The impressive Castello di Brolio dominates the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has done so for over ten centuries. Located on top of an isolated hill a few kilometers from Gaiole in Chianti, the castle has Lombardic origins and has been property of the Ricasoli family since 1141.
Even though it is closer to Siena, which can be seen in the distance and is just 20 km away, the castle has always been under the influence of Florence and used as one of its strategical outposts. Because of this, the castle was besieged and destroyed many times over the centuries. Every time it has been reconstructed following the style of the current age. It suffered its last attack during World War II, as can be noticed by the holes left by shrapnel all over facade.
The castle we see today is partly the new-Gothic reconstruction ordered by Bettino Ricasoli in the 1800s. The Renaissance gardens with typical geometric shaped bushes and the English woods are stunning and from here you can admire a breathtaking view over the Chianti region. On the horizon, during clear, sunny days, you can clearly see Siena.
Inside the castle you can visit the Chapel of San Jacopo and the crypt with the family tombs and a small museum housing the Ricasoli collection. The collection displays several valuable family weapons, as well as documents and personal belongings of Bettino Ricasoli, together with part of his personal fossil and mineral collection.
You can visit the garden and the small museum in Castello di Brolio, the rest of the castle is still home to the current Ricasoli baron and his family. The "classic" tour is a free visit to the gardens around the castle. The "historical" tour includes the gardens and a guided tour to the museum, while the "research and experimentation" tour is upon reservation and includes the guided tour to the wine cellars and experimental vineyards of the estate. Included in the ticket is a wine tasting at the Ricasoli wine shop. I personally recommend you take just the classic tour if you are not interested in historical weapons or in learning detailed information on the vineyards.
What is fascinating about Brolio is its beauty and magnificence, in addition to is thousand-year relationship with this land and its Chianti wine production. Ricasoli has been producing wine since the Middle Ages and the estate exports their excellent wine all round the world, enjoying success since the early 20th century. We highly recommend you visit this intriguing castle in the Chianti countryside.
Note: Castello di Brolio is not reached by public transportation, except during the school year. To visit, a car is much more convenient and necessary during the summer period.
The Brolio ghost
It is now local legend that on nights with a full moon, the ghost of Bettino Ricasoli still walks around the castle. Some say they have seen him out walking the grounds or even out riding on a white horse with a pack of hunting dogs. After his death, on several mornings the Baron’s bed sheets were found rumpled as if someone had slept on his bed. So who knows, if you visit or stay nearby, be on the lookout for Ricasoli’s ghost!
The Iron Baron
Bettino Ricasoli, nicknamed the Iron Baron for his strong resolve and conviction of his ideals, was one of the most important politicians in the 19th century and promoter of Italian union, as well as major of Florence.
His name is strongly related to Brolio and Chianti wine. He was the first to create the recipe for what became the wine for the region, the great red Chianti wine. He determined the mix of three different grape varietals in different quantities; his recipe was used up until 1967 to produce Chianti Classico DOC. Bettino Ricasoli was an essential player and pioneer in developing the Italian wine making sector.