I spent a Labor Free Weekend in Tuscany last weekend…and realized on this trip how much of the world I’ve been soaking up lately. This summer: Morocco, Luxemburg, Croatia, Spain, Dresden/Poland, Bavaria, and now Tuscany. Given that Germany’s skies have been less than clear and blue I feel grateful for some sun action these past few months.
The spirit of Tuscany is about slowing down….way down, in “order to taste life” which reminded me of Solta. I traveled there with a girlfriend, who easily became a compadre via driving our Fiat Panda up the windy country roads, giggling about interactions with the locals, and of course, yapping away while eating and drinking and drinking and then eating. A few Italians insisted that the occasion to drink meant an occasion to eat, and we couldn’t agree more….
Here are the highlights from labor day, 2011.
1. Exploring the Uffuzi in Florence. This museum moves me. Having visited it over a decade ago (as a recently graduated college student) yes, I LIKED it THEN. But this time, I ADORED it. Over two hours , I ambled through the rooms, paused at the end of the corridor of windows and took my time. A favorite snapshot, taken as I gawked out to the sparkling Arno and famous Ponte Vecciho, I poured myself over intense favorites (think Botecelli’s Primavera, which spent almost 500 years unknown in a dude’s country house) and then paused over and over at lesser known offering that aroused my spirit. Crespi’s THE FLEA, a picture of a rural woman rising from a bed, shifting her shirt, apparently living in impoverished conditions, but cradled in light…and the inscription “you do not bother me, and I will not bother you” at the foreground. Illuminating….
2. Chowing down on one of the most delicious sandwiches I’ve ever encountered, in a lovely street right next to Dante’s house. In Florence. The placeis called Da Vinaterria and the students who work there are AWESOME. Ha! There I was, perched on a wooden small stool outside on the very street itself, guzzling 2 euro dry red wine and crunching a Panini of figs, walnuts, goat cheese and prosciutto. Of course, did I take a picture? No! I was too busy chomping and feeling so grateful for each. And every. Bite.
3. Convivum Wines & Gastronomy (San Spirito street) in Florence, where the interior smacks of a high end restaurant set in a 200 year old cellar. I initially hesitated because I discovered my liking of Prosecco (a north Italian–or Venetian–sparkling white wine) won me over than the local cherub of Chianti. Here, the hunky Angelo taught me and my girlfriend that Chianti is almost always 100% Sangiovese grape aged for under a year in French oak. Angelo poured us Prosecco, then a white grape called the Vernaccia, two types of Chianti, a syrah and then a Super Tuscan. This wine, as he explained, is NOT traditional, Tuscan style. The winemakers take a lot of leeway in their blending decisions to prepare the “best flavors.” But the wines ARE made from grapes most beloved of the Tuscan region. Of course, the super Tuscan tasted the best, and my friend nabbed a bottle for 11 Euro. For this lengthy tasting session, Angelo’s attention and education, we paid 2 euros each.
4. Le Vena Di Vino, in Volterra where the tradition is to leave an offering to the wine gods…in the form of your bra. Since I was sipping 2 Euro cuvee (my palate likes the cuvee of cab and merlot more than the bitterness of sangiovese chianti) named “Emergency,”I figured: “it’s now or never.” I have never taken off my bra or left it anywhere in public. And thus, this “it’s not on my list, but
should be” act. I removed and signed a very plain white bra, without fanfare or self censorship. It is a memory that will be cherished and most likely to cause a smirk for many years to come.
5. Wine tasting in the “hills” at Villa Pillo. This is a big estate owned by an American couple. Located smack dab in the center of Tuscany, it is is HUGE (21 hectacres) and very successful. A little apprehensive that is was the “most trendy,” we went in with low expectations. And were FLOORED with FAVOR (I even bought a wooden wine box from there and an opener). Why? They had some pretty awesome wines and the service was impeccable (reflective of a California wine tasting style). And only ONE Chianti in a line up of 7 or so wines which was good given the hour long revelry from the day before that started with “do you feel bad we don’t like Chianti as much as we are supposed to?”. We LOVED the Borgoforte, made like a supertuscan, blended up in a tightly tannin filled berry hopped concoction of Sangiovese 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Merlot 10%. We each nabbed a bottle (look! It’s a 92 on Wine Spectator) in addition to a surprisingly flirtatious sparkling Muscato, new to their line-up. We even enjoyed their boxed wines that rival the flavor punch of my favorite go to table wine (2 Buck Chuck’s Cab). You can order their wines online (and get a good deal on FREE SHIPPING to Europe through Christmas).
So! There you have it! Super-Tuscan High 5….a perfect labor free weekend. (PSST? Do you like Chianti????)