Finding Florence, and a Wine tour!

OK, I know that in my first post I said that I would post in the order of the places I visited in Italy, but I am so excited to share Florence with you, I had to skip ahead.  Ahhhh, Florence, and Tuscany!

The first destination to choose to go to in Italy was a no brainer- Rome. Who has NOT heard about Rome: The Colosseum, Gladiators, and all the history of The Roman Times? But, I honestly had not heard very much about Florence, and what a shame. Florence felt like being home- well at least being lost at home, but once again thank goodness for Kathy and her good sense of direction. We arrived in Florence (our first time) by train from Rome in November, 2010, found our hotel which was surprisingly so close to the train station we could walk, checked in, and then all of a sudden we all lost our momentum. What momentum? The momentum we had started in Rome by touring like mad tourists with a definite time limit, and the desire to do and see EVERYTHING in Rome in only 4 days. Yes, it stopped, and the feeling of life, and living in Italy began. La Dolce Vita!

Life in Italy to us was strolling, and roaming the zig zag of Italian streets. We explored the OMG, many, many shops with Amazing shopping!!! We ate EVERYTHING we wanted, and drank Oh so much vino! We slept in, had the most wonderful coffee at our hotel every morning, and figured out how to drink real Cafe with Grappa in the afternoon. We saw David, shopped some more, ate some more, drank some more, and had so much fun! Oh did we laugh!

  The weather unfortunately turned from the beautiful sunny, warm days we had in Rome, and the first day in Florence, to rainy and cool, therefore the one thing I longed to do, which was go on a wine tour in Tuscany was cancelled. Reason #1 to go back!!!  When I got home, the leather jacket I bought ended up being a dud (read scams and scammers), Reason #2 to go back!  Kathy and I were attempting to plan a girls trip to Vegas for a weekend, and figured that the money we would spend to fly, stay, dine out, drink, and shop, for a couple hundred more dollars, we could go back to Italy for a week. Reason #3!  We then found cheap flights, gave ourselves a budget for hotels, and the TaDa, our 2nd trip to Italy was planned!  And, I was going on a wine tour! By the way, there were more reasons, including the Incredible shopping, the most Amazing food, coffee, and wine, and of course the desire to explore more of a country we had fallen deeply in love with! Oh, and our week long trip to Italy became 12 days away… Oh, we are good!

To ensure that we would not miss out on a wine tour, we reserved a tour with Tuscan Wine Society for our first whole day in Florence. Once we paid a deposit via Paypal, we were sent the location, and more information to meet the van to start our tour of Chianti country.

We were greeted by Ilari, our guide, and were then joined by our fellow ‘winos’, 3 fun girls from New Jersey, and a newlywed couple from North Carolina. We knew about 5 minutes into the trip that we were going to have fun together, which we definitely did!

As soon as we left the city limits and were in the Tuscan countryside, I was so glad that we came back to Italy for a wine tour. It was just as I thought it would be-Scenically Beautiful, and oh so quaint! There were rows, and rows of olive trees, many  farms, and field, after field of wine orchards. The vines were just starting to bloom, and everywhere it was green, which was even better for us because it was still snowing at home.  Then all of a sudden, up ahead we saw a castle! Now that never happens at home! We quickly got out of the van and took pictures.

Our first Vineyard, Villa Cafaggio.  This is a small winery, where they not only produce wine, but also olio (olive oil), and olive oil chocolate. We were given a tour of where the magic happens to produce all of their wines, plus their olive oil. It all is simply an art, to produce good wine! We then sat down in their tasting room, and it was explained to us why you sniff the cork, why it is good to oxygenate the wine before you drink it, what you are determining when you sniff the wine, and what to look for when tasting it. It was a lot to take in, but it was very helpful, and educational in explaining the art of drinking wine! Who knew there was an art in drinking! Mmmmmm. Can you believe, the challenge I had was to finish all of my wine. You see, I now had an empty stomach, and was really enjoying the wine, but did not want to get drunk. What? If you know me, being drunk, and vehicles do not make a good match, and the windy roads of Tuscany would have been another factor to this inevitable mess… So yes, I did some alcohol abuse, and left some behind. But luckily our next stop was lunch!

, in Panzano was something I really did not expect. I knew that I was hungry, but I was expecting some sandwiches or something simple like that, and simple is not at Dario’s butchery, and restaurant, except  to put it simply, Amazing!!! I do have to warn you that unless you arrive with an open mind, and the willingness to try new things, you may not enjoy your experience, and most importantly your lunch. It really amazes me that some people travel to other places of the world, and expect to eat what they would at home. This is part of the fun for me, and if you love food like I do, trying new things is like eating another chocolate from my new box of chocolates.  At soon as we walked into Antica Macelleria Cecchina we were greeted by the owner himself, Dario. His greeting was to pour us some of his house wine, and show us his spread of tasties to try- could it get any better? I immediately fell in love with his salt spice that you sprinkle on the olive oil for dipping your bread or veggies in. We were then shown the way to the restaurant, and sat at the huge communal table, and immediately the Olio, and Vino started to flow onto our plates, and in our glasses. The menu was simple, yet brilliant as it showed off Dario’s true talents- meat.  Your choices were: “a half pound burger in a crisp crumb crust, garlic and sage roasted potatoes,vegetables and sliced onions, our sauces, Tuscan bread, water with or without bubbles”  OR, “Raw garden vegetables to dip in olive oil, Chianti sushi (steak tartar), Chianti tuna (a pork dish), pork roasted with herbs and garlic, meatloaf with sweet bell pepper sauce, Tuscan bread, water with or without bubbles” I must say that as I type this my mouth is watering…  We of course also had endless wine, and ended the meal with Grappa.  This is a quote from Dario’s menu:  “The meat I serve is raised on my behalf in Catalunya (Spain) and in Panzano in Chianti (Italy).  Our restaurant menus are all naturally dairy-free (unless you like cream in your coffee) and perfectly adapted to a lactose intolerant diet.”  Kathy and I as well as most of the other fellow ‘winos’ chose the 2nd option, so they brought out our many dishes family style for our group. All I can say is YUMMMMM. It was SOOOOO good, and I honestly can not wait to go back again!  But more wine awaits us!

Just when I thought our day could not get any better, we were taken to the farm, of Renzo Marinai. My oh my, oh my, oh my.  He is a Beautiful man, with such a beautiful spirit about him. (pictured on the far left) And his wine is not bad either….lol  Renzo’s farm grows not only grapes, but also olive trees, and wheat for pasta, and bread and it is ALL organic! I was so impressed with their attitude towards farming, and I was even more  impressed about their philosophy, especially after we were given our tour of their facilities. At one point in particular, I was most impressed when we entered this one cellar, we could hear Mozart being played. It was explained to us that Mozart is played in this specific cellar for the first and second fermentation for those grapes. Happy grapes makes happy wine! And I can attest that their wine, olive oil, and pasta are all Wonderful! The only problem was that I did not have enough room to bring more home with me! Since being home, I have been very specific with whom, and how much I will share the olive oil with, and I am saving my wine for a special occasion for my husband and I. The pasta I brought home  from Renzo’s farm was gone the first week I returned home, and yes, I did share it with my kids too.  Oh, and the best news we found out, is that they are hiring for their harvest in October! And they feed you too!  Wine, food, and getting paid while in Italy?? Now that is La Dolce Vita!   I now just have to convince my husband!

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6 thoughts on “Finding Florence, and a Wine tour!

  1. I just love your enthusiasm for Florence and Tuscany! And I totally, totally get it. My husband and I spent time in Florence and Chianti last year, and I have never been anyplace where I felt so immediately comfortable, and at home. I cried, when it was time to leave. (like uncrontrollable sobbing…sheesh) If you knew me, you would know how un-characteristic that is. LOL!

    Needless to say, we’ve been pining away for Italy since the moment we got back, and I am so excited that we just booked our tickets for the end of October this year! Last time we were based near Greve and did a couple day trips to Florence. As you know, that is not nearly enough time to absorb the magic of that city. So this time we are staying in Florence for 5 nights, before heading into the countryside. Sounds like you enjoy travelling the same way we do…eat everything, walk a lot, stop for a glass of wine, gaze at beautiful old buildings, walk some more , eat some more. There is no better place to do that than Florence.

    So glad you got to do your wine trip this time. We stayed at a winery near Greve last year, and Oh my! that landscape was more beautiful than any picture could ever portray. Our hosts were fabulous…like all the Italians we met on our trip.

    Oh dear. I could just go on and on. Oh, and I completely understand your olive oil situation! I would go back to Chianti just to taste that gorgeous peppery flavour again. Wish I’d brought a barrel home with me.

    So glad I found your blog 🙂
    Ciao!

    Karen

    • Ciao Karen!
      OMG! I know what you mean about crying when leaving! This happened to both Kathy and I on our first and second trips! And can you believe that movie I chose to watch on the flight home the first time was Letters to Juliet, which was filmed in Italy, and was SOBBING when she was in the Tuscan Countryside! I think that was the first moment that I KNEW I MUST go back to discover that part of Italy. That is totally how the Universe works!
      Can you believe that The Tourist was playing on the flight home this last trip?! Based in Venice, where we had just been, and once again, tears!!!

      I am so glad that you found my blog also! How did you find it?

      I would love to hear more about your previous trip to Greve! And by the way, you will LOVE Italy in October!!! I would LOVE to be there for harvest!

      I think we have a lot in common, and this could be the start of a beautiful Italian friendship/ bella amicizia!!

  2. Ciao Trina!

    LOL at all the crying! Have you seen Merchant and Ivory’s film of A Room with a View? Lots of scenes of beautiful Florence and Tuscan countryside…I found it very moving before I ever set foot in Italy. Heaven knows what it might do to me now!

    A stumbled onto your blog from your thread on Trip Advisor. Sorry you had that problem with the jacket, but good for you for at least trying to make him accountable. I feel sad thinking of how many people have been ripped off by that shop, and may have been left with a bad taste in their mouth regarding Florence.

    Would love to tell you about our trip last year in May. My husband and I started with 6 days in Cinque Terre. You know how before your trip you look at all those photos of the villages just hanging off the cliffs, almost falling into the sea. And you think “It can’t possibly look like that.” Then you get there, and you can’t believe it. The whole flippin’ place looks like a fairy tale. Which goes perfectly with that weird surreal feeling that jet-lag gives you. We stayed in Manarola, the weather was not good, but we loved it anyway. Can’t wait to read your take on it.

    Then it was on to Chianti for two weeks. We met a couple of our friends and stayed here: http://www.lamole.info/savignola.htm Pictures really don’t do it justice. About 2.5 km from Greve, it was the perfect base to do day trips to Florence, San Giminagno, Siena, Volterra. And lots of just hanging close to home, going marketing in Greve, walking to Montefioralle, having lunch at Dario’s in Panzano (awesome!). Greve itself has some great little restaurants, and of course the Cantine, probably the biggest wine shope in all of Tuscany. and you can taste most of them at the store. You buy a sort of punch card for 10 euro or 20 euro and then pour a taste into your glass from dispensers, until you run out of money on the card. It’s genius!

    I think the biggest surprise for us was how much woodland there is in Chianti. Lots of wild boar, deer and bird-life. I love how the Italians seem to respect the land, and actually work with the natural landscape instead of trying to dominate it. Anyway, it was nice to see the deer, and rabbits (also on our plates, by the way!), and to hear the nightingales in the middle of the night.

    So Trina, I feel like I’m hogging your blog here, but I think you know how easy it is to wax poetic about Italy. It’s certainly fun to talk to other people who feel the same about bel’ Italia. I’m really looking forward to future posts from you. 🙂

    Ciao bella!

    • Ciao Mia Bella!
      This is one of my, and the other reader’s treats is getting others points of views, and experiences of Italy also, so please keep sharing!!! So, if that is what it is called, then hog away! Prego!

      All I can say about the guy that sold me the ‘leather jacket’ is that Karma is going to suck for him…

      Awwww, Cinque Terre is EXACTLY as you described; a fairy tale! That was a day trip turned into 3 nights for us! It is such a shame that this world is so large, because there are so many other place I want to visit, and discover, but before I do that, I will be going back to Cinque Terre again! I will be blogging about there next, I promise!

      A wine punch card? Definitely genius! Right up there with the home made wine store in Venice we found that fills up wine into pop bottles for CHEAP.

      I was wanting to share another blog that was shared with me, and this must be when I am needing to share it.
      http://www.acertainsimplicity.com/
      I think you will LOVE this blog also, as this expat and her husband have the most Wonderful Bed and Breakfast in Italy, and they are just as passionate about Italy as we are. I am visiting her bed and breakfast the next time I go to Italy, for sure!

      Grazie Mille for all of your comments!
      Trina

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