Montespertoli’s annual Chianti Wine Festival (Mostra Del Chianti) features some of Tuscany’s premium wines. But the festival includes a touch of Tuscan culture as well.
In addition to tasting first-class wines such as a dry and well-balanced Tenuta Il Monte Chianti, my family and I sampled the town’s home grown Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva (olive oil), crunchy sweets, and mouth-watering gelato. Some festival goers grabbed a bargain shopping for handbags, tablecloths, belts, and shoes. Others danced to the rhythm of the local bands and accordion players, or enjoyed the sidewalk circus, including a unicycle riding juggler.
My family arrived in Montespertoli, Italy, two days before the start of their Chianti Wine Festival. Our first Italian meal consisted of thinly sliced pizza and red wine from the local vineyards at the Pizzeria Ristorante in the center of Montespertoli.
From a sidewalk table we watched as the circular plaza in the middle of town was transformed from a quiet park with wooden benches, winding paths, and decorative flowers and plants to a festive ring of shops and wine tasting booths. Vendors set up their stands and workers put the final touches on two tremendous 18 foot tall replicas of wine bottles on either side of the entrance to the park.
Party with the Locals…Montespertoli celebrates its annual Chianti Wine Festival beginning on the last Sunday in May to the first Sunday in June. Both locals and tourists flock into town to enjoy the festivities. The streets leading into Montespertoli are blocked off during the festival. Parking is free on the outer edge of the village, only a short walk to the center of town.
We visited Mostra Del Chianti on a Sunday afternoon and wandered from booth to booth as merchants peddled their merchandise. One seller demonstrated the durability of his superior hand-embroidered linens by spilling red wine on the linen and simply brushing off the bubbly liquid with a sponge.
My sister stopped at one of the stands that sold trendy sneakers and fashionable sandals. With help from a salesman, she purchased a pair of comfortable sandals for under $20.
If you’re looking for a snack before dinner, (Tuscany restaurants generally don’t serve dinner before 7:30 PM), you’ll find food stands decorate the festival. Vendors sell an assortment of locally grown fruits, meats, cheeses and jellies, not to mention irresistible al cioccolato torrone (soft chocolate nougats).
We saved room for dinner at Montespertoli’s Ristorante La Terrazza. Home cooking with genuine Tuscan ingredients, including bread and olive oil (the olives are grown in the Chianti hills) dominated the menu. La Terrazza offers everything from pastas topped with home-made tomato sauces and meat ragùs to contorni – side dishes including marinated olives, string bean salad, grilled zucchini and eggplant, white bean salad and sliced Italian cheeses and meats.
Gelato and Wine – Perfect Together
After dinner, we returned to the festival for dessert and devoured gelatos at the Gelateria Fiorentina. Make sure you indulge in Italy’s creamy frozen ice cream, a specialty not to be missed during your visit. In central Tuscany, gelato is made from a milk and egg custard and is denser than American ice cream.
We saved the best for last. After dessert, we headed for the wine tasting booths. As you sample Tuscany’s quality wines at the festival, you’ll enjoy listening to merchants discuss the history behind the wine. For 5 Euros each (about $7.00), you can purchase a festival wine glass, a glass holder (a small red sack with a strap that goes around your neck to hold your glass while you taste Tuscany’s breads, cheeses and olive oils) and coupons for four glasses of wine. Stroll from booth to booth savoring sips of Tuscany’s best red wines produced locally, including Florence and Siena’s Chianti Classico wines.
There’s Plenty to Do in Tuscany…While you’re visiting Montespertoli’s wine festival; keep in mind that the town is close to key historic cities in Tuscany. Time permitting, you may want to tour the towers of San Gimignano (www.sangimignano.com/sghomei.htm) , study the Renaissance paintings, sculptures and architecture of Florence (www.aboutflorence.com/), and explore Siena’s (www.aboutsiena.com/) Piazza del Campo’s ring of medieval palaces.
If you can’t make it to Montespertoli in the May-June timeframe for their Chianti Wine Festival, don’t despair. The town hosts a number of festivals throughout the year including a home-made pasta festival in August, a beer festival in September, a new wine festival in early November, and a olive oil festival in mid-November.