Discovering Bolgheri: what to see, where to eat and sleep
Restaurants, wine cellars and landscapes not to be missed in the pearl of the Upper Maremma
Its name derives from the Bulgarians the ancient allies of the Lombards who had settled in this area with a military camp in a strategic defensive position against the landing of Byzantine troops from Sardinia. But Bolgheri and its territory as we know it today was born from a dream.
That of Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta who, seventy years ago, transformed these sunny hills that surround the ancient village perched on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Tuscan coast in the Upper Maremma - the so-called Etruscan Coast that from Livorno slides southwards to Piombino and owes its name to the Etruscan necropolis discovered in the Populonia area - into a refined and highly prized wine-growing area, dedicated to the cultivation of French vines.
Over time, the number of winegrowers and estates cultivated with vines has grown, but the elitist and emblazoned character of Bolgheri's original imprinting has never been lost. And even in its style of welcoming visitors who come here from all over the world, especially in summer and at harvest time, this area is not afraid to reveal its high-ranking nature.
But let us get to know it, starting with the village of Bolgheri, which then gave its name to the entire area around it cultivated with vineyards and its famous wine, Bolgheri Bianco, Rosso and Superiore. Except for Sassicaia - the wine with which Incisa della Rocchetta turned the fortunes of this area upside down, and which has even been assigned its own DOC.
WHAT TO SEE IN BOLGHERI:
Just above the gate you will notice the large coat of arms of the Counts della Gherardesca, the ancient family that owned the castle from 1200 until a few years ago. It is just beyond the castle that the historic centre develops, where you can see Piazza Teresa with the Medieval Church of Santi Giacomo e Cristoforo; Piazza Alberto, the main square of the village and the path that leads to the discovery of Carducci's life, starting from the house where he lived as a child, in Piazza Alberto, continuing with the statue of his grandmother Lucia, also in the same square, and finally the house where Carducci's first love lived, located in Piazza Teresa.
Viale dei Cipressi
One of Tuscany's most famous postcards. It is a five-kilometre straight, occasionally undulating path that owes its charm to 2,540 towering cypress trees, on either side in a double row. It connects the Oratory of San Guido to the historic centre of the village of Bolgheri, announced by the sight of the red-brick castle, so beautiful and perfect that it looks like something out of a storybook. You can leave your car in the small pay car park you will find on your right. A few steps on foot (perfect for taking some nice pictures) and you find yourself under the tower and the gateway to the village.
The gateway to Bolgheri is located just below the tower of the Castello dei Conti della Gherardesca. Dating back to the 16th century, the castle is still in perfect condition. The lower part houses the cellars, while the surrounding land is home to farms producing the local wine.
Known as the 'wine road', with vineyards interspersed with rows of olive trees, from which oil with the Igp label is obtained, you will come across restored farmhouses and estates where you can sleep or do tastings.
Oasi Padule di Bolgheri
This was the first private protected area in Italy; since 1959, on the initiative of Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, owner of the area, it has been a valuable wildlife refuge for many animal species. Management of the area is private, in collaboration between the WWF and Tenuta San Guido.
WHAT TO SEE AROUND BOLGHERI:
The centre was built around the Castle of Castagneto and the second name was added in honour of the poet Giosuè Carducci who lived here as a child with his family for about ten years and composed many of his most famous poems. The Castagneto Castle, still owned by the Counts della Gherardesca, is worth a visit. Its foundation dates back to the year 1000 and today it is a venue for events and festivals and is open for weddings. For a panoramic view of the territory from the hills to the sea, especially on clear days, we recommend a stop at piazzale Belvedere from where the eye can sweep as far as the horizon of the sea with the silhouettes of the islands of the Tuscan archipelago and with a bit of luck the peaks of the Cap Corse. In the village's main street, there is a historic tailor's shop, now run by Cristea Florin, which makes beautiful hunting clothes and wonderful casentini. Also worth a visit is the historic EmilIo Borsi liquor factory where you can sip a small glass of China Calisaja.
Marina di Castagneto e Marina di Donoratico
What you come across going up from Marina di Castagneto towards Cecina is a long tongue of wild beach, but if you are looking for an exclusive beach club, go to the Tana del Pirata at Marina di Donoratico. Further south, beyond San Vincenzo, lies the enchanting Baratti Gulf with the Buca delle Fate behind the promontory, high above the village of Populonia perched on the sea, above the Etruscan necropolis area. And more pine forests and beautiful beaches.
WHERE TO EAT IN BOLGHERI:
Osteria di San Guido, Bolgheri
S. Guido, 50
ph. +39 0565 749693
A historic restaurant on the Tenuta San Guido dei Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta estate where lunches are served with tastings, you will encounter it before starting the climb up Viale dei Cipressi. Cuisine dedicated to tradition and to making the most of high quality local ingredients with a menu that ranges from homemade pasta to meat to fish and a refined variety of cured meats and cheeses selected to go best with Bolgheri wines.
Express preparations together with the most modern cooking techniques, skilfully combined with traditional Tuscan cuisine and spices from the kitchen garden create pleasant combinations that delight the palate.
Osteria del Tasso
Strada Provinciale Bolgherese
ph. +39 0565 1828061
Immersed in the vineyards of the Guado al Tasso estate owned by the Antinori family since the 1930s. It is a place of great charm furnished in the style of a country residence. The dishes interpret the Bolgheri territory by revisiting the local cuisine, where the flavours and aromas of the sea and the hinterland meet: Pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), paccheri al ragù di daino (pasta with fallow deer ragout), bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak), and fish of the day. The wine list not only proposes the production of the Tenuta (Guado al Tasso is also the name of the cellar's most representative wine) and of the Antinori house, but has also been created to represent the different nuances of Bolgheri DOC: each company associated with the Consortium has been invited to participate by including its own wine. Next door is the Bottega, where in addition to wines, food specialities can be found, including a small production of Cinta Senese cold cuts from pigs bred on the estate.
Osteria La Magona
Strada Provinciale Bolgherese, 16b, loc. Vallone Dei Messi, 199
ph. +39 0565 762173
On the Bolgherese road that connects Bolgheri to Castagneto Carducci, a stone's throw from Ornellaia, the location in itself is already worth the stop. It is a farmhouse immersed in the countryside surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. The cuisine does not take second place, in fact the Florentine steak, presented and barbecued by Omar Barsacchi (a great expert in meat and fires, in Bolgheri for a lifetime), is the queen of the restaurant along with other typical Tuscan recipes. Even the wine selection does not shy away from the local imprint with local reds even from the 1970s. For connoisseurs!
Il Macello di Bolgheri
Strada Provinciale Bolgherese, Località Vallone dei Messi, 14
ph. +39 334 8284822
Next to the Osteria La Magona, Omar Barsacchi, patron of the osteria and supreme pontiff of the 'ciccia', has forged a brotherhood with the great Panzano butcher Dario Cecchini with this recently opened restaurant. Those who enter must be aware that the cuisine here 'is not of stars but of stables' as Dario says, and that every part of the beast can give life to endless delicacies from breast to knee from neck to tail. With one a cook, the other a butcher, a unique experience awaits you!
Loc. magazzino, 210
ph. +39 379 2567646
On the Via Bolgherese, surrounded by vineyards, the new gourmet vegetarian project where everything comes from the home garden, the Podere Arduino farm led by Fabrizio Bartoli and Martina Morelli. Their grilled cuisine with all the forms of cooking that fire offers (grill, plancha, under ashes, smoking) has become a protagonist thanks to the ban on any kind of electrical connection on the Via Bolgherese. It has no à la carte menu, to create even more of a bond and closeness between the company and the Osteria through a real tasting 'journey'. Among the signature dishes, the beetroot cooked in its own soil stands out. The décor features pieces handcrafted by the village blacksmith and carpenter, using reclaimed oak wood. In the centre of the room, an olive tree from the Podere, planted by Agostino Arduino Bartoli, the grandfather of Fabrizio Bartoli, the owner and Chef and Factor of Arduino Bolgheri. Production of fresh cheeses began this year.
Osteria San Michele
Via Vecchia Aurelia, 199
ph. +39 0565 774478
On the old Aurelia is an osteria with an intimate atmosphere where hospitality and customer care are the first rule. At the cooker is Michele Vigliotti, who offers meat and fish dishes showcasing his great skill in handling the products: the result is cuisine with intense flavours that are never banal. The house desserts are good and more in keeping with tradition. Well-structured wine list and good service at the bar.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN BOLGHERI:
Tombolo Talasso Resort
Via del Corallo, 3
ph. +39 0565 74530
A 5-star hotel that offers not only hospitality, but also a broad concept of wellness: serenity, tranquillity, relaxing thalassotherapy treatments and good food. For each guest a personalised service according to individual needs to be experienced in a refined but informal environment. A few steps from the Resort's park is the wide 200-metre sandy beach facing the sea. White beach umbrellas gazebo chaises longues and teak chairs to enjoy the pleasures of sun and sea.
Via Vicinale di Campo di Sasso
ph. +39 0586 671071
15 minutes from Bolgheri and the sea of Bibbona is a historic residence surrounded by the magnificent Tuscan countryside where you can relax and admire the splendid views, taste wines, attend cooking classes and visit the farm. An enchanting place where you can stroll through the gardens, relax by the outdoor pool and enjoy the views and silence that surround you.
LE CANTINE DA VISITARE VICINO BOLGHERI:
Using Bolgheri as a base, one can visit some of the best wineries in the area (reservations required) starting with Tenuta San Guido, a corner of 19th century England warmed by the sun but above all the realm of Sassicaia, Tenuta Guado al Tasso owned by the Antinori family, Ornellaia and Masseto owned by another great Italian wine family the Frescobaldi.
Also on the list of wineries not to be missed is the beautiful Tenuta Argentiera on the heights of Donoratico, which has Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore as its flagship wine, and Donne Fittipaldi located in a fairy-tale corner of the countryside along the Via Bolgherese.
WHAT TO BUY IN BOLGHERI:
In the centre of Bolgheri, it is impossible not to buy Gabriele Fantozzi's terracottas and pass by the Enoteca Tognoni, which serves all the great reds of the area also by the glass. Moreover, no one goes home from Bolgheri without a bottle of Acqua di Bolgheri, purchased in the boutique in Largo Nonna Lucia. Nearby, there is also a grocery store famous for its sandwiches stuffed with local cured meats and cheeses called La Piccola Dispensa. From the end of the village, if you take the dirt road on the left, a nice walk begins. You will soon find yourself amidst the vineyards and gnarled olive trees that surround the farmhouses of the Counts della Gherardesca. A trip to Piazza Alberto, where the house where Carducci spent his childhood is located, is not to be missed.
HOW TO GET TO BOLGHERI
Bolgheri is about 8 km from its municipality, Castagneto Carducci, and is a small, pleasant village in the province of Livorno. To get there, take the SS1 Variante Aurelia, in the stretch between Cecina and San Vincenzo, and take the exit indicating Bolgheri (about 5 km).