Encircled, hidden by massive Renaissance walls, Lucca is a well kept surprise in Tuscany. Walking in the quiet pedestrian center is an unusual pleasure, and let's you discover that you step on gleaming marble churches, Medieval towers, traces of the Roman walls and the amphitheater all the way. And, besides artworks and monuments, tempting enotecas and wine shops - I counted 12 - all waiting for a tasting. Lucca reveals charming and classy, with a kind of unassuming, old-fashioned elegance, the Lucchesi just enjoy their lifestyle, the passion for music, for genuine, very varied cuisine, and - spared by now by mass tourism - they preserve their natural courtesy. The wineries, then, are just out of the walls, on the Apennine foothills arching from Lucca to Montecarlo. Many of them are the stylish historical Villas for which Lucca is famous too. Altogether, this city reminds of a countess, living in her mansion, with a beautiful park, not caring much of the world craze around her.
Visiting Lucca on foot, two Villas, the Montecarlo wine town, enjoying three wine tasting in the process, is a bit of a challenge for a single day, maybe two days would work better. Yet, with these tree most enthousiastic, tireless young ladies, we did all of that, and a bit more but in ONE intensive day. First tasting Villa Maria Teresa, a tour of Lucca - Roman Amphitheater, St. Michael, the Puccini statue, the St. Martin Duomo, the walls - then a wine-tasting lunch at il Poggio, a stop in Montecarlo, and a final tasting at Fubbiano, not before a tour of unique Villa Torrigiani.
Less than one hour from Florence, 15’ on a country road that climbs up the hills, is what takes to reach our first winery. Tenuta Maria Teresa is the elegant, still simple villa of a royal family lady, and Duchess of Lucca of 1800. All is kept spotless and tidy, as if the Duchess woul appear any moment there at the window. Instead, Lucìa appears and takes us to the italianate garden first, to enjoy the open view over Lucca and the whole plain, to a tour in the cellars, and eventually to our tasting. Four wines: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet, telling the historical familiarity of Lucca with the French grapes. As well as the Urlo di Lupo an intense Sangiovese-Cab-Sirah-Gamay-Merlot IGT. Deep aromas, and a surprising, persistent tasting wave, from sweet and spicy, to a clean and dry ending.
The 3 miles long, thick Lucca walls are a masterpiece of Renaissance military architecture, yet their aggressive appearance is graced by thousands of sycamore three that turned them into a most pleasant promenade. A feminine tour, of course, they were planted by Elisa, Napoleon’s sister, that ruled the city for a short while. We walk from the Roman Amphitheater, on central Fillungo shopping street, to St. Michael and by Puccini statue, to the impressive St. Martin Duomo. We make our way back, walking in the shade on the city walls, and drive to the small Montecarlo hill, with its unmissable fortress. It is one of the smallest Città del Vino, meaning that wine making is the main business around it.
Our next tasting and lunch is at Fattorìa il Poggio, winery and an ultimate country trattorìa. Traditional and classic is a must, from the rustic styl, with unmissable barrels and grandpa farming tools, to the busy waiters, fetching in trays overloaded with cold cuts, or pasta with but Tuscan sauces, or brimming with steaming grilled meats, the perfume of which led us here from the parking place. The wines - family production - are crisp, well made, not too intense, perfect for lunch in other words, just like the Italians like them. A lady serves and describes a different wine for each serving, then, careless, she leaves six bottles on the table for us to re-taste at our leisure.
Montecarlo is a mini wine town, grown behind the ancient Cerruglio fortress, surrounded by the best vineyards. We stop there just for a double espresso, before heading for a guided tour of Villa Torrigiani, one of the finest Ville lucchesi.
Last stop Fubbiano, one more beautiful Villa, of 1600 this time, with his own hamlet, and a very new modern cellar. Chiara takes us to the new, modern cellars and provides a dedicated, very informative tasting, starting. First the mineral and fruity Vermentino, then the Rosso and the San Gennaro, two traditional Sangiovese/Canaiolo/Ciliegiolo blends, to end with the Aleatico dessert wine. Easy to dwell in conversations at this point, but the time comes, eventually to leave Lucca, and Fubbiano and drive back to Florence.
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