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Our Happy Return to Sunny Tuscany (plus a small bite of Bologna, too!)

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Oct 20th, 2011, 09:10 AM
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Our Happy Return to Sunny Tuscany (plus a small bite of Bologna, too!)

We’ve just returned from a wonderful 10-day trip to Tuscany and have many details and photos to share, which we will try to do as expeditiously as possible.

A bit of background…

Those who are familiar with us here in Fodorville probably know that ms_go and I are in our late 40s, we’re middle-of-the-road travelers (mostly 3-star accommodation), we like to mix up our destinations and tend to balance between Europe and Asia these days, and usually travel with our daughter. She is off at college now, and we wanted a trip that was a little more relaxed, more romantic, a little more geared to our interests (read: wine, photos, wandering) and not constrained by the academic year.

We drew our inspiration from two previous vacation trips:

Our first European trip together almost exactly 20 years ago. We skimmed Tuscany, but only just, on a crazy, unplanned dash through Northern Italy laden with rookie mistakes and weather that could best be characterized as “fairly awful.” That had been my only experience in Tuscany, so we felt I was long overdue for a return.

Link: http://onelittleworld.com/northern_italy_1.html

The second trip was ms_go’s trip with her extended family a little over three years ago—in fact, we patterned our itinerary in large part after the first week of that trip, recognizing that we could benefit from some of the lessons learned to simplify our planning and logistics.

Link: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-daughter.cfm

Our itinerary
We decided up front to organize our trip around a one-week rental (which is typically a Saturday to Saturday arrangement), and then we added a day or two on each end.

With an interest in keeping things simple, we flew in and out of Florence (via Frankfurt) and restricted our activities in a fairly small radius. That, of course, represents just a portion of Tuscany—and even then, we left with a list of things that we could have done in the area had we had more time.

Ultimately, our itinerary looked like this:
*One night/two days in Lucca (with half-day side trip to Pisa)

* Seven days/nights in a rental house near Montaione, which is about 45 minutes southwest of Florence. From there, we visited:
• Certaldo Alto
• San Gimignano
• Volterra
• Chianti (including Greve, Radda and Castellina)
• San Miniato
• Vinci
• Bologna (by train via Florence)
• Siena

* Two days/nights in Florence

We rented a car upon arrival in Florence and dropped it at the airport prior to spending our last two nights in the city.

Top 10 experiences (in no particular order)

1. Enjoying the wine and food, everywhere we went. We give a particular nod to dinner on our first night in Lucca—usually we aren’t too picky (and often not lucky) as we’re settling in the first day of a trip, but this meal definitely set the tone (and the bar) for the rest of the trip.

2. Having the town of Montaione as our base for seeing this area of Tuscany. It is not on the traditional tourist trail, but it has its charms, one of just about everything you’d need (and several good restaurants, actually), and a (in our humble opinion) great location for exploring an area that stretches from Florence to Volterra to Siena to Pisa if you have a car. As a side note, our little yellow rental house was a perfect home base—close to town but with an “out in the country” feel.

3. Attending the Boccaccesca, an annual food and wine festival that takes place in Certaldo Alto the first two weekends in October. This is a delightful small hill town in its own right, and neither of us had visited there before. Being able to sample food and wine products from around the area was a real plus, and the crowd (although we wouldn’t call the earlier part of the day, when we were there, “crowded”) was largely Italians from the area.

4. Sitting on the bricks in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, in the sun, watching the world go by and little children chasing the pigeons—which is exactly what ms_go’s youngest nephew did there three years ago.

5. Climbing towers with great vistas—including the Torre Grossa in San Gimignano (beware the ladder on the last leg), Torre del Mangia in Siena, Torre delle Ore in Lucca (the easiest one), the medieval tower at the Museo Leonardiano in Vinci (great views!), Giotto’s Campanile in Florence (all 414 steps), and the Panorama del Facciatone in Siena (not really a tower, but the narrow, corkscrew stairwell handling traffic in both directions made it perhaps the diciest climb of all). And, oh yeah, ms_go is terrified of heights and even more terrified of falling down steep, narrow staircases.

6. Being virtually the only tourists wandering around in San Miniato on the day we were there. Or at least, the only ones we saw!

7. Taking scenic drives on epic roads—in Chianti, to and from Volterra and San Gimignano—with the terrain that changes quickly from dusky, plowed-under fields to vineyards to olive groves to fragrant, green pine forests. There’s always something interesting around every corner. And it was especially fun in a Mercedes sedan!

8. The weather, in general. We have been in this area in October, and we knew we were taking some chances. As it happened, the only rain we encountered was a few splatters on the windshield on the drive from Florence to Lucca just after we landed. Otherwise, it was sunny, not too warm (highs from upper 50s to around 70), and aside from a couple of very windy days, perfectly comfortable—although it was maybe a little cool to sit outside at our rental house in the evenings (and on the few warmer evenings, the mosquitoes were taking advantage of the opportunities). We rarely used our jackets.

9. Soaking in the splendor of the exterior of the magnificent Duomo in Florence and interior of the Cathedral of Siena. No matter how many times you’ve already seen them (more than once for both of us), they always inspire.

10. Sitting on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo, near sunset, listening to street music and gazing over Florence in its golden glow.

Honorable mention—our day trip to Bologna, which provided a little different dimension to this trip and definitely piqued our interest as a base for a potential future vacation in Emilia-Romagna. More on that later.

Two more notes before we get started:
a) This report is organized primarily by destination and points of interest, rather than moment-by-moment, diary-style reportage.
b) As with all of our trip reports, both the text and photos are a collaborative effort. We work as a team.

Much more to come...
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Oct 20th, 2011, 09:33 AM
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Once again the Go_ family sets the standard for well designed trip reports. I am waiting for more---and some pics.
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Oct 20th, 2011, 10:03 AM
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Thanks. The pix might take a while to process, bob... ms_go has her hands full right now! I assure you they will be worth the wait.
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Oct 20th, 2011, 10:59 AM
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LUCCA & PISA
After flying into Florence and picking up a rental car there (a Mercedes sedan!), we spent our first night in the wonderful town of Lucca. It’s a very easy drive, straight down the Autostrada for over 90% of the way. We encountered a few spots of rain along the way, which ended up being the ONLY rain on our trip!

We parked just inside the Lucca city walls and easily found our way to our hotel (Palazzo Busdraghi, more on it later) where we dropped our bags, checked in and got specific directions to the hotel’s nearby off-street parking spaces where we deposited the car for the rest of the day. And after all those hours in flight and in transit, we were ready to stretch our legs! We explored much of the old town on foot, especially the main shopping street, Fillunga. We took a few moments to climb the old Torre delle Ore in the heart of the old town and really enjoyed the views. We walked on the city walls, which circle the old town completely, and also explored a few old piazzas and churches. Just a great, great way to kick off the trip… exploring a scenic medieval town at our own pace! We worked our way over to the Piazza Napoleone, which seemed under construction and in the process of setting up some event with big, white tents.

Dinner that night was at Osteria Baralla, a small place near the hotel. It was, quite simply, the best meal we’d had in a long time! Starters included an Antipasti Toscana platter (wonderful cured meats, bread salad, farro salad, olives and artichokes) and fresh local mushrooms baked in asiago cheese. Mains were a flavorful tordelli pasta with meat sauce and a rich tagliatelle ala lepre (hare). As is our usual custom, we washed it all down with a carafe of house red and water. It was all delicious and very filling (!), and just over 50 Euro total. Really, an excellent value.

We walked around some more after dinner; it was much less crowded than earlier in the day. We encountered a very boisterous party at a sidewalk restaurant, an interesting mix of a tour group and local Italians laughing, eating, drinking and playing music. But we were far too tired to try and mingle in, so we headed back for a good night’s sleep.

The Hotel Palazzo Busdraghi is very quiet at night, and we had a very comfortable room. It was a tad narrow overall, but had plenty of space and a nice layout. When the window was open during the day, we could hear music lessons from the art school directly across the street (including clarinet, sax, oboe and bassoon, at varying levels of accomplishment). We enjoyed a decent breakfast spread the next morning with (thankfully) strong coffee. We found the internet was a little iffy there, but we would definitely recommend the place on the strength of its location, good service and overall value.

After breakfast, we packed and stored our bags at the reception desk, then walked to the bus station and bought tickets for the bus to Pisa leaving only five minutes later (well, 10 minutes after it had to wait for a couple of British couples who tried to buy tickets from driver and were redirected). The half-hour bus ride dropped us right at Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, where we spent two hours seeing the famous sights and milling among the hordes of international tourists.

We left the piazza to walk around the town. Note, the farther away from the tourist traps you get, the more interesting and more “real” the town becomes. After a while, we hustled back to catch the bus back near the Piazza, which we had to wait a few minutes for. On the ride back, a woman on bus started having a loud argument with driver; we’re not 100% sure why, but suspect it had something to do with him not asking people at the front of the bus to give up their seats for an elderly couple who came aboard later.

Back in Lucca, we had a quick snack with some nice focaccia sandwiches and beer in the warm afternoon sun. We eventually wandered back to the hotel, gathered our bags, retrieved the car and set off for our home-away-from-home for the next week… our little yellow house in Montaione.

(OK, that's it for today. Gotta get back to work. I'll post more tomorrow.)
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Oct 20th, 2011, 11:31 AM
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Oh boy, I always enjoy reading your family trip reports. We are a decade older, and with children grown, married and starting families of their own, we are looking at traveling a bit differently. Not that we have 'done' it all by any means, but I would like to think that we can take our trips a bit more slowly and savor the environment rather than run and around see things. Southern Tuscany is one of the places I would like to return to and do just that - currently working on a Venice/Veneto plan that is geographically tighter and slower than other trips. Looking forward to your next chapter.
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Oct 20th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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Bookmarking for later. Can't wait!!
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Oct 20th, 2011, 04:33 PM
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I can't resist asking why #6 was a highlight for lack of other tourists, or why being around the tourist traps isn't as interesting as visiting the areas that haven't been developed for tourism.
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Oct 20th, 2011, 04:46 PM
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(I'm actually serious, and think it would a great service if you elaborated on why you felt it was valuable to have these experiences, which might help other understand that it isn't just elitism or being contrary to suggest that there is real value and pleasure in getting a glimpse of the undertouristed side of Tuscany.)
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Oct 20th, 2011, 06:25 PM
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looking forward to more!

Also wondering where you are planning on going next year... since we followed you to Norway (this past Spring) and we're heading to Italy in November, I need to know where I should be booking for next year!
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Oct 21st, 2011, 06:59 AM
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zeppole: It's a fair question, but one that's difficult to answer. Let me start by saying that it's anything but elitism that motivates us. In a word, I would say the real reason is "contrast". Many of the destinations on this trip (e.g. Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Siena) are heavily touristed areas. And while we did (and do) enjoy these places immensely (they are famous for a reason, after all), they always carry with them an artificial bustle & jostle from the tour-bus hordes, and an odd fakeness of flavor from the souvenir shops, hot dog vendors and the life. We're able and willing to look past these demerits on a daytrip, but it's necessary to balance out such experiences with something else that feels far more genuine. Like San Miniato, or Certaldo.

That said, there always seems to be a moment for us when we feel at one with the crowd. (Just such a moment awaits in the Florence section of this report, coming next week.) There is a certain kind of person who ventures thousands of miles from home just to see and experience something cool... and when you put a hundred or so of us together at the same time, with some wine and a setting sun, it's hard not to feel a certain kinship with them. We are one tribe, we travelers, spread amongst the world's wonders and soaking up the moments.

surfmom: Glad you asked. Get ready for Cambodia/Laos/Thailand, coming early next year!
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Oct 21st, 2011, 07:01 AM
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Edit above: "...hot dog vendors and the like."
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Oct 21st, 2011, 07:37 AM
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And now, back to the Trip Report at hand...

MONTAIONE
Several years ago, we spent a pleasant week in a rental house in a charming little village in France’s Dordogne Valley, called Daglan. We deemed it an ideal vacation base because it was just a small, quiet, comfortable and untouristed town that was still within easy striking distance of everything we wanted to visit, and because the town had exactly one of everything you need… one grocery, one bakery, one post office, one bank/ATM, one fine restaurant, one tavern, etc. So, when it came time for ms_go to plan a Tuscan getaway with her family 3 years ago, that experience served as a sort of template for the type of location she wanted. And she ended up choosing a property in Montaione, a splendid and wonderfully unassuming Tuscan hilltown just a few miles north of San Gimignano and west of Certaldo.

That Tuscan sojourn was the primary catalyst for this leg of our visit. In short, ms_go wanted to return here because she knew that I’d like it as much as she did. And she was right, of course. This time we rented a house on the north edge of town, on a property that included a few other rental homes plus a vineyard and olive grove run by the owners. Conveniently, it’s located about 400 yards away from a good-size grocery store. (I’ll say much more about this property in a later post summarizing the accommodations and logistics.)

We love Montaione. It’s on no one’s tourist map, it has no notable ‘sites’ to visit… but it’s a nice town, the locals are friendly, the feeling is laid back, and the views looking east over the Val d’Elsa are just gorgeous. And most importantly, it’s an easy drive to a whole lot of interesting places. It’s also close to the train station in Castelfiorentino, which opens up a number of other great possibilities.

In summary: Montaione is a great place to “live,” but you wouldn’t necessarily want to visit there.

CERTALDO
On our first full day at the rental property, we headed into the neighboring town of Certaldo for the annual Boccaccesca food & wine festival. At first, it was a little hard figuring out where to park, but once we found the train station parking lot with lots of empty spaces, that seemed to make sense. We walked about three blocks to the funicular station in the center of the ‘lower’ part of town, bought our tickets (5E for the festival; 1.5E for the round trip) and headed up to historic Certaldo Alto. Local artisanal food and wine producers were sampling their wares throughout the cobblestone streets of the old town, which is scenic in its own right.

Early on, we were asked by a gentleman, “Would you like to taste an interesting cheese?” Now, how is someone like me supposed to answer a question like that? No, I’ve come all this way to taste your Velveeta? It turned out that he was sampling a firm-yet-creamy and oh-so-tasty artisanal cheese hand-made on his farm from a combination of ewe’s milk and dairy cream… and easily one of the best things we tasted all day. We went back for a small purchase before leaving.
Up and down the old streets, we tasted plenty of local wines, some good and some not so good. More interesting things were spreads—truffle spread, sundried zucchini spread, pumpkin and hot pepper spread, cheese and truffle spread, etc. And plenty of artisanal cheeses and cured meats too, of course. Very little produce—just the cipolla de Certaldo, the famous red onions characteristic of the region. Also a very good local beer.

Our ticket also included free admission to the Palazzo Pretorio, which featured an interesting juxtaposition of edgy modern art in rooms adorned with frescoes hundreds of years old. The striking contrast made us wonder how these newer works will stand the test of time.

After exploring some more of the Boccaccesca, we settled in for a snack of bruschetta with fresh eggplant and cheese and glass of red and glass of white at Enoteca Boccaccio. This homey little place looked like the place to be on any given day, but especially on a sunny day like this.

Overall, the festival was a very nice experience. It’s a small-scale event… enough people to create a bit of a buzz but not so much that it was cumbersome. And, oh yes, about 90% of them were Italian. Certaldo Alto itself looked like it would be a nice place to stay, if one were so inclined. Taking the funicular back down the hill, we had a brief exchange with visiting Italians who spoke very little English. But they immediately made the machine gun sound when we mentioned we are from Chicago, just like everyone does. (True fact: as I type this, Al Capone’s grave is less than 1 mile away from me.)

SAN GIMIGNANO
This visit was a nostalgia trip for both of us. We had stayed here 20 years ago, when we were rookie travelers with little idea what to expect. This time, we knew better than to expect convenient parking. (We think we got away with free parking in a lot near Santa Lucia gate, but we’ll see in about six to nine months.)

It was significantly busier this time than it had been in October 1991. But fortunately, it was also significantly better weather… mostly blue skies, warm sunshine and cool air (about 70 degrees F). We wandered the town, revisiting some of the sites we had enjoyed in our younger years such as the Piazza Cisterna, the Rocca, the Basilica of Santa Maria Asunta. We also climbed the dramatic Torre Grossa, one of the huge bell towers that gives San G its distinctive skyline. The views from up there are excellent, and we would recommend the experience for anyone who is up for a little stair-master workout.

Afterward, we negated any health benefits of our climb with some tasty gelato (banana and pistachio… mmmmm). After 2 or 3 hours,though, we grew weary of the madding crowds and jumped back in our Mercedes for a hasty getaway and a pasta & homemade meat sauce back at the house.

To be continued...
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Oct 21st, 2011, 12:15 PM
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OK, here comes my last bit for the day. Some good news, btw... ms_go informs me that she's started sorting through our hundreds (possibly thousands) of pictures and is building some photo albums online. I won't post a link yet to her work in progress, but those of you who have read our stuff before may already know where our images reside. (If not, please be patient with us.)

VOLTERRA
The ancient and mysterious hilltown of Volterra is a scenic 40-minute drive from Montaione, through rolling farmland and wooded hills. Being fairly late in the season, many of the fields were plowed under, giving the terrain a more rugged and brown-ish appearance than earlier in the year. Regardless, it’s all quite scenic… and there are certainly fewer cars on the road than in peak season.

Arriving in mid-morning, we made a beeline for Porta Docciola parking lot (ms_go had remembered this convenient spot from her last trip. Very easy to find and FREE parking to boot!). The Docciola Fountain across the street is approximately 800 years old and a wonderfully evocative reminder of the city’s long history. From there we climb a few hundred steps up to the upper part of town, close to the center. From there, we slowly wandered and explored the winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys up to Piazza dei Prioria to see the Duomo and Baptistry. Unfortunately for us, the splendid old campanile (bell tower) beside the duomo was under scaffolding, or else we certainly would have added it to our rapidly growing list of towers climbed.

We walked a bit further, down to Porta all’Arco, which features a massive rock foundation from the 4th Century BC (the Etruscan era, in other words). We also explored the Via dei Sarti, a curving street within interesting architecture. We stepped inside Palazzo Viti, a lovely old mansion adorned in 19th Century furnishings, and had overselves a nice look around (until we reached the point where you have to pay to look any further). And from there, we wandered down to a point that overlooks the ruins of the Roman theater and other scenic areas.

Our first two choices for lunch were both closed for different reasons; and with no data-roaming at our disposal, we had to wing it old-school. We ended up at a place called Il Sacco Fiorentino (the dry Florentine?) and enjoyed a decent lunch with some farro salad, wild boar stew, tagliatelle porcini and mixed vegetables, a decent house wine and better than average service.

After lunch came the main course of our visit, the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci. It boasts a VERY extensive collection of Etruscan artifacts, especially funerary ossuaries (hundreds of them, in fact), clay pots, sculpturyand many other relics left by this mysterious pre-Roman civilization. Fascinating stuff, and a good tutorial overview of the history, art and geography of the Etruscan people.

Side note: When we returned to the house that afternoon/evening, we headed out to the vegetable garden on the premises to scrounge up some dinner ingredients. There, we met up with a sweet-natured little cat and became fast friends. Later, as we enjoyed dinner with our front door open for fresh air, the kitty came walking into our house like she owned the place, begging for food, purring and licking Marisa’s bruschetta plate clean when offered. Moments like that doesn’t happen at the Sofitel, people… that’s all I’m saying.

SAN VIVALDO
Just a few miles away from Montaione, there is an old monastery (16th or 17th Century, I believe) located in a tiny hamlet. The woods surrounding the monastery are cool, lush and beautiful, and adjacent to it is the Sacro Monte… a trail of small-scale buildings meant to represent historic sites in old Jerusalem. In olden times, people could come here and experience a “pilgrimage,” of sorts, to the Holy Land without venturing far from home. Inside the little buildings are terra cotta figures meant to represent biblical and historic figures.

We walked around a bit and leisurely admired the outsides of a few of the buildings, but (apparently) you need to take a guided tour in order see inside them. The time we visited, we had just missed such a tour and didn’t feel like waiting around for another one leaving an hour later. Later on during our stay, it just never seemed like something we wanted to commit to during the middle of the daylight hours. So we ended up not going back and not taking the tour at all. I mention it in this report, however, because a) the location really is pretty, b) it’s interesting from a historical standpoint, and c) I could definitely see someone connecting with this place on a spiritual level.
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Oct 21st, 2011, 12:31 PM
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Am loving your historical perspective. The Etruscan history is indeed interesting. We too liked Volterra.
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Oct 21st, 2011, 12:43 PM
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Really enjoying your report. Looking forward to more!
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Oct 21st, 2011, 12:52 PM
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Thanks, bob & LCI. I'll try to add some more this weekend if I can... but there's a lot of good football on, ya know!

(True fact: wearing a Northwestern Wildcats sweatshirt as I type this.)
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Oct 21st, 2011, 12:59 PM
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ttt 4 later
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Oct 21st, 2011, 05:13 PM
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While I have indeed started working on photos, I'm having problems posting them now through the hotel wifi connection. Will keep trying, otherwise I'll have some when I'm home next week.
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Oct 24th, 2011, 08:03 AM
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Well, I thought about adding more to this TR over the weekend, but yard-work and football got in the way. Congratulations to the Batavia HS Bulldogs for finishing their season undefeated and entering the post-season with a #1 seed. And congratulations to the Chicago Bears for winning a road game in London! And now, on to Chianti...

DRIVING IN CHIANTI
“Wait, shouldn’t that be swimming in Chianti?” Well, perhaps so. But the name does refer to more than just a wine… and the roads, the scenery, the towns and the vineyards are as memorable as they are scenic.

Our plan had been to get an early start and stop for lunch about halfway through our voyage. But somehow, we managed to sleep until 8:45 (!) and didn’t get ourselves on the road until 11:00 or so. No problem… that’s what vacation is for, after all.

Our first planned destination was Greve in Chianti, which we reached via a zig-zagging route from Montaione through Castelfiorentino, Montespertoli, Santa Casciano and a few other dots on the map. We were unfamiliar with the layout off the town, and had a little trouble finding a good place to park at first but we eventually found street-parking on the outskirts and walked into the center and the main piazza that forms the heart of Greve.

There are a great many specialty shops and a few cafes along the arcaded walk surrounding the main piazza, but the most notable place was probably Macelleria Falorni (a wonderful butcher shop that’s a feast for all your senses). Lots of shops were offering wine tastings, and we were tempted to buy a “wine card” and do tastings from automatic dispensing machines in various quantities—but, we were driving and they were starting to close down for lunchtime. A bad combination.

The sun was getting nice and warm, so we settled on an outdoor spot on the piazza, on the opposite side from the church, for some light lunch (and maybe a glass of wine!). Ambience was decent, the wine was terrific, but the food, alas, was a waste of our small appetite. Our homemade bruschetta from the night before would have blown this out of the water. At least the wine was good. But 44 E for that lunch was… meh.

After wandering around a bit more, we returned to the car and kept driving south. Panzano looked interesting but we didn’t stop. Onward to Radda, where we parked and explored... And quickly determined that we should have held out for lunch here. We found it a much more attractive and interesting town; less overtly touristic and more “hill town” in character. We stopped in a wine tasting store and sampled a few Chianti Classicos, and ended up buying the most expensive bottle we tasted (23E). “It’s smooth like a baby’s ass” I said to ms_go, and the lone staffer laughed out loud.

We hit the road again and headed west to Castellina in Chianti. And again, we parked and walked around. Ms_go had been here before, three years prior, but was only driving through. This time, we found it to be a charming town as well. Overall, we probably liked Radda the best, Castellina second, and Greve third. But it should be noted, we really weren’t focused on wine as much as scenery and character.

However, the main experience of the day was the scenic drive and the wonderful views. Unfortunately, the best views always seemed to be facing into the sun, so photographic opportunities were limited. Still, it was all very pretty, harmonious, sun-dappled and rustic. Plus, it was decidedly warmer today than it had been the previous couple of days, and that added to the experience as well.

Slowly, we made our way back to Montaione via Poggibonsi and San Gimignano, with a brief stop for the great San G vista just west of the city, made particularly nice in the golden-hour light (I swear, pix are coming soon!). When we got back home, we thought about opening the nice bottle we’d bought earlier, but instead opened one produced on our own property (La Valle sangiovese/cabernet blend, an absolute steal at 7E), and enjoyed it with some olives and pistachios on our back porch in the waning sunlight.

A Funny episode…
After we finished our bottle of wine and snacks, we came inside and discussed dinner plans. While we sat in the dining room by the front door—an Italian family of five opened the door and walked right in, thinking our house was the reception for the property. First came the little kids, followed by the puzzled-looking parents. I greeted them with a quizzical “buona sera…” and they asked me a question that I couldn’t really understand, but which could only have meant “wait, isn’t this the reception office?”

I pointed out the correct office for them, as the father apologized profusely in Italian (his English appeared to be even more challenged than my Italian), and I did my best to explain that a) the owner probably wasn’t there anymore, and b) they could probably find a key in the correct door, as we had.

And a really good dinner…
That evening we decided on Osteria del Pesce Rosso in Montaione. Ms_go didn’t recall it from her last stay, so it must be a newcomer. We were the second party to be seated just before 8 pm, but the restaurant was almost full by the time we left. It has a warm, cozy atmosphere with about 8-10 tables, so too large. Our two starters were excellent: seared polpo (octopus) with tomatoes and olives, and a seafood salad with calamari, scampi and shrimp and mussels on mixed greens with a simple lemon/olive oil dresssing. The mains were a risotto with pumpkin, truffles, and scampi; and a ravioli with swordfish, tomatoes and lots of pepper. Again, both were excellent. And the vino bianco della casa was much better than average. A very filling and satisfying meal overall for 50E.

It more than made up for the lousy lunch.
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Oct 24th, 2011, 11:21 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 212
I'm loving your report!

Do you recall the name of the Greve restaurant you had lunch? I'd like to put it on my avoid list for when I'm there next week!
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