Under The Tuscan Sun – Enjoying a Vineyard Tour

Castello di Tignano, Tuscany, 2009Harvested grapes prior to pressing hanging in a beautiful stone building at “Il Poggione” near Castello di Tignano, Tuscany, 2009

Several years ago a dear friend Phyllis and her husband Stu met me, Joe, and Joe’s parents for an espresso in the town of Tavarnelle val di Pesa in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. After relaxing and catching up we accepted their generous invitation to visit a friend Riccardo Casamonti and his vineyard.   The drive through the countryside was a photographer’s dream with spectacular vistas in every direction.   I am sure I asked Stu to stop the car on no less than 10 occasions so I could take a photo.

The small vineyard, “Il Poggione”, is located very near the Castello di Tignano in the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa in the Chianti Region south of Florence.  Riccardo produces 1,200 botles of wine annually and only on the best vintages such as 2006.  Among the wines produced is a wonderful Vin Santo, “holy wine”, a style of Italian dessert wine.  Traditional in Tuscany, these wines are often made from wite grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia.  Riccardo couldn’t have been more welcoming as he showed us around the farm allowing us to experience wine making from harvest to press to tasting!!

After spending the better part of the day at the vineyard we enjoyed a spectacular lunch of amazing seafood at La Trattoria del Pesce in the nearby town of Bargino.    Truly one of the most memorable days in Italy over the years and a reminder to take advantage of wonderful opportunities when they land at your doorstep.   Phyllis and Stu we will be forever grateful for this amazing experience – Mille Grazie!!  David, Joe, Barbara and Richard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARiccardo Casamonti, “Il Poggione” Vineyard, Tuscany, 2009

Il Poggione Vineyard, Tuscany, 2009Pressing and fermenting the grapes, “Il Poggione” Vineyard, Tuscany 2009

Day Tripping – Rome to Arezzo

Ancient Forest, Camaldoli, Apennienes, TuscanyAncient Forest in the Tuscan Apennines, home of the Sacro Ermo , Camaldoli, Italy, 2012

Arezzo located in Tuscany in central Italy is about 190 km to the northeast of Rome near both Siena and Florence.

Several ways to get to Arezzo.  Take the train from Roma Termini station or rent a car and drive (recommended). Depending on the specific train It takes between 1 hr 15 min and 2 hr 33 min. The Eurostar is fastest and most expensive (29.50 euro); the regional trains are slower, but cheaper (11.70 euro).  By car take the A1 Autostrada and expect to spend 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic.

Described by Livy as one of the Capitae Etruriae (Etruscan capitals), Arezzo (Aritim in Etruscan) is believed to have been one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities.  The historical center is easily walked and many will recognize the Piazza Grande from the movie, A Beautiful Life.

We were fortunate to stay with friends who are living in Arezzo and spent an entire day outside of the city driving the back roads to two places that I highly recommend visiting if you can, The ancient hill town of Poppi and the Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli (Sacro Ermo).  Both places are incredibly beautiful!!

Poppi offers amazing vistas from the Castello dei Conti Guidi.  You can climb the bell tower if you don’t mind heights and if you time your climb to the hour you get an extra surprise.  Additionally the the ancient library contains incredible printed volumes.

The hermitage and monastery founded about 1012 by Saint Romuald, a Benedictine monk,  is situated in the National Park of the Forests of the Casentino in Tuscany and is accessible by walking (recommended – 4 km total) or car.  Make sure you visit the old pharmacy – originally a laboratory where monks studied and worked with medicinal herbs.  You can still buy a variety of herbal remedies.

Driving through the hills of Tuscany is an amazing experience for the senses!  Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite.   Buon Viaggio!

Day Tripping – Rome to Florence

View of Duomo from San Miniato
View of Duomo from San Miniato al Monte, Florence, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the high speed Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) or Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) from Roma Termini Station to Firenze located just under 300 km to the northwest from downtown Rome, takes 90 minutes.  Italy’s high speed trains are a great way to travel, comfortable and ultra modern,   maximizing your time.

Among Florence’s many treasures are Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Duomo, and Masaccio’s frescoes of Adam and Eve. Depending on how much time and energy you have it is possible to see all three.  I recommend buying tickets to the Galleria dell’Accademia (David) and the church of Santa Maria del Carmine (Adam and Eve frescoes) in advance to avoid long lines and wasting valuable time.

View of San Miniato From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013
View of San Miniato al Monte From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013

One of my favorite itineraries for a day in Florence includes arriving at Santa Maria Novella Station and taking a taxi up to San Miniato al Monte for an incredible view of the city. From the basilica walk the short distance to Piazzale Michaelangelo for another incredible view of the Tuscan valley.  From the piazzale look for the stair case at the northwest corner and wind your way down the footpath past the Giardino delle Rose, a hidden gem, to the old city gate at Piazzetta San Miniato.  From this point you can wander toward Ponte alle Grazie and cross the bridge from the oltrarno, “beyond the Arno”, quarter of the city into the historic center of the city toward Santa Crocce.   This is about a two and one half hour walk of incredible vista’s which allows you to avoid large crowds and plenty of time to visit some of the major attractions.  As you wander this particularly beautiful corner of Firenze stop to enjoy a caffe, browse some of the incredible shops, and take as many pictures as you can. You will remember this city for the rest of your life!!

Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013
Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013