Chianti is one of the most beautiful, and likely one of the most famous, areas in Tuscany. Gentle hills and hilltop villages are typical in this region between Florence and Siena. Many places to visit as well as many kilometers to travel if you want to truly experience its essence. Chianti is a large area and it can be difficult moving around, especially if you're planning to use public transportation. On the other hand, driving in Chianti can be a pleasant and enjoyable experience (always with a detailed map or GPS navigator at hand!).
If you want to visit Chianti without a car, be patient and take a good book with you - distances aren't far but bus schedules will condition your traveling time. We suggest you carefully plan your trip if you intend to move around by public transports, since there are no connections between and to main destinations.
Now let's look at the ways you can get around Chianti.
Moving around by TRAIN
The railway line is well developed in Tuscany, but it doesn't reach Chianti's main attractions. This is a good thing! You wouldn't want all those beautiful landscapes and vineyards cut by too many rail lines and stations, would you now?
There are two central train stations in Chianti: one in Poggibonsi and the other in Castellina that connect Florence and Siena. You need to change trains at the Empoli train station if you're coming or going to Florence. Since all trains to and from Chianti stop in Empoli, service during weekdays is good and you can catch a train almost every 30 minutes. From Poggibonsi and Castellina, you can then catch a bus to reach the main villages and towns in Chianti. Choosing between one or the other train station depends on your itinerary. Poggibonsi is the better option if you want to visit San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and other places nearby before moving on to Chianti and Siena. Castellina in Chianti is right in the heart of Chianti and is the ideal start for your trip into the area. You can find information about trains and timetables on Ferrovie dello Stato.
Moving around by BUS
You can go almost everywhere by bus (and a bit of walking). The only problem is generally the bus schedules. Always check them before you leave! SITA buses leave directly from Florence's central SMN train station and stop in almost every single village but not all do so. For example, catch line 365 from Florence to Greve, Radda, Castellina and Gaiole but pay attention as some buses end in Greve. I recommend you check bus schedules carefully, especially on Sundays and holidays when buses are even fewer, as well as for the return trip - otherwise you might find yourself stranded for the night or walking for hours in the hills of Chianti. If you can avoid it, do NOT walk along the main roads - if you have no alternative but to walk, make it a very pleasant walk in the Chianti countryside by taking the many minor, often unpaved, roads in the Chianti hills. Ask for and buy a local walking map to plot your walk so that you don't get lost!
You can find SITA tickets at the train and bus station or near bus stops at local "Tabacchi" shops or bars (coffee shops). Bus tickets are cheap and fares go by the kilometers to be traveled. You can generally ask which type of ticket you'll need when you buy since the shop owner will either know the correct fare you need to purchase (or otherwise guess). If you decide to travel by bus, we recommend carrying around a flash light and, if possible, small pieces of luggage so that you can easily move around.
Moving Around by RENTAL Bikes and Scooters
You can also get to Chianti by bus or train and then move around by bike or by scooter. Maybe you won't need it for all your vacation but only for day trips so rental bikes and scooters are a great solution! In Greve in Chianti there is a big cycle shop, Officina Ramuzzi, that offers daily and weekly rental bikes, both race and mountain bikes, and scooters. This can be the ideal solution for a slow and easy vacation in Chianti!
Moving around by CAR (or MOTORCYCLE)
Despite the train's charm and the low ticket price for the bus, moving around by car is the best way to discover Chianti. Not just because you can carry all your full-size baggage with you, but also since you can decide all the when's and where's of your trip. Besides, you can practice your driving skills and turns on the ups and downs of Chianti's curvy roads. From Florence there are 3 main roads that take you into Chianti and toward Siena:
- the Superstrada Firenze-Siena is a toll-free 4-lane highway that goes along the western border of Chianti along Chianti and the Val D'Era valley. It is the fastest way to move about (about 50 minutes if you go straight to Siena), but it doesn't give you a chance to enjoy the Chianti landscape or panoramas. "Poggibonsi Nord" is the exit into Chianti. From there, follow your map or your GPS to where you want to go.
- the SR222, also known as the Chiantigiana road, is a state 2-lane road that goes up and down the Chianti hills passing through most of the beautiful, typical villages of the region. It's very scenic and relaxing. The landscapes can be breathtaking. We don't really recommend this road at nighttime since it is a dark, curvy road but if you no choice, drive carefully since you might also encounter wild boars, porcupines and deers making nightime crossings.
- the SR2 - Cassia is the old Roman highway that runs parallel to the Superstrada mentioned above. It runs on the border of the Chianti region, passing through Poggibonsi and Monteriggioni. We recommend you follow the Cassia from Florence down to Falciani, then take internal roads to get to Greve and continue on the Chiantigiana road into Chianti.
Which is the best way to move around?
Moving by car or motorcycle are the easiest ways to discover Chianti. You can experience its essence, taste its flavor and stay in one of many Tuscan farmhouses that gently lie on these hills.
On the other hand, moving around by bus or by train is a special and unique experience which can purposely offer a slow, relaxing way of living your holiday... and, if you're visiting wine estates, the chance to drink all the wine you want without worrying about driving afterward but you do have to remember the schedule.
If you're expressly interested in moving around Chianti to do wine tastings at wineries across the region, the best way to do so is to join a guided tour that leaves from Florence or Siena and takes you to the wineries. You don't have to know where to go, but most importantly, you don't have to drive at all and can enjoy the tastings without worries about who has to drive.
By the way.... travel insurance!
Remember that you should always consider travel insurance when traveling abroad. ConsumersAdvocate.org has written this extensive review on travel insurance which covers illness, delays, lost luggage and even natural disasters. Did you know that they found that many policies will be voided if you were "inebriated" when you twisted your ankle and had to go to the doctor? As wine tastings in Chianti are a must during your vacation in Chianti, it is something to know. For this reason, the guided wine tasting tours where you also don't have to drive are always a good idea!