Travel: The Flavours of Florence; HELEN WILLIAM HOPS OVER TO ITALY FOR THE WINE SEASON

Article excerpt

THE autumn grape harvest season is a great time to visit Chianti, one of the world's most famous wine regions in the heart of Italy. There is a lot to see - the weather is still good and the peak season crowds are waning.

And the area is buzzing with excitement over whether this will be another great crop.

Wine - tastings and tours of ancient wineries are on offer, often topped off with local delicacies of meat, cheese and bread.

Locals fill the streets with dance and cheer in colourful celebration and, for a spectacular change of scene from the gently rolling hills, there is the beautiful Renaissance city of Florence nearby.

Anyone seeking a city break or an autumn holiday in a rural villa can get their fix in Florence and the surrounding Chianti region.

Everything can be done at a leisurely pace. Our base, courtesy of upmarket tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, was the five star Relais Santa Croce Hotel in the heart of Florence, a stunning early 18th century palace. Its location, between Santa Croce Basilica and the Duomo, means that you are within a stone's throw of all the must-see attractions.

The Piazzale Michelangelo is a favourite with locals and tourists. A copy of Michelangelo's David sits impressively in the centre of the square.

Reaching the Piazzale Michelangelo on the south side of the River Arno is a short drive or a 15-20 minute walk from the city centre which includes a short but steep climb. It is worth it. The panoramic view across the red-topped roof of the city is fantastic. …