The castle of Brolio, in Gaiole in Chianti, dominates a beautiful part
of Chianti with breath-taking views over an unspoiled landscape. It is a one
hour drive from Cortona.
The first recorded data regarding the castle dates back to 1009. In 1141
it was acquired by the Ricasoli family of Florence (over 900 years ago!) to
whom it still belongs. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone siege,
destruction and even aerial bombings (during World War II), and as a
consequence sports architectural features from many different eras: to note are
the fortified medieval bastions, the unmistakeable Romanesque and neo-Gothic additions
and the unique nineteenth century Tuscan touches.
Today, it is a farm of 1.200 hectares (circa 3000 acres), with an
important wine and olive oil production.
Baron Bettino Ricasoli (9 March 1809 – 23 October 1880) was an important
figure for Chianti in that he created the recipe for Chianti wine, for Tuscany of
which he was regent after the expulsion of the Medici family and for Italy, of
which he was Prime Minister twice, between 1861 and 1867.
Bettino is a well-known and admired figure and buried in the crypt of
the castle church; dozens of streets are named “via Ricasoli” in cities and
villages throughout Tuscany.
Returning to the castle, you can visit the garden, the chapel and the
crypt as well as being able to taste the company's wine and oil.
A curiosity near to the car park is a red brick circular structure which
long before electricity and refrigerators were introduced was used as an ice-box;
similar structures can be found in the gardens of villas in Cortona and in the
Lunch at the Osteria di Brolio, the restaurant at the foot of the
castle, provided quality food with fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Once you have visited the castle, a suggestion would be to continue on towards
Siena following the scenic route indicated by brown road signs: these will take
you through some of the most beautiful areas of Chianti and allowing you to see
villas, castles and centuries-old churches.
Via a more direct route, Siena can be reached in 30 minutes.