Europe 2012: Day 61 — Tuscany


View of the vineyard at the Villa Dievole Resort in Tuscany, Italy.

Monday, 8/6/2012

Woke at 7:30am.   Sunny and hot!     I can feel the heat through the window!

I am not doing well in this heat.   My DH tells me he is OK with it, but I am like everyone else in Italy, I just want to stay inside in an air conditioned room.  All day!

However, today we splurged and booked a private tour – just me, my DH, and a guy called Enzo who got great reviews on TripAdvisor.    The name of his company is Chianti Inside Out Tours.   My request to him was simple, “My husband and I have already been to most of the major cities in Tuscany.  We would like to see some of the small towns and taste some great wine.  What do you suggest?”  Following is his response:

Hi Anna,

Tomorrow Morning we will visit a small winery near my town of San Donato in Poggio, we will then explore the medieval village and stop at the local butcher and deli.  We will then head to the town of Vagliagli where we will have lunch al fresco in a stunning location. We will taste some fine wines here!  After lunch we will visit Castellina to admire its views and small streets with quaint shops.  We will be arriving in Florence at 17:00 approx.

Thank you,

Enzo

Sounds good!

Enzo arrived at our hotel promptly at 8:30am, just like he said he would.   As I step outside I could already feel the heat draining every ounce of energy out of my body.   Quick, I must get out of the sun and into his car!

The tour was great – better than we had hoped for!  Enzo was great!  Enzo is a trained chef and knows everything about Italian food and wine.   Being a true Italian, he was able to discuss more than food with us, also history and politics – my DH had no lack of questions in this regard.   This tour was worth the money and I would recommend Enzo to anyone on an Italian holiday in Tuscany!  Pictures follow.

The first winery we visited was a small one (less than 10 acres) – Podere di Pieve, a farming estate located in the Chianti hills in the district of Tavernelle Val di Pesa just a few kilometers from Florence.  We toured the vineyards and tasted the grapes (Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet) right off the vine!  We went into the tasting room with the owner of the estate, a lovely gentleman who spoke no English but with whom we were still able to have a nice conversation about framing.   We tasted the Pieve del Nero (my favorite) and the Capofila (my DH’s favorite).   We both went ga-ga over the Uliveto e Olip olive oil – a thick, green, and luscious oil with actual favor and real antioxidants!    The plate of cured meats, cheeses, and crusty Italian breads were a treat too.

Walking in the vineyard of Podere Di Pieve, Tuscany, Italy.

Grapes used to make Chianti wine. (Podere Di Pieve, Tuscany, Italy). You can eat them right off the vine. These are tiny and sour.

Walking in the olive grove of Podere Di Pieve. (Tuscany, Italy)

Young olives still on the trees. Olives are either green (young) or black (mature). (Podere Di Pieve, Tuscany, Italy)

Down to the tasting room for some wine and snacks!

The tasting room is a lovely (and cool) place! (Podere Di Pieve, Tuscany, Italy)

My DH and I tasting really good olive oil, wine, and salami and ham. (Podere Di Pieve, Tuscany, Italy)

Our next stop was the town of San Donato in Poggio.  It was lovely and I really don’t have the words to describe it.  Fortunately, I found a video about this town on YouTube – click on the following link to see a YouTube video about the town —  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER6RWmFkAxE

Pretty street in quiet village San Donato, Italy.

Another pretty street in the quiet village of San Donato, Italy. Actually, every street here is pretty!

The second winery we visited was larger (800 acres) – Villa Dievole, a private country estate in the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  Wines (specifically, Chianti Classico) has been produced here for over 900 years.   We also enjoyed a three course lunch in their garden – grilled veggies, pasta with wild boar ragu, and dessert (chocolate mousse for my DH and panna cotta for me).   The location, food and the wines that were paired with each dish were superb!   While we ate, the clouds rolled in, the temperature fell to something comfortable.  A cool breeze drifted through the garden.  After London, I never thought I would be happy to see clouds again – but here I was, thankful for the clouds!

Villa Dievole is sort of in the middle of nowhere. (Tuscany, Italy)

Patio and wine bar of Villa Dievole. (Tuscany, Italy)

Villa Dievole is a resort built around the remains of an old Roman Church. (Tuscany, Italy)

The view of the vineyard from our lunch table at Villa Dievole, Tuscany, Italy.

Our last stop was the town of Castellina,  a small village know for  its important Etruscan archaeological finds.    Here we looked at hilltop views, visited an ancient Etruscan wine cellar, and looked at the Via delle Volte (an impressive arched passage leading along the eastern wall of the city.  It is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe).  It was just lovely!

A lovely street in Castellina, Italy.

The small castle in Castellina, Italy.

My DH and I in an old Etruscan wine cellar in Castellina, Italy.  It is still in operation and produces the true Chianti wine of the Tuscany Region.

Theses passages (part of the castle) surround much of the villiage of Castillina, Italy. They come in handy when it rains.

View of the Tuscan hills from Castellina, Italy.

As a last flourish to our tour, Enzo took us to the Piazzale Michelangelo — one of the best vista points of Florence in Tuscany.  Here are a couple of pictures:

View of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo. (Italy)

Here is a close-up of the Duomo. (Florence, italy)

Here is a close up of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The cloudy atmosphere gives and interesting blue effect to the photos. (Florence, Italy)

A replica of “David” is the centerpiece of the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy.

By the time we returned to the Florence in the afternoon, I felt rejuvenated!  We both had a lovely time and were ready to tackle the one task that we have been putting off for a while — the laundry.

We hadn’t done laundry since our visit to Castelnau d’Aude in France – it was time. We found a laundromat just a couple of blocks from our hotel.   We packed all our dirty clothes into my DH’s suitcase and wheeled it to the laundromat.   What we thought would be an activity just prime for mishap and drama, it was not!   There were instructions on how to use the washers and dryers in English and we had saved coins for the machine.  Everything worked perfectly.  In an hour, we had clean clothes again!

Yippy! Laundry day in Florence, Italy.

While our clothes were being washed, we parked ourselves at a café down the street called the OK Bar.  We shared a plate of pasta with mushrooms and a liter of cold water.  Like the food, the service was very good!   We also used their free WiFi — sweet!   Sleeping in freshly laundered jammies really made a perfect end to a perfect day in Tuscany.

Quote of the day:  “Thank God – its clouding up!” — Anna

2 thoughts on “Europe 2012: Day 61 — Tuscany

  1. For the first time since you started your trip, I am truly, truly envious.
    Incredible landscape, good wines, yummy munchies,
    cloud cover and a slight breeze. AND a private tour given by a guide
    that is knowledgeable. What a perfect day. Wish I was there.

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