Passport Stamp: Tuscany

We went to Italy for nearly two weeks for our honeymoon with stops on the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Tuscany and Florence. This is the third piece on our travels.

 

After a few days in Rome, we rented a car and headed to the countryside in order to explore wine country. Katie and I both enjoy our red wine so it was only natural that we spent time in Tuscany visiting vineyards and wineries, and tasting wine.

 

For these few days, we rented a home through AirBNB just outside Florence near Santa Cristina and Strada in Chianti. While the guest house we were in was nice and the hosts were welcoming, I would likely not stay in this area again simply because it ended up not being as close to where we wanted to be.

 

To be totally fair, our home did have a gorgeous view from the garden area.

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View from the garden at our AirBNB at dusk.

 

On our way to Tuscany, at a friend’s recommendation, we stopped in the hillside town of Cortona, which was made famous by the book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. We had a lunch overlooking the valley below and enjoyed wandering through the streets and piazzas. After a stop for gelato, we continued on our way to our AirBNB.

 

Part of the town of Cortona and the valley below.
View of edge of town of Cortona and the valley below. 

 

Overall, driving in Tuscany and Italy wasn’t too difficult. We had a GPS for directions that also included information on speed limits and where speed lights are. However, once you get off of the main roads, they are incredibly windy and tight. Much of the time on these roads you don’t get above 30 mph. It was necessary to have a car (or driver) to truly see Tuscany but we weren’t disappointed to return it.

 

Tip No. 1: If you plan to drive, spend the money for a GPS from the rental car company and don’t rely on your cell phone. It is also important to know that there are speed cameras measuring car speed so theoretically you could get a ticket without seeing a cop. Luckily, we don’t have any issues with this.

 

On our first full day in Tuscany, we had incredible chocolate croissants and espresso for breakfast in Grieve in Chianti before visiting different wineries. Throughout the day we visited:

  • Azienda Agricola Montefioralle
  • Antinori nel Chianti Classico
  • Villa S.Andrea
  • Gabbiano
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Vineyards at the small Azienda Agricola Montefioralle

 

Antinori and Gabbiano are both massive wineries that distribute to the U.S. and can easily be found in the wine and grocery stores. Both have a variety of grapes and various price points so it was interesting to taste the difference. The other two were both much smaller but still produced good wine.

 

The Antinori family has been making wine in Italy since 1385 and the tasting room where they do tours is gorgeous. At Villa S.Andrea, the cellars where wine is stored likely date back about 1,000 years and the original house and cellars at Gabbiano date to the 15th Century.

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Antinori recently opened a state of the art facility, including a tasting room and restaurant.

Tip No. 2: I have not been to Napa Valley but Katie has and it seems that Tuscany is much different. First, many of the wineries, at least in the area we were, are not physically close so you have to map out where you are going. Second, many of them require a reservation for tasting and tour. If you want to visit wineries, it is definitely beneficial to do your homework before you go.

 

On our second day in Tuscany, we took a drive to Siena where we enjoyed breakfast in Piazza del Campo, which is the biggest and most popular piazza in the city. After we strolled through town exploring the different side streets, we took a tour of Siena’s famous Duomo (church), which was begun in the 12th Century. The cathedral was absolutely beautiful and included a trip to the top of the dome, with the outside section offering views of the entire town.

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Top L: The outside of the Duomo. Top R: the main nave and bottom, inside the library at the Duomo in Siena.

As we left Siena and headed back to our rental home, we wanted to try and stop at one more winery and we were very happy we did. We visited Badia a Coltibuono and it was possibly our favorite winery we visited. This winery began as a monastery in 1085 and has been producing wine in some form or fashion ever since.

 

This tour included a walk through the beautiful gardens, the cellars and various parts of the home which is now a bed & breakfast.

 

Inside the cellar, they had bottles that dated to the 1930s. Overall, we tasted four wines and all were very good, and was probably the best wine we tasted in Tuscany.

 

Our time in Tuscany was everything we could have hoped for and would love to go back some day. The food, the wine and the views were all spectacular.

 

 

Have you been to Tuscany, or have questions about anything in this post? Let me know in the comments or follow me on Twitter (@mditt).

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