Etruscan Coast
Etruscan Coast

Visiting Bolgheri, a wine wonderland in Tuscany

Bolgheri and its amazing food and wine heritage

Bolgheri is a small hamlet surrounded by nature, located less then ten kilometres to the see, near Castagneto Carducci in province of Lovorno. Famous for its extraordinary wines, Bolgheri is located less than ten kilometers from the sea and the beautiful beaches of the Etruscan Coast.

History of Bolgheri

Bolgheri’s history has always been linked to that of its castle. Although it is not clear when the name Bolgheri was adopted, we know that already in 1158 there was talk of a castle in Bolgheri and that since its origins it had been a possession of the counts della Gherardesca even if for a certain period, after the end of the domination Lombard, the castle was controlled by Allone, duke of Lucca. Over the centuries the castle suffered several attacks and was devastated and plundered. Only starting from the eighteenth century, Bolgheri experienced a development linked above all to agricultural activities and the reclamation of the marshes.

Things to do in Bolgheri, guide to the visit

Oratorio di San guido

Built in 1703 by the Gherardesca family in honor of the ancestor, the hermit San Guido (in reality he is “blessed” and not “saint”), the Oratorio di San Guido is located along Via Aurelia right at the beginning of the avenue which leads up to Bolgheri. This small and graceful oratory has a peculiar octagonal plan and has a small access portal above which there is a white marble plaque. The fame of this place is linked to the poetry Davanti San Guido by Giosuè Carducci which also expressly mentions the Viale dei Cipressi.

things to do in Bolgheri Oratorio di San Guido
Oratorio di San Guido (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Viale dei Cipressi

To reach Bolgheri you have to walk a long avenue that travels straight between two rows of secular cypresses, from via Aurelia to the village. This is the famous avenue with the cypresses of Bolgheri which was immortalized in the verses of the great poet Giosuè Carducci, in a memory of his childhood:

I cipressi che a Bólgheri alti e schietti
Van da San Guido in duplice filar,
Quasi in corsa giganti giovinetti
Mi balzarono incontro e mi guardar
.
(Giosuè Carducci, Davanti a San Guido)

This long tree-lined avenue is really very suggestive; many stop along the road to take some photos, especially when the sky turns red at sunset creating the perfect scenery. The viale dei Cipressi dates back to the nineteenth century, when together with the reconstruction of the Via Aurelia, a series of roads were created that were used to connect the various hamlets to the main road. Along its 4.7 kilometers there are about 2400 secular cypresses that keep the avenue shaded for most of the time. There really couldn’t be a more majestic entrance than this!

Bolgheri - Viale dei cipressi
Viale dei cipressi

Castello di Bolgheri

At the end of the almost five kilometers of tree-lined avenue that separate Bolgheri from the Oratory of San Guido, you arrive in front of the symbol of the town: the Castle of Bolgheri. The castle dates back to the Middle Ages but over the centuries, especially from the eighteenth century, it has undergone various modifications until the facade was rebuilt in 1895.

The fortress looks like a complex red brick building crowned with battlements. The castle is made up of various structures: the Gherardesca castle, the city gate and its tower. On the facade, just above the entrance arch to the village, there is the coat of arms of the Gherardesca family that has owned the castle since the thirteenth century. Unfortunately, the interior cannot be visited, so you will have to content yourself with admiring it from the outside.

things to do in Bolgheri the Castle of Bolgheri
The Castle of Bolgheri (Photo by wiccahwang / CC BY)

Chiesa dei Santi Giacomo e Cristoforo

The main monument to visit inside the historic center of Bolgheri is the chiesa dei Santi Giacomo e Cristoforo which is located in Piazza Teresa immediately after passing through the city gate. Built in Romanesque forms in medieval times, the church represents the oldest building in Bolgheri. Today the church does not appear as it should have been originally because over time it underwent various interventions including a restoration of the early 1900s. Inside you can appreciate a beautiful pictorial decoration on the walls.

The great wines of Bolgheri

At this point you just have to enjoy this small historic center and take a tour of the shops and especially among the cellars and wine bars because, as you probably already know, Bolgheri is a real excellence in the field of wines. Here are born some of the most precious wines of Tuscany, which are produced by over thirty companies that are part of the consorzio Bolgheri DOC. Among these wines the most famous are reds such as Bolgheri Rosso and the award-winning Sassicaia and Ornellaia, but rosés and white wines such as Vermentino and Bolgheri Bianco should not be forgotten.

To guarantee the quality of these wines, there is a disciplinare dedicated to Bolgheri DOC wines which precisely establishes the areas of production, which must be the vines used, the rules for viticulture and winemaking and the characteristics it must have a wine to boast of the denomination “Bolgheri”.

If you visit Bolgheri, a wine tasting is a must and I don’t know about you, but I’m a true fan of Bolgheri red wines!

Bolgheri wines and grapes
Where the wines of Bolgheri born (Photo by David LienhardCC BY)

Bolgheri Jazz

If you are wondering when is the best time to visit Bolgheri, perhaps you could consider the month of September when the town is animated by Bolgheri Jazz. The event, in its fifteenth edition in 2019, represents an excellent opportunity to get to know Bolgheri and its flavors while listening to good live jazz music.

What to see around Bolgheri

As we said, Bolgheri is very close to the sea, in fact in just 15 minutes you can reach the Etruscan coast. In the immediate vicinity of the village we also point out the Rifugio faunistico di Bolgheri and the Castello di Castiglioncello di Bolgheri.

The Rifugio faunistico di Bolgheri, which since 1968 has also been a WWF Oasis, is interesting because it keeps intact the characteristics that the Maremma had before the reclamation. It is a marshy environment in which different plant and animal species live. Here many species of birds find refuge such as the peregrine falcon, the crane, goose, duck and owl and various species of mammals, in particular roe deer, squirrels, rabbits and badgers.

The Castello di Castiglioncello di Bolgheri dates back to the 8th century and is a piece of history of this area also because the famous Sassicaia wine was produced here for the first time.

If you want to know more about the villages that are located near Bolgheri, I recommend you read the guides on Populonia, Piombino, Suvereto and Campiglia Marittima.

How to get to Bolgheri

By car: from north: A12 highway till the exit La California, continue on Aurelia in direction of Grosseto till the turn on the cypresses avenue.
From south: A12 highway till the exit Donoratico, then take the via Aurelia in direction of Livorno till the turn on the cypresses avenue.

By Train and bus: Bolgheri does not have its own railway station, therefore you will not be able to get there directly by train which, at the most, will take you to Donoratico; from there you will have to take a bus (for example the line 006 of Tiemme Piombino) in order to get to the hamlet.

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