Are you thinking about adding Gaiole in Chianti to your itinerary but aren’t sure if there’s enough in the village to make it worth the trip?
Gaiole in Chianti is a very small village, but I think it’s worth a quick stop if you’re in the area. There are a few things in and (especially) around town that make it worth it, like:
- gorgeous ceramics
- one of Italy’s most famous historic bicycle rides (the Eroica)
- a lovely pedestrian center
- Michelin-star dining, castles
- and of course, Chianti Classico wine!
Gaiole in Chianti is also a nice place to stop in for a quick meal or a snack as a part of your Chianti road trip. Or, ride through on your Chianti cycling trip (this is prime cycling country!).
Gaiole holds a special place in my heart because I used to live just up the hill from Gaiole (in Vertine). Thanks to Chianti’s strict building regulations, it looks the same now as it did 20+ years ago.
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Where is Gaiole in Chianti?
Gaiole in Chianti is one of the main Chianti villages. It’s in the Chianti Classico region of northern Tuscany. If you draw a triangle using the Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena, and Arezzo, Gaiole in Chianti sits just about in the middle of it.
It’s in a forested part of Tuscany, and where there’s no forest, you’ll find (mostly) sangiovese vineyards and a few silvery olive groves.
Who Will Love Gaiole in Chianti?
Gaiole is perfect for visitors who:
- Have a car. Gaiole in Chianti is kind of a pain to get to with public transport, and it’s a pricey taxi ride.
- Enjoy small, quiet villages. Gaiole is definitely not ‘hoppin,’ except for during events like the Eroica or summer festivals like Calici di Stelle.
- Are interested in wine. The Chianti area makes some of Italy’s best and most famous wines.
- Don’t need to see epic views from town. Most people imagine the classic hilltop villages when they think of Chianti, but Gaiole is actually set in a little valley – so no spectacular views from the village. You can, however, drive or walk into the hills around the village for gorgeous viste of the countryside.
When to Visit Gaiole in Chianti
My favorite time to visit Gaiole in Chianti is in the fall, because the village feels more alive with the energy from the wine harvest, the Eroica bike race, and the olive harvest.
Spring in Gaiole in Chianti is also lovely, and although summers can be toasty, the village makes for a nice stop, especially in the late afternoon or early evening.
Winter is my least favorite time to visit Gaiole in Chianti – it feels empty, too quiet, and it’s cold and humid.
Here are a few events that take place that you may want to take note of (to visit during or avoid):
- Eroica (Early October) – L’Eroica is the famous cycling race held on the strade bianche (gravel roads) in the area. Riders use vintage bicycles and equipment and wear vintage cycling clothing for the looooong race. If you’re interested in the ride (doing it or watching it), it’s a great time to be in the area. Otherwise, avoid the area – and the crowds, traffic, and higher prices.
- Music and theater festivals (June – August) – Gaiole’s Piazza Ricasoli and surrounding hamlets (like Vertine and Rietine) host outdoor concerts, theater, and festivals.
- Grape harvest (September – October) – Spend time in Gaiole during the Chianti grape harvest (the vendemmia)
Things to Do in Gaiole in Chianti
Get a Caffè or Aperitivo on the Main Piazza
Gaiole’s piazza is the wide part of the pedestrian street, Via Bettino Ricasoli.
There are a few cafés scattered around the edge of the piazza. Sit outside while you sip your Aperol spritz or cappuccino. I usually end up at Lo Sfizio di’ Bianchi.
Stop in at the Eroica Shop
It’s home to the famous bike ride, so it’s only fitting that Gaiole also has an Eroica shop (Eroica, not ‘erotica’). Step inside and check out some of the vintage cycling décor, plus Eroica jerseys and gear. You’ll also find more modern cycling jerseys and fun souvenirs for your cyclist friends.
Good To Know: There’s also an Eroica Bookshop / Coffee Shop in Florence just across the street from the Accademia Gallery entrance.
Sip on Chianti Classico Wines
You’re in wine country, so why not try some of the local vino?
If you want to try Chianti wine in Gaiole, stop in at the Enoteca La Cantinetta del Chianti.
Or, if you have a car, you can drive to one of the wineries just outside Gaiole in Chianti:
- Castello Meleto
- Le Miccine
Go For a Walk on a Strada Bianca
One option is to walk between Vertine and the SR429. It’s 2.7 kilometers each way (so just over 3 miles if you do an out-and-back) on a gravel road past vineyards and Castello di San Donato in Perano.
You could also do a walk from Castello di Meleto into the countryside. You can do an out-and-back on the strada bianca that meanders past vineyards and olive groves. At one point you’ll need to cross the paved main road to continue.
Or, head up the hill from Gaiole on Via Aldo Moro. It’s paved and steep at the beginning, but then it turns into a gravel road with less incline.
Helpful Tip: Before hiking, check to see if it’s hunting season. You can ask at tourist info in Gaiole or check in with someone near the start of your walk.
Shop for Ceramics
Local producers Rampini Ceramics and Nicoletta Penco Ceramics both have lovely designs – typical Tuscan and their own creations. Rampini is just outside Gaiole and Nicoletta has her studio and shop at Castello di Spaltenna, up the hill from the Gaiole center. These ceramics make an excellent souvenir (I use mine all the time!) and you can have them shipped home.
Rent a Bicycle and Ride the Chianti Hills
There’s a bicycle rental shop in Gaiole – Biciclettaio, and you can rent e-bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes. They’re well-maintained and the owners can help you choose the best route for your interests and abilities.
Check out the Views from the Big Bench
Castello di Meleto’s vineyards are home to one of the area’s ‘big benches.’ It’s a fun spot to snap a photo and check out the gorgeous views. I stopped by on my recent visit to the area and had the place to myself.
Good To Know: There’s even a spot to set up your phone with a self-timer.
Good To Know: If you like the ‘big bench,’ you’ll also enjoy the ‘big wine barrel’ just south of Castello d’Albola on the SP72.
Where to Eat in Gaiole in Chianti
There are a few bars on the main piazza if you’re looking for a quick snack or aperitivo. For a Tuscan meal in and around Gaiole, try:
- Osteria al Ponte – Sit outdoors; on the edge of the Gaiole center
- La Gorgia Vino & Cucina – I’ve heard this small restaurant is a good pick for a simple but delicious meal, with dishes like pecorino risotto, pasta with truffles, and classic filetto (beef).
- Il Pievano – Michelin-starred restaurant at Castello di Spaltenna; the outdoor seating is in a small courtyard, so if you’re looking for a view, this isn’t your spot (but you could have aperitivo with a view at the bar before dinner)
- Il Celliere a Castagnoli – Excellent Tuscan cooking – not fancy but delicious! It’s part of the Rocca di Castagnoli winery so you could combine it with a tasting.
- Osteria il Papavero – Just uphill from Gaiole in the little hamlet of Barbischio. Excellent local Tuscan dishes and friendly owners. I still think about the fig and prosciutto appetizer!
- Coop – If you’re visiting during the day, stop in at the Coop and grab supplies for a Tuscan picnic. Good picnic spots are up the hill in Vertine (there’s a picnic table with shade and a view at the entrance of the hamlet) or at the edge of the vineyards above town (but not if it hasn’t rained in awhile – the road will be dusty if cars drive by).
Where to Stay in Gaiole in Chianti
Rocca di Castagnoli – Just outside Gaiole (but not walkable); spectacular setting in vineyards; lovely swimming pool; perfect for wine lovers (the property makes excellent wine); home to Il Celliere restaurant; rooms or apartments
Casa Vacanze Vertine – Simply-furnished apartment that has spectacular views from the terrace; very quiet location in Vertine (hamlet up the hill from Gaiole) – there are no bars, shops or restaurants in Vertine; my parents loved staying here
Castello di Spaltenna – Gaiole in Chianti’s luxury option, just up the hill from the village center (heads up – it’s a steep, hot walk in the summer); also home to a Michelin-star restaurant
Castello di Tornano – Castle tucked in the woods near Gaiole; I was sad to see the rooftop hot tub go, but the new owners are transforming the property into something amazing; beautiful swimming pool
Borgo Casa al Vento – Rustic and simple rooms and apartments in the hills not far from Gaiole; swimming pool; set in the vineyards and surrounded by forest
Getting to Gaiole in Chianti
Driving to Gaiole in Chianti
Gaiole is on one of the main roads in Chianti, the SP408, which runs from Montevarchi in the Valdarno (Arno River Valley) to Siena.
If you’re coming from Siena, the SP408 is the easiest way to get to Gaiole, and if you’re coming from Florence, you can take the A1 Autostrada and then the SP408. For a more scenic route from Florence, cut through Chianti and pass some of the other villages like Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, and Radda in Chianti.
Good To Know: Chianti roads are narrow and winding, and it takes longer to get from A to B. Keep that in mind when you’re planning your days, and if you have passengers who get carsick.
Helpful Tip: Stick to the main roads, or you may end up on strade bianche (white/gravel roads). Sometimes they’re narrow and can be littered with potholes or dusty in the summer. Many agriturismi have strade bianche as driveways, so call ahead if you’re driving a sportscar or other vehicle that’s set low to the ground.
Read more about Renting a Car in Tuscany
Don’t want to drive? Read about Visiting Tuscany without a Car
Parking in Gaiole in Chianti
The main parking lot in Gaiole in Chianti is across the SP408 from the village center. Follow the blue signs with the white ‘P.’ You’ll see some spots by the playground, but if there aren’t any free, just keep driving on the same small road up a little hill and you’ll reach another lot.
There are also smaller lots (with just a few spaces) scattered around town. Look for the ‘P’ sign.
Read more about Parking in Italy
Gaiole in Chianti with Kids
While I wouldn’t go out of my way to see Gaiole in Chianti on a family trip, there are a few fun things for kids in Gaiole and surroundings that make it worth a stop for a couple of hours.
The center is nice because it’s car free (although local cars and police can drive through) and there’s a playground just across the street.
Things my kids love to do in and around Gaiole in Chianti:
- Stop by the ‘big bench’ next to Castello di Meleto
- Explore Brolio Castle
- Say hi to the big rooster
- Play at the Gaiole playground
- Visit the Chianti Sculpture Park
- See the other ‘in Chianti’ villages – Castellina, Radda, Greve, and Panzano
Things to Do Near Gaiole in Chianti
Castello di Brolio – Do a wine tasting of the Ricasoli family’s Chianti Classico wine and explore the grounds of Brolio Castle. Fun Fact: Baron Bettino Ricasoli invented the ‘recipe’ for Chianti Classico wine.
Castello di Meleto – Do a wine tasting at Meleto Castle and sit on the ‘big bench.’
Badia a Coltibuono – Tour the abbey, have lunch, or check out the small shop (at the bottom of the hill).
Castello di Ama – A small borgo where you can see outdoor art and sip on wine.
Cooking Class at Toscana Mia – Join Simonetta and Paola for a Tuscan cooking class at their home in Chianti.
Chianti Sculpture Park – Enjoy art in nature at this unique trail/park.
Gaiole in Chianti FAQ
If you’ve visited churches like the Duomo in Florence or the Basilica in Venice, you’ll be disappointed with Gaiole’s main church, the Chiesa di San Sigismondo. A smaller (and older) church sits on the hill above Gaiole, Santa Maria a Spaltenna (in the Castello di Spaltenna hotel). At the time of writing, it’s closed for restoration, but you can still see it from the outside.
Another nearby gem is the Badia a Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest), an 11th-century abbey that can be visited or just admired from the outside.
Yes, you can walk up to Barbischio from Gaiole. The road is paved, and fairly quiet. But, cars do speed down the hill occasionally – so keep that in mind. I’ve walked it before and it’s mostly wooded, so the views aren’t spectacular. If you have a car, I’d drive up and save your walk for something more scenic.
You’ll notice a large, black rooster at the entrance of Gaiole in Chianti. The rooster is the symbol of the Chianti League (Lega del Chianti), which is made up of Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, and Radda in Chianti. The League’s members were allies and did their part to defend the Florentine territory. Today they produce some of the area’s best wines – and you’ll see the black rooster on the necks of bottles of Chianti Classico wines.