The Municipality of Castagneto Carducci is a vast area in the centre of the province of Livorno, positioned on a hill from where you can see the sea, its hamlets of Donoratico and Marina, but, first of all, Castagneto Carducci means Bolgheri. It was immortalized by the verses of the poet Giosuè Carducci who dedicated them to the Bolgheri cypresses and the oratory of San Guido, world famous for its wine, the distinguished and elegant red Bolgheri wine. Amongst the Bolgheri’s Tuscany wine, famous in the world of wine and generally in the world who loves the Italian taste, there is one name for all: Sassicaia wine.
Bolgheri owes most of its prominence to two great men, a great poet and a noble man of the 20th century. Bolgheri what to do is basically due to them. The first wrote about Bolgheri indelibly, and the second 'invented' the Sassicaia wine,and founded in Bolgheri a stable of race horses, and created one of the first major Italian private natural oases.
Let’s start with the poet Giosuè Carducci was born in Pietrasanta, Pisa in 1835. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906, and died in Bologna in 1907. He lived in Bolgheri as a child, for ten years and experienced a hard life with his dad Michael and especially with his beloved grandmother Lucia, he was rebellious and a true lover of nature and art. Bolgheri left in him indelible memories and in 1874 he wrote verses entitled "In front of San Guido", that were only published in 1887 in the collection "New Rhymes" which gave this small village an otherwise impossible reputation.
We use the co-ordinates of the poet to reach the Bolgheri castle and then coming from the north on the Old Aurelia, after the junction for Marina di Bibbona, you will see on your right a small octagonal chapel. The Oratorio of St Guido, was built in 1703 to celebrate St. Guido Eremita, from Pisa, who died shortly later, in Donoratico in 1140. The Oratory is located a bit before the Bolgheri cypress trees Avenue that instead you will find on the left. Now take a look at the road: this already in itself is a great reason for coming up here. This is a five kilometres tree-lined street, with Bolgheri cypresses, a straight road that will leave you speechless and which, at the end, will take you to the door of the beautiful and impressive Castle of Bolgheri,. The last renovation dates from 1895 but the impressive castle, with its 16th century tower, was built by the Counts of Gherardesca, a noble Pisan family of Lombard origin that was also the protagonist of the history of Pisa and Volterra since the year 1000. Bolgheri Castle has included both the Gherardesca Palace dating back to the 1700s and the Romanesque church dedicated to the Saints James and Christopher, that was last refurbished in 1902.
Having passed through the door of the castle, the walk to Bolgheri is delightful, boasting intimate taverns, wine bars and artisan shops. The village is still intact, a group of palaces and houses on cobbled streets of medieval flavour in the countryside of the sloping Metalliferous Hills, at the centre of the square is the statue of Nonna Lucia to whom Carducci perhaps devoted the most touching part of his poetry.
Just out of the castle, head back to the Aurelia, once on the left and all around there is Tenuta San Guido, the history of Bolgheri wine. Excellence begins there. While you are there enter or you should at least try it, although it would be best to book beforehand. There are guided tours and tastings and then walking and horse-riding around Bolgheri Tenuta San Guido through vineyards and olive groves, a relaxing moment that only nature can give.
Mario Incisa della Rocchetta was born in Rome in 1889, he studied agriculture in Pisa and then met Clarice Gherardesca, a descendent of the well-known family of Count Ugolino. Mario and Clarice were married and the Rome noble received as a dowry from his wife a 600-hectare estate in Bolgheri extending for 13 km from the sea to the hills: Tenuta San Guido.
Mario was the grandson of Leopoldo Incisa della Rocchetta, who knew a lot about fields and vineyards. In 1862 he had written a text - try and grasp the extraordinary nature of the fact – on the 105 grape varieties of vine plants, both of indigenous and foreign origins”. And maybe it was this family stimulus that led Mario Incisa della Rocchetta to bring in Bolgheri plants of French grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and others. At that time everyone will have looked dazed, and actually to bring a grape of Bordeaux in Tuscany was not normal, but nobody knew that they were witnessing the "birth" of one of the most expensive and refined wines in the world: vino Sassicaia. The genius of Mario planted these vines on the estate, on the hills, 300 metres above sea level, some of these vineyards rest on a rocky ground made of stones from which its name. The first bottle of Sassicaia wine was produced in 1944, but the first bottle of Sassicaia wines destined for sales in 1968 and in 1978 the red Bolgheri Sassicaia became what it is today because its 1972 vintage surprisingly won a blind tasting against the other top 32 Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world. The fine wine has its denomination as "DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia" and is the only Italian DOC due to have a unique winery, Tenuta San Guido.
Tenuta San Guido, however, is much more. Mario Incisa della Rocchetta in 1932 founded a company with a leading expert on horses, Federico Tesio, and developed the Scuderia della Tenuta, and reared the famous Dormello – Olgiata horse race, amongst the great successes of the Tesio-Incisa duo is one of the most famous horses of all times: to the experts in this field, the name "Ribot" gives an uncontrollable gasp. The estate today is a famous breeding and training thoroughbred horse centre, one of the most well-known equestrian centres in Europe.
Mario Incisa della Rocchetta had a huge passion for nature and in 1959 founded inside San Guido the first private nature reserve. He was also one of the founders of the WWF and the first President of the organization. Today the oasis in Bolgheri of Tenuta San Guido is under the protection of the well-known natural organization under the name of Oasi WWF Bolgheri. Since 1977, according to the Ramsar International Convention, it is a wetland of International Importance; visiting it is a breathless experience for fans of the genre and it should be noted that it is one of the areas of greatest importance for birdwatching.
Mario Incisa della Rocchetta died in 1983, his family have since continued on his trail with great success.
The list of wine of Bolgheri in Tuscany is much longer, with Bolgheri Rosso, Bolgheri Rosso Superiore and the white led by Bolgheri Vermentino being the vintages of the DOC Bolgheri. These are wines of the highest level completely different from the characteristic Sangiovese wines of Tuscany (Chianti, Brunello and all the others). About forty wineries are associated in the Consortium for the Protection of Bolgheri wines DOC, its office is still in the avenue of Bolgheri cypress trees closer to the castle of Bolgheri. You could use the consortium as a starting point for visiting the wineries in the area some of which organize visits and offer accommodation.
We return to the Aurelia Vecchia and even take a frantic leap to the present day. In front of the Oratory and to the side of the Avenue is the Arena Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. This area houses the Bolgheri theatre for events of major international shows, a stage for great events with over five thousand seats in rows for large events of music, dance, and cabaret which take place in the nights of every summer as part of "Bolgheri Melody", perhaps the summer event of greatest prominence of the Etruscan Coast.
Let’s go back to the Castle of Bolgheri and the Consortium and on the left you will find the Province Bolgherese Road, take that to go to Castagneto Carducci. To get to Castagneto there are a dozen kilometres between olive groves and farms, rural farm-stays and a few wine cellars. When you arrive at your destination you will discover the charm of the village of Castagneto Carducci which is very pleasant to visit. Boasting paved roads and small paths, you can walk up to the 18th century castle - of course it belonged to the Gherardesca counts - which offers considerable views. On Via Carducci 2 is the Carducci Archive Museum and at number 59 is the Carducci House.
About halfway between Bolgheri and Castagneto Bolgheri on the Bolgherese road you will find a detour that takes you to Ornellaia, among the best known wineries. It is located in the homonymous village.
Shortly before arriving at Ornellaia on the left is a road that brings you to Castiglioncello of Bolgheri almost 400 metres above sea level. This is an intriguing small castle with two wings and ramparts and a tower dated 780 A.D. that, belonged to the Gherardescas until 1440. From the middle of the 15th century until 1665, it belonged to the Soderinis and then to the Incontri Family until 1801 when it returned in the hands of the Gherardescas. The castle, is almost always closed, it is better to enquire beforehand about its seasonal access conditions.
The great thing about a visit to Bolgheri is the possibility to space from the hill and all its remarkable gadgets to the sea. Then it is back to Aurelia to go to Donoratico.
Donoratico, on top of overlooking the sea and beautiful beaches, offers an original story and a historical counterpoint to see. The village was founded in the late 19th century by Count Guido Alberto Della Gherardesca to accommodate the settlers and had significant expansion in the early 20th century. The village was called at the beginning Bambolo and only in 1938 the authorities changed its name to Donoratico, after the medieval castle located nearby.
The Donoratico Castle, dates back to the 10th century. It was destroyed in the 15th century but its ruins remain and the tower can be seen silhouetted on the hill. The place was celebrated by Dante with Count Ugolino who is said to have lived here and also by Carducci in one of his poems; in the surroundings there are necropolis and remains of Etruscan civilization damage just to give an idea of the historical depth of the beautiful landscape.
Let’s stop here. History, poetry, horse and genius, wine and castles, but mainly wine. Bolgheri is a widespread reality, an amazing story, be it for the cypresses or its Sauvignon, Tenuta San Guido, the hills or the sea. Bolgheri is a piece of Tuscany with all its the sophistication and the elegance of its enchanting past times.