unusual round chapel Rotanda di Montesiepi and the tomb of Saint Galgano that form the Hermitage of Monte Siepi. It’s only a 10 minute walk up a wooded path and worth the visit to see the ‘real’ sword of the stone that some debate started the famous King Arthur legend. The sword is said to have been thrust into the stone on the day that Galgano retired from serving as a Knight and embraced a peaceful hermit’s life until his death in 1181.
Tikka did well with her first backpack ride as she quickly settled into watching the world go by as the humans had to use their legs. We were confident that she was ready for her Vespa adventure (photos and info on our day out with scooters coming in another week).
If you are in the Siena area of Italy (35km South West from Siena to The Abbey of San Galgano) and looking for an afternoon or a few hours to spend in the countryside with your dog we can give a big paws up to coming to this historic site. For more info and directions visit the San Galgano page at Discover Tuscany.
Looking for more info on Traveling around Italy with your dog? Here are some of our recent posts in our series:
“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
~ W.C. Fields
A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without a classic stop to visit a winery and have a long, slow meal in the Tuscan countryside. All made that much better by having our dog join us.
With our new city love Florence, Italy fading behind us, *sniff, we headed for our lunch date and tour of a beautiful winery in Tuscany. We left a bit early so that we could take our time driving through the country to get to the Grieve area of Chianti by 12pm. It’s under a one hour drive but we were glad we took the extra time as leaving Florence took some navigation skills to get onto the ring road and there were a couple wrong turns before we were solidly on our way. When you leave enough time, these ‘turns’ become mini adventures and without the stress of time you can enjoy the additional ramble through a newly found street.
The concierge’s suggestion to head to Greti along the A222 gets a big thumb’s up. This is what a road trip with your dog in Italy is all about. It’s a very scenic and pretty drive, through small villages and over hills with expansive views of vineyard after vineyard. Tuscany at it’s finest.
In just under an hour we were on the dirt road that takes you up to Castello di Verrazzano (The Castle of Verrazzano) to start our tour and sample their libations.We drove in as they were harvesting the grapes along the road and we felt like a travel brochure was coming to life through our car windows. What an amazing estate… picturesque in every way, from buildings to landscape to the Tuscan sun shining above it.
The castle is in the heart of the Chianti Classico region and is steeped in history. It was originally a Roman settlement, and is mentioned in a year 1150 manuscript for it’s 52 hectares of magnificent vineyards.
The Verrazzano family took over the property in the 7th century. Their family’s claim to fame is Giovanni da Verrazzano, an explorer who was born here in 1485 and later sailed off to discover the bay of New York along with other parts of the East Coast of the US.
It changed hands a few times and “in 1958 the Cappellini family took over the Castle on the road of decadence and brought it back it to its former glory by restoring the villa and rebuilding the agricultural tissue and the vineyards, according to an ancient model, respecting the historical and architectonic features of the place. Cavalier Cappellini understood since the beginning the importance of the history and the beauty of the Chianti area for a better promotion of farming productions. He laid the foundations for that awareness that inspired the institution of the Agritourism practice.”.
Tikka says “Enough history, on with the tour!” We headed out with our small group to explore the expansive gardens and ponds, buildings, ancient cellars and vineyards of the estate.
They welcomed Tikka into the tour and only asked that we pick her up when we were down in the cellars. She was as keen to explore the property as much as we were as I’m sure it was full of great smells, especially the salami curing along the rafters.
The guide was friendly and was full of interesting information on the the wine making process, taking us through each step, showing us the grapes and the amazing wooden barrels that make a Chianti wine so special. Verrazzano also produces olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and other products and it was neat to see everything in various stages of completion.
The tour ended at a huge tasting room for a beautiful wine pairing lunch. Plates came out with local salamis and ham, pasta, sausages, pork loin and salad, all balanced with their amazing range of Verrazzano wines. Although full, we squeezed in room for a taste of pecorino cheese drizzled with their incredible “Balsamico Verrazzano”. This is an aged balsamic vinegar that is as sweet as syrup that could be used as a topping for ice cream. No joke.
Tikka appreciated the afternoon nap next to us while we had lunch, and we appreciated that they accommodated her any way they could. Well, to a point. I’m sure she would have loved to hang out in the kitchen drooling while the pork loin was sizzling on the grill.
After stuffing ourselves stupid we had a little walk by the vineyard and took some pics around the property before heading off to our hotel in the Siena region of Tuscany, our next stop for a few days.
The afternoon was divine and all dog friendly – Castello di Verrazzano is a perfect mid way stop if you are going from Florence to Siena with your dog along for the ride.
Lots of different wineries open their doors to dogs, so don’t hesitate to bring your furry friend for a fun day out at a vineyard, just call ahead if you want to double check if they are allowed. Here is another great post from Bosco Abroad and their visit to a winery in the Piemonte area.
*This is part of a series of travelling around Italy with your dog. Check out our stay in Florence!
Following up from our first few days in Florence (part 1 here), the second half of our stay took us to a few different parks while we explored the Mercato Centrale, Oltrarno and Santo Spirito.
Our mornings continued with an early walk – easy to do when you are awake with jet lag. Coming from the lush rain forest of Vancouver, Tikka was perplexed with the lack of available grass and often gave us a look of ‘you expect me to pee on the street like an animal…?’ A male dog would have jumped right into marking the buildings and spots where dogs came before him but it took Tikka a bit of time and a full morning bladder to finally go with the flow like her Italian counterparts. There are some lovely dog friendly parks in Florence, but not necessarily outside your hotel when you are staying in the thick of the old city and need a pee.
Our ‘go to’ place just 5 min from our hotel was the grass in front of the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. It’s not too glamorous and was a busy area, but it was nicely maintained and everyone is really good about picking up dog poop. It was also a block from the more eye pleasing view of Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, famous for it’s decorative frescoes.
We also visited Piazza della Indipendenza in the San Lorenzo area, which has some nice open areas and a bit of grass and we had a lovely chat with a local lady while Tikka ‘conversed’ with her Dachshunds. This was the first time we were asked the reoccurring question throughout our trip in Italy. ‘Femmina o Maschio?’ Dog park conversations always begins here and I gather it’s from the amount of intact dogs, male and female. No matter the city, this was the icebreaker to chatting with a local on the street or in the park.
A good romp in the park left us with rumbly stomachs so a stop for lunch at the Mercato Centrale close by was a no brainer. This is an amazing dog friendly indoor market with vendors selling everything from apples to zabaglione on the bottom floor during the day and whole top floor is alive with little restaurants serving amazing food well into the evening. Tikka approved as it was a feast for her little eyes being close up and personal to the huge Florentine steaks and freshly caught fish.
You can stop for quick street food or sit down for a longer lunch. We settled on a huge array of salami and cheese, Tikka eyeing the goods across the aisle from under our table. Lunch conversation was all about how incredible it would be if our markets back home in Vancouver were as accessible for dogs. One can hope…
Another fun walk took us along the river, west of the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci. Upper part was a long peaceful path with quite a few dogs casually strolling along with their humans and on the way back we dropped to the bottom part to walk closer to the river. Not as tidy, but a good off leash area.
This side of the river, Oltrarno, is much less crowded, but a must for exploring. We took some time to check out the Santo Spirito area and stopped for drinks in Piazza Santo Spirito under the shadow of the Basilica of the same name. This area was highlighted in a great post from A Girl In Florence and we were glad we took the advice to visit. It is very much a local, artisan area with cheaper drinks and eats and more laid back than the squares around the larger tourist areas. Perfect for a dog to settle in for an afternoon snooze away from the crowds.
On our last morning in Florence we headed out for a good walk in the Santa Croce district before hitting the road. We stumbled across Giardino Alessandro Chelazzi, a cute neighbourhood dog park just a couple blocks south of Piazza dei Ciompi. Not a lot of grass, but a decent size, fenced, shady, and a really fun group of regulars. Very well maintained and there was even a modern statue to honour the canines that frequent this park. Lots of antique shops in the area, so spending a day window shopping in the area wouldn’t be hard to do.
After a decent visit with Tikka’s new friends we wound through the streets to the river and came to Parco Vita, a big green park with lots of shade next to the Ponte Niccolo bridge, right beside the water. A great place to have a really good tear around in the grass and some great views of the Arno River.
Energy depleted and ready for a nap in the car, we headed out of Florence late morning for our lunch date with a winery in Chianti. Wine tasting, full lunch, tour, all with Tikka right there with us… check out our amazing visit to Castello di Verrazzano.