If it seems like everyone was in Italy in 2023, you wouldn’t be wrong in your assumption. All those Instagram posts and TikToks of bikini-clad travelers sunbathing on the Amalfi Coast with Aperol spritzes in hand were certainly indicative of the country’s larger-than-ever travel boom. In fact, according to a June 2023 report from The Italian Government Tourism Board, international tourism increased in the first quarter of the year by a whopping 42% compared to 2022 — and that’s not including the summer crowds. And while buzzy spots like the Amalfi Coast, Venice, and Sicily seemed to get a lot of action in recent years (the latter likely due to The White Lotus effect), I would bet my bottom dollar that 2024 will see the rolling hills of Tuscany — more specifically its serene Chianti region — have its moment in the sun.
Yes, one would argue that the famous central area is already a high-traffic locale (its capital Florence is the fourth most visited municipality in 2022, according to Statista), but like the country itself, there are many hidden gems within it that appeal to travelers looking for a true respite and a bit of privacy. The aforementioned Chianti region, nestled neatly between Florence and Siena, is just such a destination, packed with all the makings of an authentic Italian getaway, sans the overwhelming crowds you might encounter in Rome or Milan (especially if you plan your trip in the early spring or fall).
Known for its vineyards, of course, and stunning centuries-old villas, and medieval castles, Chianti is about as idyllic as they come. Oenophiles in particular will appreciate the area, which is chock-full of wineries and celebratory events that will send your tastebuds on an exotic journey, all against the stunning backdrop of lush green hilltop vistas and majestic stone estates.
So if you’re planning a trip to Italy in 2024, I suggest Chianti as the star of your itinerary. My recent trip in mid-fall forever engrained the region in my memory, bumping it to the top of my “must return soon” list. Perfect for a restful and rejuvenating start of the year, this breathtaking region will steal your heart one wine-filled sip at a time.
Ahead, some key attractions (I’ve either experienced or researched) to add to your itinerary for your next trip to Chianti. See if the guide below doesn’t inspire you to book a flight stat.
Where To Stay
While you have a plethora of stunning villas at your fingertips in Chianti, a full-service property is the way to go to fully maximize your experience. My personal recommendation is the newly opened Villa Ardore. Bought and restored by Los Angeles attorneys Stephen Lewis and Christian Scali with impeccable eyes for chic artisanal design and custom furnishings, the 16th century estate is the epitome of comfortable elegance. The villa, which features eight suites and accommodates up to 18 guests for about $7,112 per night, has a wealth of amenities that make it so you never have to leave the property — unless you want to, of course. Think full Roman spa (complete with sunken indoor whirlpool, a steam room, sensory shower, and a dry sauna), a heated infinity pool, and perfectly manicured gardens of botanicals and produce that are used for cooking onsite meals.
You can also arrange to staff the villa accordingly with a private chef (the property’s local culinary partner, Chef Roberto Miceli, is a master in Tuscan dining), private driver, child care, personal trainer, or even an art teacher should you get a creative whim. During my stay, I enjoyed a poolside massage and botanical body treatment, which is also available upon request and I highly recommend.
The hands-on property host Francesco Goracci, a charming and vibrant presence at the villa, can arrange some bespoke experiences like pizza making, cooking classes, wine tasting with a local sommelier, and more. He’s also a living breathing compendium on all things Tuscany, offering informational tidbits and historical context as well as recommendations on local hot spots, so be sure to take full advantage of this invaluable on-site source.
Where To Eat + Drink
Meat lovers can’t miss a trip to Antica Macelleria Cecchini in the town of Panzano in central Chianti. The butcher shop and restaurant is heralded by the famous mustachioed Dario Cecchini, whose skill was spotlighted on Netflix’s Chef’s Table in 2019. Swing by for a hearty lunch of spicy meat ragu, Tuscan beans, and tomato stew. Oh, and don’t forget dessert — the olive oil cake is the stuff of dreams.
If you have a hankering for pizza, take a quick drive to nearby Sienna for a good old-fashioned slice at Pizzeria del Borgaccio, owned and operated by Gianluca Bartolotta, who is known for his wood-fired creations, particularly the carbonara pizza (it’s truly a can’t-miss).
Wine tasting is an obvious must while in Chianti, and luckily, there are plenty of vineyards and wineries that also serve authentic Tuscan cuisine. While in the area, be sure to pop into the family-owned Poggio Amorelli estate, which produces some of the region’s top wines (which you can buy on-site or have shipped to your home). After touring the stunning grounds, sip the property’s bounty while feasting on handmade pasta, seasonal vegetables from the ground’s garden, sheep’s milk cheeses, and decadent desserts.
If you have a taste for fine dining, try Arnolfo in Colle di Val D'Elsa. The two-Michelin-star restaurant takes a more modern approach to Italian cuisine and decor, from its iron and glass structure to its cutting-edge dishes that include things like muscovy duck with apples and parsnip and San Massimo rice with cauliflower and coffee.
What To Do
When you’re not indulging in all the wine Chianti has to offer, there are plenty of non-vino activities to partake in. If you’re in the mood for a little sightseeing, try a horseback riding tour through the countryside or take to the skies via hot-air balloon for an early morning excursion and breakfast that will literally take your breath away. You can also have a throwback moment and take a drive through the region in a 1960s Fiat 500. The vintage ride includes frequent stops at local wineries, stunning views over the town of San Gimignano, and a curated lunch. And if you head to Tuscany in the fall months of October and November, truffle hunting experiences are available for those who love a little foraging.
Chianti is also home to some creative talents. Art enthusiasts will love an art tour of local artist Fabiola Quezada's private home and workshop. The Mexico City native, who’s called Italy home for some 30 years, specializes in nude male figures from a more feminine lens, making them a focal point of much of her mesmerizing work. A visit and drink with the painter will certainly be a highlight, especially if you catch a view of the Tuscan landscape from her veranda.
Where To Shop
For great shopping and souvenirs, head to the hilltop town and UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Gimignano. Dubbed Tuscany’s “medieval Manhattan,” the stone fortress is soaked in history and packed with shops, vendors, art galleries, and delicious eateries and cafés. While you’re there, make sure to pop into the Nous Art Gallery, which features art that centers around the four natural elements. Balducci Ceramics is also great for those with a passion for artisanal goods. On any given day, you can walk into the pottery shop and you can watch the owner and artist Franco Balducci working at the potter’s wheel. You can truly spend a day perusing the winding landmark that is San Gimignano, but be sure to wear comfy shoes as your feet will be put to work as you take everything in.
The fashion set should definitely add a visit to one of Il Borgo Cashmere’s boutiques in nearby Florence. (If you find yourself staying at the Villa Ardore, you can also request a private trunk show with the brand’s personal shopper and bring the goods to you.) For some 70 years, the design house has mastered the art of Italian cashmere, but it must be seen — and felt — to believe. Pick up an ultra-soft sweater or scarf as a stylish souvenir that will remind you of Chianti every time you wear it.