The adventure begins
We meet in the city of Cortona this morning where Doumina will take us to our home for the first 4 nights, at Relais Parco Fiorito, a restored 16th century convent.
Relais Parco Fiorito is situated near the beautiful hillside town of Cortona, and we begin our adventure this afternoon within her walls of stone. Our illustrious guide Giovanni will share the treasures of Cortonas' Etruscan sites, and its history, while taking us on a leisurely and informative tour of this beautiful city.
After our tour, we will visit an olive-pressing farm, where Landi and Renato press the local olive oil in the old way. It is a wonderful gift to be able to experience this tradition that is becoming so seldom used in these modern times.
As we head back to the lovely Parco Fiorito, we are invited to stop at the farm of Pucci Agostino. Here, he raises the famous Chianina, the white cow of Tuscany, from which Toscana’s Bistecca alla Fiorentina has been made famous. You will learn how his family proudly maintains the animal’s excellent bloodlines and ancestry, and produces meat on a small scale rather than the mass production practices that we are accustom to.
Our wonderful dinner of ‘Bistecca alla Fiorentina’ will be prepared in the grand fireplace by our host Roberto Russo, who is well-known locally and abroad for his talents as a chef and cookbook author.
Bountiful Brunello Tour
A typical breakfast at our Agriturismo will include everything from fresh fruit, yogurt and homemade pastries, to house-cured prosciutto, eggs from the hens outside, Roberto’s olive oil and hearth-fired bread, and of course, espresso, tea and fresh juices.
Today we visit two Small Vineyards Estates, and travel through Montecucco, Val d’Orcia, and Montalcino. We will taste wines along the way and learn of the land and the life of the Tuscans in this beautiful countryside. Our first stop: the picture perfect city of Pienza. Pienza has been the idyllic site of films, such as the "English Patient", and "Romeo and Juliet". Sheep dot the valley floor and Pecorino, the local cheese that is made from their milk, spills from the shops. We can visit the church and see the tiny streets of this beautiful little hill town, taste the cheeses, and a variety of Balsamic Vinegars. You will be amazed by their flavors and variety!
Next we go on to the vineyard Perazzeta, where Alessandro Bocci makes award winning olive oil and wine. A passionate man, he names his wines after those he loves most: his daughter Sara and his wife Rita. His latest great wine is called "Irio", after his father. You will learn about this farmer’s pursuit of the most perfect wine, and how he will throw away twice as many grapes as he presses. Of course you will taste how delicious his work is! After a tasting and a tour, we walk next door to experience a plate of Flavio's pasta while feasting our gazes upon the beautiful valleys.
The countryside here is glorious, and we enjoy more of it on our way back home, via La Magia, the vineyard where we can find Antonio Sanguineti. Antonio is rightly famous for his Brunello di Montalcino, one of the finest wines there is. His wines and the man himself are both fabulous.
Just Say Cheese!
Today, after another wonderful breakfast in our Agriturismo, we will make our way back into the Etruscan walls of Cortona. We will meet Romano and his lovely wife Agostina, at their typical Tuscan restaurant, La Bucaccia. Romano will quickly become one of your favorite characters in Italy, and he will teach us the art of cheese making. From local sheep’s milk we will make Ricotta, Mozzarella, and the Pecorino that is so famous from these verdant valleys. Along with our cheese making instruction, we will have the pleasure of lunch in his lovely restaurant. It will be a most delicious feast!
The rest of the day is ours to spend as we choose. Leisurely wandering the cobblestone streets of Cortona, shopping, catching up at the internet café, and taking in the magnificent valley views. From Piazza Garibaldi you can see the Chiana Valley, Lake Trasimeno-Italy’s largest non-alpine lake, and beyond. There are also museums to explore such as The Museum of the Etruscan Academy, and the Diocesan Museum, and we can visit the Duomo.
We will enjoy a post-breakfast hike in the beautiful countryside of Piazzano, where our Agriturismo lies.
Then, off to Assisi for a guided day trip and a spectacular church visit. Assisi is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of Italy, founder of the Franciscan order, and one of the most popular Catholic saints. We will experience Roman ruins, winding medieval streets, sacred shrines, and the main attraction: the 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco. The basilica contains the sacred relics of Francis and beautiful frescoes of his life.
We will spend this evening with Roberto, who will impart his knowledge as chef and cookbook author, and transform your culinary thinking with a fun and informative cooking class. We will then dine on our creation of an authentic Etruscan "poor man’s" dinner and Antonio Sanguineti, will join us to provide a full Small Vineyards wine tasting!
Moving to the Chianti region
This morning after our fabulous breakfast we bid farewell to Parco Fiorito and Roberto Russo. With last minute photos, hugs, and promises to keep in touch, we will travel to the heart of the Chianti region.
Our Agriturismo, Podere Ciona, is an 18th century farmhouse with acres of grape vines and a stunning view of Siena in the distance. Our senses will be satiated by this magical place combined with the foods that we will learn to prepare in a traditional cooking class with mama Franca. Her son, Lorenzo Gatteschi, played a large role in forming the concept of Small Vineyards Importers, and he will introduce us to the wonderful wines of this farm while we feast on the results of our class!
This extremely beautiful place is where we spend the next 3 nights in great comfort.
This morning we will witness the beautiful morning sunlight on the Tuscan Vineyards and then start the day with a lovely breakfast. We will tour our host family’s winery and taste their fabulous Super Tuscans, before starting our full day of travel. Rarely visited by Americans, the wineries are Terre del Marchesato and Rigoloccio, and they are in the "wild west" coastal region of Tuscany that is known as the Maremma. This is a rugged and beautiful area, and both estates welcome us with a tasting accompanied by meats and cheeses from the region.
At Terre del Marchesato we will breathe the salty sea air near Bolgheri, ground zero for Super Tuscans, where the soil is rich and the wine is delicious. Our hosts are modern winemakers, Maurizio and Giovanna Fuselli. With a big dog at our heels we are invited to enjoy a lunch of the meats, cheeses, and fabulous wines that this self-sustaining farm produces.
Next we visit Rigoloccio, a new addition to Small Vineyards estates. They grow Fiano, Alicante, Cabernet, and Merlot, very close to an old silver mine. One wine is aptly named "Sorvegliante" which means “Guardian of the Mines". We will enjoy more fabulous wines and tantalizing morsels.
San Gimignano, Le Rote, Farewell
Our last full day in the Chianti region, we venture to the hilltown of San Gimignano for some shopping and sight seeing in one of Italy’s best preserved hill towns. Called the Medieval Manhatten, it is a beautiful city full of art, pottery, and beautiful architecture.
After, we visit another Small Vineyards find, Le Rote. The Scotti family produces a tiny amount of exceptionally good wine, half of which is the historic white wine Vernaccia. They are one of the few producers in the area to also have a red wine, and the classic Sangiovese is their other focus.
Later we are invited to a private dinner in the home of Franca’s sister Mimma. In this beautifully restored home which is nestled between Castellina and Radda, we will have the honor of tasting Mimma’s special Olive Oil, as well as share a wonderful farewell dinner.
After our final breakfast we will arrive early in Siena to enjoy the fabulous Il Campo and one of the most beautiful Duomos in Italy.
Piazza del Campo, or “Il Campo”, as the Sienese call it, is a unique place in the whole of the world, starting with the very particular conformation of the ground, which turns the square into a concave shell. The paving is made of red bricks arranged in fishbone style, divided into a sunburst pattern by nine strips of travertine. The white marble of the fountaint ‘Fonte Gaia’ stands out. There is also the Palazzo Comunale (town hall), and also the tall, slender Torre del Mangia that reaches out to the sky. This is where the famous horse race, Palio di Siena is held and where you can shop for fantastic leather, shoes, and scarves, as well as try some authentic Panforte di Siena.
Siena’s cathedral is a great example of Italian Gothic architecture and is very dramatic with it’s black and white striped campanile and baptistery.
We will stop at Nanini for a coffee and any last minute shopping, before going our own ways. Whatever destination you will continue on to, you can get there from here!