A Journey Through the Chianti Hills
The region of Chianti stretches between Arezzo and the Colline Pisane. Regarded as the heart of Tuscany since time immemorial, it is made up of a number of grand landscapes dotted with vineyards, chestnut and holm oak forests, evocative medieval villages, romantic castles and fascinating colonial-style palaces. To crown it all, this is also the land that produces one of the finest wines in the world – Chianti.
A Route Through Chianti
Arriving from Florence, the customary approach road through this wine country takes visitors to the pretty town of Impruneta – in all, a 40-minute car ride. We were captivated by Impruneta on account of its numerous monuments, notably the crenellated belltower from the 13th century and the Basilica of Santa Maria with its Treasure Museum in the annex. Two events of international acclaim are held in these surroundings – the Fiera di San Luca (St Luke’s Fair) and the Festa dell'Uva (Grape Festival) with a traditional parade of allegorical floats. Both festivals are held in autumn.
While heading for Siena we stopped at the old medieval town of Greve in Chianti, which features a triangular public square. It is fringed by buildings and loggias which led us willy-nilly to the Church of Santa Croce. The most important wine fair in all Chianti is held precisely in this square. We then went for a stroll through the upper part of Greve, home to Montefioralle Castle which forms part of the old fortified town.
After passing briefly through the medieval village of Volpaia, we found ourselves in Radda. There we visited the 14th-century Church of San Niccolò and the majestic Palazzo Pretorio (dating from circa 1415). We then made for the parish Church of San Giusto in Salcio, located in a luxuriant hollow set between vineyards, and that of Santa Maria Novella with its characteristic Romanesque facade. As soon as we left, we went straight to the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico (Consortium of Classic Chianti Wine) which includes the Chiantigiano Study Centre.
Our journey continued across the Chianti hills where we came across panoramas that would take Instagram by storm. We passed through Gaiole, halfway between Florence and Siena and, as we were leaving the town, we stumbled upon some spectacular scenery of vineyards and castles, like those in San Leonino and Fonterutoli.
After leaving the Sienese town we approached Castellina, a stronghold of Etruscan origin with its beautiful central square traversed by the medieval Via delle Volte. From there we went to Monteriggione, a twenty-minute car ride away, built on a hillside and endowed with a compact, walled fortification.
Lastly, we stopped off at the splendid Poggibonsi, a town which holds its grape-treading festival in October.
There is a large variety of Chianti wines on account of the peculiarities of local soils and the different production methods in each area or winery. Varying percentages of the same grape yield the leading names – Sangiovese (75-90%), Canaiolo (5-10%) and Malvasia (5-10%), the perfect composition hit upon by Baron Ricasoli in the 19th century to which Tuscan Trebbiano was subsequently added. Here the tradition is so deeply rooted that one can pick out the croplands planted with the different grape varieties.
The method of cultivation, known as L'Arco Toscana, takes place on clayey galestro soil which is porous and permeable and prevents water from collecting around the roots. A characteristic of the post-harvest period is that the grape clusters on some vines appear to have been overlooked, although this is actually part of a centuries-old “control” method. It consists of adding fresh raisin must to fermented wine to induce refermenting, by which all the sugar is converted into alcohol, yielding a particularly dry, stable wine.
After fermenting, the wines continue to be refined until March in steel casks or cement and, once bottled, are ready to be marketed.
Chianti has a characteristic fiery, ruby-red colour. The aroma is intense, with dominant violet, iris and vanilla, while the bouquet is harmonious and dry, with reminiscences of vanilla and almond. The experts claim it ages into a smoother, more velvety wine.
Chianti is a prefect table wine – the aged varieties and reserves pair with red meat, game and spicy cheeses. It is served at room temperature. As for local cuisine, typical Tuscan dishes include ribollita, its main ingredients being cooked vegetables left over from previous meals which are reboiled, augmented with dry bread and dressed with extra virgin olive oil. Another classic in the region are the antipasti such as chicken liver crostini, tomato bruschetta and Sienese capocollo,known locally as finocchiata.
Tangier – A Journey of Inspiration
Some destinations attract visitors for their museums; others, for their beaches or mountains, for the energy they give off or, simply, because they are fashionable. In the case of Tangier, the journey is inevitably related to the inspiration and yearnings for the past which it harbours like some muse of the arts. Myriad artists and scholars have passed through that city, located on the northern tip of Morocco, and have become spellbound by its charms.
The Light and Colour of Tangier
The first artist to be captivated by Tangier was the French painter, Eugène Delacroix. In 1832 he journeyed there as part of a diplomatic mission and ended up being seduced by its light and colour, as masterfully portrayed in such paintings as Jewish Wedding in Morocco.
The Spanish painter, Mariano Fortuny, who was familiar with Delacroix’s production, also went to Tangier in search of that magic, which infused a host of sketches and notes for his Orientalist works.
Henri Matisse reached Tangier in 1912. There, not only did he encounter “the landscapes of Morocco just as Delacroix had depicted them in his paintings”, as he himself stated, but he also discovered a new palette of colours for his own works. He took up lodgings in room 35 of the extant Grand Hotel Villa de France, where he painted such works as Window at Tangier.
Paul Bowles, Tangier and the Beat Generation
Tangier became a veritable beacon for writers, particularly in the 1950s and part of the 1960s. And, no wonder, as from 1923 to 1956 the city was a demilitarised zone under joint administration by various countries. This measure was implemented on account of its strategic position in the Strait of Gibraltar and the ensuing international disputes over its control. Known as the Tangier International Zone, it became a place of passage for many people – diplomats, adventurers, artists, spies and others. Functioning as “everyone’s city” or, if you will, “no man’s city”, it enjoyed an unusual status as a place of freedom and tolerance which would be difficult to find elsewhere.
One of the best known regulars in the city was the writer and composer, Paul Bowles, who arrived in Tangier in 1947 and was completely swept off his feet by its charms. It was there that he wrote his first novel, The Sheltering Sky, so masterfully ported to the cinema by the director, Bernardo Bertolucci. Then ensued the arrival of other creative figures, including Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Francis Bacon. And, he was also instrumental in spawning the Beat Generation – William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who succumbed to the allure of a place where they could give free rein to their imagination and – there’s no denying it – their vices, too.
What remains of all that past now? While a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and the city is in the throes of a process of renewal, the spots which resonate of those artists are still standing.
A visit to the Grand Socco provides a suitable introduction to the city. Its pleasant ambience and colourfulness are guaranteed, as is your likelihood of (literally) getting lost in its streets. You will eventually end up willy-nilly in the Petit Socco, a square in the heart of the Medina, packed with cafés and restaurants. Another square, the Place de France, is also a must-see, as it is the site of the Grand Café de Paris, with a history of its own. This is where our protagonists spent countless hours chatting and observing the passers-by.
The Fondation Lorin, housed in a synagogue, boasts a fine collection of photographs, documents and posters that give you a good idea of what Tangier was like in the first half of the 20th century. Then there is the Tangier American Legation Museum, a visit not to be missed by enthusiasts of Paul Bowles as it features a section dedicated to the writer which displays photos, portraits and Moroccan musical scores which he recorded himself.
The Villa Muniria – now reconditioned as the Hotel El-Muniria (1, Rue Magellan) – was the favourite lodgings of the Beat Generation. Tennessee Williams and the Rolling Stones themselves were counted among the guests that stayed there. It was there, too, in room number 9, that William Burroughs wrote his seminal work, Naked Lunch.
Another landmark of literary Tangier is the Librairie des Colonnes (54, Boulevard Pasteur). It was a meeting place for writers and artists, while nowadays it continues to host cultural activities.
Like the writers and artists of yesteryear, allow yourself to succumb to the charms of this inspiring city and plan your trip with Vueling!
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Journey to the Shipwrecks of the Costa da Morte
The Cantabrian coast has historically been one of the most important seaways of the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. Numerous shipwrecks of different nationalities have ended up at the bottom of the sea at different times in history, due to storms, battles and misfortune. Galleons, merchant ships, battleships, fishing boats, schooners, steamers, passenger boats, a myriad of vessel types rest at the bottom of these waters, as many as unfortunate circumstances that led to each of these tragedies. The route we propose is just over an hour and a half’s drive from the airport of A Coruña, the shortest way being along the AG-55 and AC-552 main roads.
This journey reveals several wrecks sunk in the course of history in the waters of the Costa da Morte, between Finisterre and Porto do Son. It is a fascinating way to discover this underwater heritage, which is possibly the richest you can find anywhere in the world.
There are two land routes running along the coast for enthusiasts searching for wreck sites. Both are ideal for the whole family. The first one lies in the north and is dedicated to galleons, such as those of the Flota de Padilla (Padilla’s fleet) which sunk in the waters off Finisterre in the 16th century. The second route is centred on the stories of battleships that lie at the bottom of the Costa da Morte. Both itineraries are signposted with QR codes and fitted with NFC transmitters. They give detailed information of each shipwreck and help you get acquainted with the territory, provided you use a mobile device with an internet connection.
For those who are into scuba diving, shipwrecks of the 18th century can be explored first-hand by venturing into the depths of these Atlantic waters. You may also find the occasional steamer from the early 20th century. To embark on this adventure, look no further than the Buceo Finisterre and Mergullo Compostela diving centres, which both organise recreational dives led by qualified instructors. Diving in this part of the ocean is a real pleasure. In addition to discovering the history hidden in its depths, you will be mesmerised by the astounding biodiversity.
Flotsam – The Remains of Shipwrecks
From Capitana de la Saane, wrecked in 1543, to the frigate Ariete, which ran aground in 1966, the remains of wrecked ships can be visited at a dozen sites on land. The experience brings home an awareness of the wealth and heritage concealed along the Galician coast, after centuries of lying in the middle of major seaways.
Flotsam is the name given to the remains of a vessel that has been totally or partially wrecked. Here is a selection of the most renowned shipwrecks scattered along this coast:
1. Capitana de la Saane (wrecked on 25 July 1543). This French battleship is located in the proximity of Monte Louro, Ría de Muros. It belonged to the fleet of Alabardes, commanded by General De Saane. This was the flagship of the fleet. Its cargo consisted of munitions and possibly a stash of booty from ports plundered by the fleet (Laxe, Finisterre and Corcubión). The French general, Jean de Clamorgan, nobleman of La Saane, asked the inhabitants of Villa de Muros for a ransom of 12,000 ducats. It was then, on the feast of St James and in broad daylight, that the Spanish fleet led by Álvaro de Bazán the Elder reached the inlet. The Spanish sailor aimed the prow of his vessel at the French flagship, which sunk with all its crew and plunder, which is said to include a silver reliquary with St William’s arm inside.
2. Santa María La Anunciada (sunk on 28 October 1596). This sailing ship is located in Punta Restelos, Finisterre. It was wrecked in a storm that resulted in the loss of 243 lives. This vessel belonged to the Armada del Océano, commanded by Martín de Padilla Manrique. It was sailing from Portugal to Ferrol and was part of a fleet of another 100 ships. On board was a whole expeditionary force, in addition to weaponry and munitions.
3. Bayonnaise (sunk on 28 November 1803). A corvette with a copper-plated wooden hull, located on the beach of Langosteira, Finisterre. It was built in 1794 in Bayonne with twenty-four 8-pound cannons on board, in addition to four ship-mounted cannons and two 32-pound carronades. The ship covered the route from Havana to Ferrol while being chased by the English vessel, HMS Ardent, with 64 cannons on board. The Bayonnaise was run aground by its own crew, who abandoned it after setting fire to it. The ship blew up at midnight.
These cultural itineraries are organised by Galician Seas Finisterre Shipwrecks, a project dedicated to promoting the underwater heritage of north-western Spain. Want to discover this exciting maritime history? Check out our flights to A Coruña here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Journey to the Heart of Albariño
The Galician district of Salnés, in the province of Pontevedra, has the honour of being the cradle of one of Spain’s supreme varieties of white wine – albariño. Made from the grape variety of the same name, these wines are young, fresh and fruity, with the right touch of acidity, making for a delightful experience on the palate and pairing to perfection with one of the region’s main products – seafood. Apart from the wines, touring this grape-growing region is packed with enticements as the land is redolent with spectacular scenery, dominated by the presence of the Arousa estuary and its typical country homes, known as pazos, as well as its hórreos (granaries raised on stilts), its cuisine and, needless to say, the affable character of its people.
You are bound to have a host of experiences in the numerous wine cellars you will encounter on your way. The Pazo de Rubianes is the most spectacular example by far. Designated a “Garden of International Excellence”, and with a history going back 600 years, this priceless country manor is surrounded by gardens likely to enchant any nature lover. For its part, the magnificent example of 16th-century Galician stately home that is the Pazo de Señoráns will take you back in time. In the town of Sanxenxo stands the Adega Eidos, built in a far more modern style than the preceding ones as its facilities date from 2003. It affords some excellent views of the Pontevedra estuary. Also built in more contemporary style is Paco & Lola Wine Cellar and Vineyards, founded in 2005, with over 22 hectares given over to vineyards and wines increasingly more in vogue.
And, in between moving from one wine cellar to the next, we recommend stopping off at the Cambados Wine Museum where you can learn about the history, art, geography, grass-roots culture and all viniviticultural aspects of the Rías Baixas DO.
A Pause Along the Way
Man does not live by wine alone and at some point you will need to refuel, so your best option is to do so in the typical ambience of a local pazo. One such manor that is well worth visiting is the Pazo Carrasqueira, a fine example of typical Galician architecture. Built in the 18th century, it has now been turned into a nine-room hotel, with its own albariño cellar of course. Another interesting option is Lagar de Costa, a family winery with lodgings that offer a tour of their vineyards and the island of A Toxa.
The Festa do Albariño in Cambados
Each summer the heartland of albariño wine production is given over to the Festa do Albariño in Cambados.Designated a Tourist Interest Site in 1990, this is the crowning event related to albariño wine-making. What started out in 1953 as a contest between wine producers, promoted by Bernardino Quintanilla Álvarez and Ernesto Zarate, is currently a full-blown festival, with concerts and all kinds of activities suited to all audiences. This year the festival takes place from 2 to 6 August and provides the ideal excuse for tasting the great local albariños in an incomparable setting and ambience, a great final fling after a route through this spectacular wine-growing region.
Book your Vueling to Santiago de Compostela, less than an hour away from Cambados, and gear up to tour this viticultural region dotted with pazos and homesteads full of charm and great wines.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUISmore info