I looked out in front of me at the rolling hills and the grape vineyards, lining the infinite Tuscan landscape of green. There were red roofs of yellow housed villages, rock castles peaking over to make them known. I stood on the rock wall, above it all, breathing heavily from the two hour hike uphill. My view was the picturesque images I Google searched before arriving to Italy, the images that I would never have believed to be in front of me. There is always something to do or something to look at here in Florence, whether that is taking a bus to a wine tour, climbing The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as The Duomo) steps, up the Piazza Michelangelo to listen to someone play the guitar as the sun sets over the Florence skyline, or simply window shop in the Italian boutiques or at the market for fresh produce.
Last Saturday it was a Chianti Wine Tour through a program called Florence for Fun. They run this specific Chianti Wine tour every Saturday for 40 euro, everything included. Ashley, Amanda and I met the group at the bus station for 7 30 am to take a bus through Tuscany to a town called Panzano, which is halfway between Florence and Sienna. We took the public bus, which was unlike a public bus at home like Gatra, filled with senior citizens going to Stop n Shop This bus had cushioned soft blue seats and a great window view of the scenery ( until it filled up with fog from everyone breathing which made me really antsy but it still wasn’t so bad.) Upon arriving in Panzano, we began our two hour hike through the hills and vineyards and beautiful views. Cyprus trees led the way to a seemingly infinite landscape of green, with houses lining the tips and rock castles in the distance, olive groves and medieval hamlets. The hike uphill was quite strenuous, but totally worth the view, we realized, after we reached a high ridge out looking everything we had just wandered through and where a 1000 year old church sat. From there, we continued walking and taking pictures of the shocking view, until we walked back into downtown Panzano from the other side we had started at. We had not realized we were in the same place at first because there were much more people, and fiats zooming around, but the architecture and atmosphere was still ancient in its ways. We visited the well known butcher shop, Antica macelleria Cecchini, where Dario Cecchini supplies the town with unusually cut meats and the best olive oil I have ever had. We sampled thick cuts of salami with bread and olive oil, and regrettably the cheese spread which was later figured out to be pig fat. There was also an interesting old Italian man who put his phone directly in Ashley’s face and was following her around the butcher shop taking pictures of her.
From there we bought postcards and then made our way to the Sassolini Family Villa where we were shown how the grapes were handled in the wine making process. We entered through a cave like arch of a rock wall into the basement where large wooden barrels held the wine. We were then taken into their home to have a typical Tuscan lunch and taste the families local Chianti Classico wines!
Okay here is the fun part!!
To start off we were served salami and prosciutto, bread, olive oil and beans! The beans were so delicious, plump and dripping in an oily warm sauce. The we had pasta with tomato basil sauce, two red wines, and a pasta with pesto and Parmesan cheese. For dessert, we were served almond biscotti with a dessert wine. We discovered that when the biscotti was dipped in the dessert wine, we could taste the alcohol more because it was absorbed into the cookie and the drink lost its sweetness, but if we drank the wine without the cookie it was very very sweet and musky. A dark auburn color. After the dessert wine, there is “grappa” which is the “after dinner wine.” This wine is made with the skin of the olives, and it 40 % alcohol. The grappa is a meditation wine, which means it should be used when relaxing in front of a fire, not used for taking shots or getting drunk, and it makes you feel really warm inside. At least this is what I was told, because it smelt like dry erase markers and I didn’t drink it!!
After our meal, we could purchase the wines an olive oil that we had during the meal. So many people bought the wines! We then walked back to our bus stop to take the public bus back to Florence, through the Italian villages and hills spotted with rock towers, Italian teenagers hopping on and off the bus with grocery bags filled with kinder bars ( chocolate bar filled with a wafer and hazelnut cream,) and sporting their Nike hightops, studded jeans and leather jackets.