This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Beautiful Places: Castello Brolio

Today I want to tell you about a beautiful and important Tuscan castle in Italy -- Castello Brolio. What makes this castle so important? Well, read on.

The Castle

Here is a photo of Castello Brolio as it sits today in mid-eastern Tuscany. 

Castello Brolio today

Castello Brolio today

This still-inhabited castle is owned by the Ricasoli family, who has lived in the castle for almost 900 years. Though the first stones of the Brolio Castle date back to the middle ages, the castle did not pass into the hands of the Ricasoli family until an exchange of lands in 1141. 

Barone Ricasoli winery is the fourth longest-lived company in the world in the same place. Barone Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy.

Castello Brolio is on the border between the former city-states of Sienna and Florence and has been the stage for numerous disputes, with the heavy-weight Florentine city-state duking it out against fearsome Sienna. In the photo below, taken from the ramparts of the castle, you can see Sienna in the distance to the right of the photo. [This photo has been made into a tile backsplash which sits behind our kitchen range] 

View from the ramparts of Castello Brolio looking toward Sienna at top right

Battle-scarred brickwork of Castello Brolio

Being a castle, one would expect it to be attacked, right? And it has been, as through the centuries the castle has suffered attack and destruction in numerous historical battles; from Aragonese and Spanish attacks during the 15th century, disputes in the 17th century, to bombings and artillery attacks during the Second World War. Evidence of attack can still be seen today, as in this photo.



Here are a few more photos of this well-built castle. As always, click on an image to see a larger view.

And the expansive views from the Castello Brolio are magnificent.

Panorama from the ramparts of Castello Brolio

My wife as she sketches a beautiful contryside

An on-site villa for rent

The Baron

Here is photo of Baron Bettino Ricasoli. 

Baron Bettino Ricasoli

What he lacked in looks he made up for in money. At 3,000 acres, the Ricasoli vineyards are the largest in the Chianti Classico area. Because of his integrity and austerity, he was known as 'The Iron Baron'. 

This elaborate family tree, reproduced in a print dated 1584, is also one of the first paintings depicting the Chianti area.





The Baron as the Creator of Chianti

Besides being the second and then seventh Prime Minister of Italy, Baron Bettino Ricasoli was a far-sighted wine entrepreneur. As a matter of fact, it was the Baron who created the age-old formula for Chianti wine.  After more than thirty years of research and experiments, he divulged his formula in a letter in 1872, where he wrote, 

...I verified the results of the early experiments, that is, that the wine receives most of its aroma from the Sangioveto [today’s Sangiovese] (which is my particular aim) as well as a certain vigour in taste; the Canajuolo gives it a sweetness which tempers the harshness of the former without taking away any of its aroma, though it has an aroma all of its own; the Malvagia, which could probably be omitted for wines for laying down, tends to dilute the wine made from the first two grapes, but increases the taste and makes the wine lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption…
— Baroln Bettino Ricasoli in a famous letter addressed to Professor Cesare Studiati at the University of Pisa


You've probably seen wine labels with the designation "Chianti Classico". The geographical location of Castello Brolio puts it in the Chianti Classico region. And note that the 'Classico' extension does not designate more quality per se, but means that it is produced within the classic region of the official Chianti region. If the Chianti region were a donut, Chianti Classico would be the donut hole.

Here you see the neck of a bottle of Barone Ricasoli's Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva (And how do I know that's what wine this is? Because I drank it!).

This seal with the black rooster is your guarantee that you will be drinking Chianti Classico. It is also a DOCG wine, which stands for 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita' and is your guarantee that the wine meets the government's control standards for Chianti Classico. 

Since 1993, Baron Francesco Ricasoli, 32nd Baron of Brolio and Bettino's great-grandson, has taken the hundreds of years of wine experimentation and experience into the plantings of new varietals and newly created wines. 

Our Favorite Barone Ricasoli Wine?

How many times have you been at the wine store and seen a pretty label and you turned to your partner and said, "Hey, this wine looks good"? 

With our favorite Barone Ricasoli wine, you can have a pretty label and a pretty wonderful wine. Pictured below is the Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva that we consumed at a little restaurant in Radda in Chanti one fall afternoon. 

And hey, there are several. yummy Barone Ricasoli wines. You can see all of them on their website.  

And if you happen to be in Tuscany, our instant-friend Barbara here can help you put together a selection for shipment back home. The wine shop is located just below the castle.

And, if you join the Friends of Ricasoli Club, you will get discounts and other special offers. 


So, I hope you enjoyed a tour of one of Tuscany's classic wineries, it's creator, and the castle that still guards the ancient vineyards there.


Ciao for now,


Get Lost!!!

Have you ever been lost? 

Maybe you were on your way somewhere important and you were late getting started.  Maybe your dinner reservation, which required that it be made 3 months in advance, was about to be released and you've taken some wrong turns and you've lost your bearings. I know these are frustrating experiences.  

But it doesn't always have to be frustrating if you're lost in the right places, and have the time to be lost.

We’ve been lost, only to be found in some amazing place!

In Italy, we’ve been lost…hopelessly.  And hopefully, we'll be hopelessly lost again soon.

Being lost can be frustrating or it can be fascinating. Our Italy wandering experiences have been of the fascinating variety. 

Radda in Chianti

Take the small road just south of Radda in Chianti that we mistakenly took in a driving rain. What we thought was a road (at least it looked like one on Google maps - I learned something from that experience - but to be fair, in retrospect, it did suggest that our driving speed would be only 8mph!) soon transitioned into nothing but a two track trail. Lost again, dang it. Our small, low slung rental was complaining about the high center, but there was no way to turn around. We eventually made it through a circuit on which we really shouldn't have been driving.  But, as the rain let up, the estate in the photo below was spread before us, with mist rising from the trees to the left with a villa located on a hillside in the middle of a vast vineyard. Our breath was taken away!

Gorgeous vineyard after a rain

Gorgeous vineyard after a rain

And as we drove on, we came upon other photo opportunities like these two:

The remains of the rain

The remains of the rain

Tuscan cypress and vineyard

Tuscan cypress and vineyard

Once again, we were lost, only to be found in some amazing place! 

Val d'Orcia

Then, let’s take a wrong turn near Pienza in the Val d’Orcia. We should have gone right, but went left.  Lost again. We could have turned around, but experience has taught us to go with the flow and continue on down the road.  It was getting close to the end of the day, which brought us this gorgeous Val d'Orcia sunset.

Val d'Orcia sunset

Val d'Orcia sunset

Lost again! Only to be found in another amazing place!

Near Castello Brolio

Should we take that little gravel road just before getting to Castello Brolio? After all, we want to see the castle and taste their wine? Sure, why not - we've got time! 

We got this nice view of the castle and some images which we would have missed from the highway. Technically, we weren't lost, but as we want to accomplish certain things during the day, we were taking a bit of a risk.

Castello Brolio

Castello Brolio

Raodside shrine

Raodside shrine

Winding Tuscan road

Winding Tuscan road

Small roadside chapel

Small roadside chapel

The little country-side chapel just above was found tucked away off the gravel road in the previous photo - just beyond the poppies and before the tall cypress trees - just off to the right. We would never have known it existed if we hadn't dared to take that little gravel road to who-knew-where?

Venice - Anywhere in Venice!

And then there’s Venice, where getting lost is not an art, but a normal occurrence.   When in Venice, just plan on being lost.  I mean, when you look up and find two signs, both reading “Per San Marco”, one with an arrow pointing left and one with an arrow pointing right, you don’t have much choice but to get lost. But along the way, plan on finding some hidden-away gem.  Like the one in this photo below – which I came upon taking a ‘short cut’ after turning into one of those dark, low ceiling’d sotoportego - a tunnel-like passage - this one about 50' long.  Once found, I’ve returned many times, whether it is a short cut in my travels, or not.

So, while in Venice, Tuscany, or near the back-roads in your travels at home, forget going from Point A directly to Point B.  Once starting toward Point B, don’t worry if you happen upon Point G, Point V or Point R, before making it to Point B. Allow enough time to enjoy the journey. 

And then like us, you will find yourself lost, only to be found in some amazing place! 


Ciao, for now!