Just returned from a lovely few days in Tuscany. It was great. If you are a lover of wine and food, then this is definitely a trip that you should take.
We flew into Pisa with EasyJet (ugh, I know). I had rented a car, thankfully, for the 2 hour drive southeast to Montepulciano where we were staying. After you get off the motorway the scenery gets quite breathtaking. The one thing to note when driving in Italy is that Italian drivers are basically insane. They have zero comprehension of road space. They crawl right up your ass and will happily remain there till you get out of their way. It is the most bizarre and irritating thing I have ever seen. Best to move aside and take a deep breath.
Montepulciano is a beautiful town nestled on a hilltop overlooking Tuscany. We were staying in the Villa Poggiano about 5 km outside of the village. The villa was lovely and relaxing (except for our Spanish neighbours who were loud talkers).
On our first day we headed out to the town of Cortona which was about a 45 minute drive away. Had a great lunch and wandered around the city center. I say that loosely as it is actually a tiny village. After a lazy lunch of truffle pasta and vino di Cortona we headed to the vineyard of Avignonesi to do some wine tasting. Yipee!
Me being excited by Vin Santo
We had a tasting and tour of the vineyard by our host Basil the 20 year old Belgian student. The wines were great – tried the savignon blanc, Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino nobile di Montepulciano and something else that I can’t remember now. The one wine that they are famous for is their Vin Santo which takes 10 years to age and 1 year to sit on the shelf before selling it. According to legend it is supposed to be one of the best dessert wines this side of the Mississippi. Luck would have it that our inexperienced tour guide didn’t realise that the reserves were very limited on this particular wine and he accidentaly sold us two bottles. Needless to say, the other workers were not pleased with him selling their most precious stock to mere mortals. But score for us!
The next day started out feeling very full from the day before. Adventure lay ahead in the hills of Montecino. I was very much looking forward to another day of wine tasting and this time with the king of reds, Brunello.
Got completely lost on the way to the vineyard, but finally found it. We had a great host, Angela, at the Ciacci Piccolomini wineyard. Wandered around the cellars and ended with a tasting-drinking session of their Brunello and grapas. Yum.
Afterward went off to Poggio Antico for a fantastic lunch and more vino! Ouch. Seriously. Ouch.
The road to Poggio Antico
The next few days were a blur of trying to digest and relax. Tuscany is an amazing place that I highly recommend you visit if you love food and wine as much as I do.
A few tips…
1) Take along the Tomtom with maps of Italy. This little guy saved us from arguing over bad directions and map reading. Totally worth the £29 for the maps!
2) Don’t do a package tour. When I was booking things I found it a slightly difficult to get all the information for wine producers. Mainly I found package bookings that cost about €400 for an afternoon of wine tasting. Total rip off! Most of the vineyards that we visited only cost about €10 (which was waved when you purchased as much wine as we did). Another tip is to book a tour in advance. The people on the tours were really knowledgable and we had 2 private tours which were amazing. They usually took about an hour each with the tasting at the end.
3) Try to only do 2 tastings a day. Otherwise you will die of alcohol poisoning.
4) Space out the eating and wine adventures. Take a break in between days to let your stomach rest. It isn’t easy to digest all that Tuscan meat and Brunello. Trust me!