San Gimignano, the Vernaccia wine.
San Gimignano, unlike most of the medieval towns which are hidden by the city grown around them, and have long got rid of their walls, preserves perfectly intact medieval walls. Yet it is famous especially for its unique skyline, which still shows many original XII century family towers reaching 50- 60 meters, not bad for an old stone building. The second special thing here is the wine. While Tuscany makes almost only reds, San Gimignano, perhaps due to its yellow sandy soils, makes a very good white wine, appreciated and praised since the times of Dante.
We spend some time in the countryside and some time walking in the medieval atmosphere of this town. The original San Gimignano village created its fortune with the merchants and pilgrims going to Rome, walking along the Via Francigena, the major way thatlead to Rome in medieval times. We taste at a fine winery and in a local enoteca, explore the town and enjoy our lunch between the towers that make it famous.
Tastings: Vernaccia young and Riserva, Rosso di San Gimignano, Chianti Colli Senesi
Montalcino, star of Tuscan wines, Valdorcia, Siena
The Brunello, one of the top wines of Italy, aged not less than five years, fascinates its fans with a very full body, high strength, amazing complex aromas. Strictly varietal, no blends, no adjustments, it is in the best cases the quintessence of Sangiovese. Along the droad to this exclusive wine district, we cross the “Crete” meaning “clays”, no vineyards, no rivers, a poor soil indeed, still they are an icon of “picturesque” Tuscany: undulated farmland, few homes, pastures, sometimes sheep following mysterious paths across the fields, a cypress in the middle of nothing, a volcano, tall, darker in the backdrop. Montalcino, instead, on the top of a hill, surrounded by great, fertile shale and limestone soils, is a great terroir. It enjoys just enough rain, strong temperature changes, which are some of the quality factors for such a rich wine. We taste in one or two top wineries, or in a fine enoteca, so that you can pin down the different terroirs, and find your favourite Brunello among many: small, traditional family estates, fancy winemakers, huge commercial businesses. Time allowing, if you wish, we may visit the Monte Oliveto Monastery, and its famous cloister, painted with beautiful Renaissance frescoes. OR we will drive back to Siena, for a walk in the center of town, up and down its ancient streets to see the Duomo, and the special shell-shaped Piazza del Campo in the center of town. Tastings: Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino, IGT.
Lucca and the Montecarlo wines
Lucca deserve a dedicated visit, being quite different form other Tuscan cities. It sits in a wide and fertile plain, and was always a richer city. Its economy, history - it has never been conquered by the Florentines - and the character of the local people are different from the rest of Tuscany. In some way Lucca is a bit like a northern than a Mediterranean city. The Lucca massive brick walls enclose the old city, and preserve a charming old times atmosphere. A walk, or a bike ride, on top of the impressive remparts, masterpiece Renaissance fortress, and in the quiet, pedestrian streets, is the best, and only way to visit Lucca. From S. Michele, where the Roman forum was, to Puccinis’s square and home, if you are a music lover, to the amphiteathre, to the St. Martin Duomo, it is a pleasure to walk across narrow streets, between craftworkers, fashion shops and little wine bars. Lunch can be in the most traditional casual trattorìa downtown Lucca, or out in the countryside, as you prefer. Later we move to the vineyard’s of the “Colline Lucchesi” or “Montecarlo” DOCs, two local appellation zones. Small vineyards in most cases, on the lower slopes of the Apennine, family managed, lead by passionnate wine makers that create wines of class and elegance. Some older wineries are located in some of the elegant “Ville Lucchesi”, for which the Lucca countryside is famous. Our day might end up with a visit to one of these villas, and to its Italianate garden, as a good coclusions of our Lucca day.
Tastings: Colline Lucchesi, Montecarlo bianco, rosso, IGT .