If you’re partial to a drop of Chianti, there’s no better time than the Autumn for a driving tour by sportscar around the Tuscan vineyards, where the mighty grapes are grown. Hiring a luxury car can make exploring this stunning region of Italy even more memorable…
Touring the Tuscan countryside and stopping off at vineyards, castles and picturesque medieval towns, and UNESCO world heritage sites, may not see you clocking up the miles in your luxury hire car, but that’s not the point. This is all about savouring the pleasure at a more languid pace.
For your self-drive tour of Tuscany, opt for a supercar, Italian, obviously – either a Lamborghini or a Ferrari rental. Whilst there won’t be vast amounts of opportunity to let her roar, she will be at home on rustic roads and parked – Instagram perfect – in picturesque vineyards.
It doesn’t really matter which way you drive: whether you opt to set up base in Florence or at the southern tip of the wine region in Siena, your pace should be as chilled as your Vin Santo.
A Tuscany driving tour is more about soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the local produce although driving your Ferrari rental through the beautiful Tuscan countryside is an experience itself.
Many vineyards are now resorts in themselves, so if you really want to enjoy what’s on offer, book hotels or B&Bs either on site or in the nearest village. There’s plenty to do beyond eating and wine tasting, with many hotels offering luxury spas and even golf courses.
Located in central Italy, Tuscany’s first city is Florence and it’s here we recommend you start your tour. Florence with its cultural and artistic heritage, architecture and history will easily (and happily) take up a day or two of your time.
Explore the mighty Florence Cathedral with its 16th century frescos, and to fully appreciate the Duomo, climb the 463 steps to the top of the cupola. The main square Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, the home of the Medici family, is the epitome of the Florentine Renaissance.
No visit to Tuscany is complete without a visit to the famous Italian town and its leaning tower. Be sure to at least drive by on your way to the wine country.
You can drive from Florence directly south to Siena – where you’ll find yourself in Chianti territory as soon as you drive your Lamborghini or Ferrari over the A1 motorway as you head south from Florence on the SS222. Following this road also means you’ll pass through scenic countryside and beautiful Italian villages. If your trip is in September, you can also lap up the Vino al Vino wine festival which takes place in Panzano.
If you want to enjoy the countryside taking in vineyards and castles then follow the first part of the Eroica route south from Gaiole. The Eroica is a vintage bicycle race that takes place in October, but the route is permanently marked and is accessible to cars.
Here’s our pick of top Tuscan vineyards – you are absolutely spoiled for choice:
1. Antinori Chianti Classico
Around 13 miles from Florence as you head to Siena is this state of the art vineyard Antinori winery, near San Casciano Val di Pesa, set among olive groves. It is on both The Telegraph’s pick of top vineyards and Decanter’s Top 10 Tuscan vineyards to visit list. The Antinori family has been making wine since 1385 and the new winery, which opened in 2013, incorporates a wine making museum, book shop and art collection.
A huge tourist attraction where coach loads of visitors disembark on regular basis, but well worth a visit.
2. Castello di Ama
Celebrated Gaiole winery, Castello di Ama houses a contemporary art collection and produces the wonderful Italian merlot L’Apparita. Tours are around an hour and a half and include the art, the village, the vines and tastings of four of the estate’s stellar wines, such as the Haiku Chianti Classico, and you can also sample its olive oil.
3. Badia a Coltibuono
With vines originally planted by Vallombrosan monks, this Coltibuono vineyard has an 11th century abbey at its heart. Ancient cellars and a Renaissance garden make this one to visit and with self-catering apartments on site, you can take your time to appreciate its produce.
Run by British winemaker Sean O’Callaghan, the Riecine estate can be found just outside the town of Gaiole. A visit includes historic Sangiovese vineyards, the wine cellars, and a tasting of the entire range – a rosé, three reds, a dessert wine and the estate’s olive oil.
5. Castello di Nipozzano
Artists such as Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi visited the 1,000-year-old castle built to protect Florence to buy their wine. Nipozzano is a working olive farm with an on-site olive press. Tours of the vineyard are recommended by wine writer and travel agent Filipp Bartolotta, include the cellars, tasting room and stunning views across the countryside.
Also on Bartolotta’s top 10 is Capezzana, an estate that has been producing wine and extra-virgin olive oil since 804. The family has recently opened its wine bar called La Vinsantaia, where informal wine tastings take place.
Overlooking Montepulciano, Salcheto is a definite on the list for those who want to back eco-friendly businesses. The first self-sufficient winery in Europe, most of Salcheto’s energy comes from renewable sources and recycled winery materials. Certified as organic, the new winery was completed in 2011.
8. Livernano and Casalvento
If you love a rags to riches story, visit Casalvento, which was bought by Bob Cuillo, a poor boy from the Bronx who went on to own one of the largest car dealerships in the US in 1997. Five years later, he purchased the neighbouring old Livernano village which he turned into a country resort.
9. Biondi Santi – Tenuta il Greppo
Biondi Santi is one of the world’s most famous wineries, and the first Brunello di Montalcino was bottled here in 1888. Located high up in the hills of Montalcino, the ancient, rocky clay, Tuscan galestro, is the best soil to cultivate Sangiovese grapes. The wines are aged up to three years in big Slavonian oak casks.
10. Castiglion del Bosco
Built in 1100 in the Orica valley, a UNESCO world heritage site, the estate was turned into a winery producing modern-style Brunello just 11 years ago. It includes two restaurants, a spa and a prestigious golf course. In Decanter’s top 10, it recommends a visit to the Campo del Drago vineyard – one of the most picturesque in Italy.