Let us make you an offer you can’t refuse. And who would refuse a trip to Italy, anyway? Especially when it combines the magic of stays in Renaissance villas, Chianti country and several nights in both Florence and Siena.
Florence is truly a magical place. Cut by the Arno river, the city has hundreds of churches filled with Renaissance masterpieces that would be the pride of any museum in any other city in the world. In Florence, it’s just everywhere. Enjoy the “small” townhouses of the Medici family and their fabulously wealthy (and showy!) friends. Today, you’ll fly in and arrive at our fabulous city-center hotel, which is walking distance from the Uffizi, the Duomo and the Goldsmith’s bridge. As the rest of the group settles in, take some time to wander the city. If you’re looking for some good-quality leather, Florence is where you want to be. Gold is also a traditional commodity here, and the Goldsmith’s bridge has vendors who’ve rented their spaces for 500 or more years. In the evening, we’ll all meet for a welcome drink and head out for the Bacchus Discovery Dinner.
The next day, we’ll tour one of Florence’s many museums and historic sites. Kat’s personal favorite is the Medici palace. Dinner tonight will be at your own pleasure. We can recommend several great places depending on your mood.
Today we’ll head out and start to immerse ourselves in Chianti. We’ll board our luxury coach and drive south and east of Florence to experience some gems.
The Colli Fiorentini region is just outside of Florence, in the hills surrounding the city. Colli Fiorentini is one of the seven Chianti subzones. The wines from this area are influenced by the warmth and light exposure of the hills. They’re rich wines that pair perfectly with Florence’s famed steak Fiorentina. We’ll meet with a few producers and sample the wines, salume, cheese and oil from Tuscany. Don’t eat too much though, because we’ve also got a fantastic lunch planned before we head off to Chianti Rufina.
Rufina is one of the most sought after subzones of the Chianti DOC area. It’s also strikingly different from many other Chianti wines. It’s both the highest elevation and most inland zone of the region which produces a climate which is more Continental rather than Mediterranean. It produces wines that are finessed and complex with fantastic aging potential. Although it is not in the Classico DOC, the wines can be strikingly similar and often represent great deals.
After we taste our fill, we’ll head back into glorious Florence where you can relax, shop, visit one of the many churches or enjoy a glass or bottle on the hotel’s terrace.
Lucca is a charming town to the west of Florence. We’ll start our day with a beautiful drive through the Tuscan countryside on our way to the Colline Lucchesi. You might have noticed a theme here – Colle means hills, so these are the wines from the hills overlooking the city of Lucca. The warm breezes, rocky soils and elevation of the hill wines make them highly sought after. They express the aromatic and sensual qualities of the Sangiovese grape well.
We’ve booked in for a few appointments with winemakers today. We’ll explore the process from vine to wine and hear directly from the winemaker how they express the flavor of Tuscany in their wines. We’ll also enjoy other farm products – many wineries here also produce oils, meats or cheeses. If they don’t make them there, they get them from their neighbor. Every area has its own version of peccorino, the amazingly complex sheepmilk cheese that most of us think of only as an accompaniment to pasta.
After our morning tasting experiences, we’ll drive into the historic village of Lucca for lunch and some time to explore. You can walk the old city walls, visit the cathedral and the museum of cathedral archaeology, climb one of the towers for amazing views or just relax on the town’s beautiful campo with an espresso and enjoy the atmosphere. After a few hours in Lucca, we’ll wind our way back to Florence for a final night in the city. Time to pack and get ready for Chianti Classico!
Today, we’ll head south into the famed Chianti Classico region. Along the way, we’ll stop in Greve for our first taste of the Classico and a gourmet lunch. After that, it’s down to charming Castellina in Chianti, which will be the base of our explorations for the next few days. We’ll check into a beautiful property that is also a working (and pretty fantastic!) winery. We’ve got lots of things planned here – tasting, a walk through the vineyards with the wine maker and an authentic Tuscan cooking class. Tonight, we’ll be our own chefs and we’ll learn how to make traditional dishes with the freshest local ingredients from a real Italian mama. After we cook, we’ll sit down and eat the fruits of our labor, washed down (of course!) with some fantastic wines from the estate.
After a farmstead Tuscan breakfast, we’ll wander off into the hills and explore the historic villages of Radda and Gaole in Chianti. Both towns have a long history of making wine and of being important trade villages from Roman times until today. This gives them the character of a larger town, with the charm of a small village.
In the morning, we’ll explore the walled Medieval city of Radda, the historic capital of the Chianti region. After a chance to see the town, we’ll meet with some of the area’s top producers and taste the wine and oil from this region. Next, it’s off to visit Gaole and it’s amazing fortifications and castles. We’ll enjoy the village, eat lunch together and learn about the violent political intrigues which rocked Tuscany and how the conflict between Siena and Florence created incentive for all these tiny towns to build such gorgeous defensive architecture. Next, we’ve got more tasting scheduled. Can you taste the difference between the wines from the Radda and those from Gaole? We’ll learn what the distinctive profiles for each village is and how the climate, soil and tradition of the area change the taste of the juice in your glass.
After we wrap up our tasting for the day, we’ll head back to Castellina for a relaxing evening under the stars at the villa or in town if you prefer. Dinner is at your convenience this evening.
You can’t go to Tuscany without experiencing the famous Super Tuscan wines. These wines are different because they are grown in Chianti but they don’t use the traditional Chianti grapes. They’re usually (although not always!) Bordeaux-style blends, featuring Cabernet and Merlot along with the local Sangiovese. They’re also sexy, rich and powerful wines which command high prices (Sassicaia and Ornellaia are the most famous examples). So today, we’re off to Bolgheri where the style was born and continues to thrive. We’ll meet with several producers and tour their estates again going from field to glass and also, of course, enjoy a fantastic lunch with paired wines.
On our way home, we’ll break up the drive with a stop in historic Volterra. Most people know this place because of a certain series of vampire books, however, Volterra is a lovely city even if it isn’t inhabited by immortals. It’s been continuously settled since around the 7th century BCE and has architecture from the Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance periods. You can explore the archaeological park, one of the many grand palazzi, or one of the many museums in the city. Alabaster has traditionally been an important part of the city’s economy as well, and there are a number of amazing artisans in town.
Before we stop in Siena, we’ll call in Montepulciano, which is to the southwest of the city. Food and wine are legendary here. Along with the revered Vino Nobile, Montepulciano is also known for its distinctive lentils, pork products, olive oil and cheese. We’ll start with a tasting, where we’ll learn about what requirements producers need to follow to have a wine labeled as Nobile, and also taste a range of other wines produced in the area. They also make a fantastic grappa here. After our first appointment, we’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch overlooking the vines and spend a bit of time in town. In the afternoon, we have another appointment lined up for you before we head into Siena to explore the city and settle in.
Dinner tonight is at your pleasure. Siena is full of amazing restaurants and some lovely cafés and bars with terraces on the campo. An Aperol spritz on the terrace is a lovely way to watch the sun set in Siena.
After breakfast, we’ll call on our last wine producing region. Hard to believe that the time has gone by so fast, but we’ll end on a high note with the producers in Montalcino. We began with one of the highest and most continental areas of Tuscany when we visited Rufina. We’ll end somewhere completely different. Montalcino is the most arid region of Tuscany and the wines produced here are big and bold. Brunello (“the little brown one”) was once thought to be its own local grape. However, recent scientific testing has shown it to be Sangiovese. However, the distinctiveness of the wines caused them to keep the label Brunello di Montalcino. There are some special requirements that winemakers must follow if they want to produce the coveted Brunello, which we’ll learn about when we visit our first estate. After our intro to Brunello, we’ll explore a bit of the town and enjoy a paired lunch before more tasting in the afternoon.
You’ll have a bit of time in the afternoon to explore Siena on your own. Dinner is at your leisure.
We’ll spend our final day exploring the historic center of Siena. The town’s distinctive yellow stucco lends its name to the color burnt Siena and there are several museums dedicated to the Sienese school of art. We’ll also tour the campo and learn about the tradition of the Palio and the neighborhood associations which still provide important social and economic assistance to their members in the present day.
In the afternoon, you’ll have time to explore more on your own, relax, pack or pick up those last few souvenirs before we meet for our farewell dinner. We’ll have one last expertly paired meal full of the splendor of Tuscany and spend time exchanging contact information and planning our next trip together. If you’re not quite ready to leave yet, you can extend your trip. We suggest visits to Rome or Venice (or both! Italian trains are quite nice and generally reliable.) You can also spend several more days with Dan and Kat on their next stop: Sardinia.