Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tuscany - Through Its Wine and Food - Part One

I've just returned from two and a half fabulous weeks in Italy, one week of which I was leading a wine and food tour through Tuscany. I had a ball! I was fortunate enough to have an incredible group of guests. I couldn't have asked for a better collection of people; everyone was easy-going and got along tremendously. We had six days of visiting wineries, beautiful towns and eating well (sometimes too well!) There is no way I can post all the pictures I took, or go into enough detail, but instead will do an entry for each day, including the free days I had before and after the tour. If you are interested in seeing our itinerary, you can visit my Passionate Palate Tours website for the details.

My next trip planned is for Piedmont in November. If you would like to see more details on that trip, click here.

Upon my arrival to Italy on May 22, I drove from Rome to Todi, Umbria to see my friend Stefania. I have mentioned her before, as she owns a terrific language school in that city. You can read about her classes here. I had a delightful visit, walking around Todi and eating one of the best rabbit dishes I have ever eaten. I will try to recreate it and post the recipe at some point.
The next day we visited some of my friends that own a beautiful agriturismo in San Venanzo, Umbria. (An agristurismo is a country inn/bed and breakfast that must produce some traditional product or raise some agricultural or animal product that is typical to that region. It is one of the many ways Italy protects its regional products.) You can see more details about Colli Verdi here. They had just gotten some samples of their nearly finalized first vintage of wine and wanted me to taste through them and give them my professional opinion. I was telling the honest truth when I told them how impressed I was. These red wines, based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, were all impressive, elegant, and balanced. I'll keep everyone posted as to whether they ever make it to the U.S. market. In the meantime, I encourage anyone who wants to get away from it all for a few days, to visit their piece of paradise.From there, I went to Torgiano, Umbria for a visit to Lungarotti winery, their wine museum and their lovely hotel. It was a relaxing and beautiful place to stay, and for you wine-lovers out there, I highly encourage a visit to that museum.
A fountain/sculpture depicting the God Janus, after whom the town is named.
On to Tuscany, where the next stop was the famous and picturesque town of Cortona, made popular by Frances Mayes and her UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN book. It is filled with expats - mostly American and British - but still worth a visit for its beauty. My friend Patrizia lives in the heart of the old town in an incredible, ancient house. She is such an inspiration to me, because in her retirement, she decided to follow her dream of living in Italy and packed her bags and made it happen (not even speaking the language.) Now, she can speak very well, and walking through the streets of Cortona she is greeted by all the locals with a big smile on their face. Everybody loves her! "Basta! Stop taking pictures of me!"
I was lucky enough to be in town for an impressive medieval flag-throwing celebration, a reenactment of some of the festivities that happened about 500 years earlier for an important marriage between two prominent families. From Cortona, I continued north to Montevarchi, where my friend Gia and her husband Beppe live part-time (the other part of the year in Chicago.) They produce very interesting television programs and films, many relating to Italy. Gia and I met 25 years ago, had been college housemates and had not seen each other for 20 years! It was a fun reunion and felt like no time had passed.

The next day I made it to Florence where the tour was starting from the following day. I had time to meet up with two fellow bloggers...stay tuned for the next installment for my visit with them.


Rebecca said...

I love reading your articles Jeni and I'm happy you had a great trip doing what you love.

Bella Baita View said...

Sounds like you had fun, but then how could you not on such a great tour. sounds like you will be on our doorstep in the autumn. Hope we'll get to meet up!

My Mélange said...

Sound like you had a ball!!! Hope you drank enough wine fore me ;)

erin :: the olive notes said...

I'm so glad you had a wonderful trip and tour. I would LOVE to go back with you in Nov :) We're getting settled back in here too, but I'm starting to miss Italy more everyday...

The Passionate Palate said...

Bec - Thank you!!!

BBV - I do hope we can meet up this year.

Melange - I believe I drank enough wine for you and a few others!

Erin - I am sure you are missing Italy in a big way.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I think you just walked me through a glorious dream. How wonderful!

I *must* go soon. Very soon!

Thank you so much for sharing all of this. Perhaps someday I will be able to join you on one of these tours.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore