We’ll let you in on a secret. The best time to visit Tuscany is not in the summer, with the hordes of tourists swarming Florence’s Duomo or lining up in front of the Uffizi for a glance at Michelangelo’s David. No, it is in the fall, when the vineyards in Italy are dripping with grapes and the wineries in Tuscany assemble to celebrate the vendemmia (wine harvest). A dream for any wine lover, here are the best wine festivals to visit in Tuscany.
Greve Chianti Expo
First week in September
You cannot visit Tuscany without sampling some chianti, the wine named for the region from which it hails. The best place to do this is during the Expo del Chianti Classico in Greve, Italy, one of the more important Italian wine festivals. Sample the smooth flowing product of more than 50 Chianti Classico wineries. You’ll also find amazing food, entertainment and even a flag throwing contest during the three-day festival. While you’re sipping one of the more steadfast wines of Italy, why not partake in one of the free lectures about the history of Chianti?
Imprenuta Wine Festival
Last Sunday in September
Imprenuta has been holding its wine festival since 1926, making it the longest running wine festival in Italy. The day is chock full of performances, dances and shows featuring the local agricultural products. The day culminates in a parade of floats; the four villages in Imprenuta — Fornaci, Pallò, Sant’Antonio and Sante Marie — build magnificent allegorical carts that imbue the parade with local character. While taking part in the festivities, don’t forget to sample some of the local food from one of the stalls… and of course sample the local Toscano IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wine offerings. The festival’s food stalls open at 11 a.m. and the parade begins at 3:30. Tickets are required for the parade so make sure to get them in advance!
Chiusi Wine Festival
Last weekend in September
The Chiusi Wine Festival is one of the premier wine tasting events in Tuscany. Not only do they offer guided wine and food tasting of the local wineries and historic points in town, but the festival offers concerts, parades and road shows all weekend.
Cinigiano Wine Festival
First weekend in October
The Cinigiano wine festival is the perfect excuse to visit this hidden gem of a village. Once a fortified town rising above the Tuscan landscape Cinigiano is also the headquarters for Tuscany’s Montecucco DOCG wines. Get ready to spend the whole weekend sipping fine Sangiovese wines and sampling the delicious local cuisine while being entertained by carnivalesque floats and costumes.
Capoliveri Wine Festival (on Elba island)
First weekend in October
As if one needs an excuse to visit the isle of Elba, where Napoleon was famously exiled after he was forced to abdicate. But if you do need an excuse, look no further than the Capoliveri Wine Festival. The locals take this festival very seriously. They shut down their districts to tourists in the weeks prior to the festival to decorate their neighborhood in honour of the Roman God Bacchus. Competition is fierce as. The district with the best decorations wins the coveted Bacchus goblet, thus launching the festivities. Watch the games and events while sipping on local wine and enjoying local delicacies such as stoccafisso all'elbana (stockfish Elban-style) and schiaccia briaca (a lovely, soft round cake).
Already a dreamlike destination, Tuscany during harvest season is an essential destination for any wine lover. The region’s wine festivals maintain an intimate, local quality, giving visitors a real taste of the local traditions in each wine-producing village.