Anyhow, today I choose to blog! And before I get to my Amalfi photos, I wanted to reminisce a bit about one of our favorite activities while we were in Tuscany. Wineries. It's no secret that wine in Italy is top notch, and by now it's also no secret that we were on a budget trip and often got our fill by ordering vino di casa and boxed wine rather than expensive bottles. Yet still, we managed to try some of the best wines Italy has to offer by visiting wonderful hidden-gem wineries from time to time. Here's a little bit about two of our favorites.
Azienda a Solatio
(e il meraviglioso Raffaello)
This one must come first, because it was the best wine-tasting experience we've ever had - and we've done our fair share! When my girlfriends and sister were visiting, Jimbo and I took them to one of our favorite Tuscan hill towns for the day: Certaldo Alto. We had been there once before for Mercantia, and it's just adorable. There are only a couple of small shops and a few restaurants, but if you want to see the perfection of Tuscany in all its postcard-worthy glory but want to avoid the crowds of San Gimignano and Siena, check out Certaldo Alto. And you must must MUST visit A Casa Tua for lunch and order the fried balls of heaven.
We were in a small consignment shop chatting with the owner, when she referred us to her husband's winery up the road. She said he was home and would be happy to let us try some vino and vin santo. So we went! The next thing we know, we're cozying it up with Raffaello Viani in his beautiful outdoor terrace, he's giving us a full tour of the vineyard, and we're chowing down on crackers drenched in the most amazing olive oil I've ever had. It was incredible how accommodating he was; it felt like we'd all been best friends forever. I was in his family's kitchen helping to grab saltines, he was special wrapping his last 2 bottles of vin santo for us, he and Jim were discussing the difficulties of Tuscan soil, and before you know it 2.5 hours had flown by and it was time to grab our goodies and head out. Here are some pictures of the afternoon:
The best thing about Raffaello and the visit was how passionate he truly is about the land, the process, and the product. Us being there seemed like a treat for him as much as for us, because he was able to share something he so obviously cares deeply about, which was much more important to him than any wine sales. It was one of the best days of the girls' vacation and I was so grateful that they were able to experience what Tuscan wine, oil and hospitality are all about.
You must visit Raffaello next time you're in Tuscany to grab some amazing olive oil and Jim's absolute favorite Vin Santo (check out #7). To set up a visit, email him at email@example.com - I'm sure he'd love to hear from you!
La Torre AnticaWe also loved our experience at La Torre Antica, an agriturismo in Gambassi Terme, very close to Montaione. It is on a small road called Santa Maria a Chianni, which by the way has a slew of other adorable little wineries to check out as well. As we've mentioned before, our favorite way to go wine tasting in Italy is to wander around looking for agricola or agriturismo signs offering up the vino. Go in the late afternoon (after il pranzo lungo), and you'll be likely to catch someone available to give you a taste. That's what we did here, and it worked out wonderfully. We were greeted and shown to the wine room, and got to tasting.
We tried almost all of their wine varieties, and walked away with our favorite, the Solleone. He had opened a new bottle to let us taste it, so we told him we'd just buy the one we'd already sipped from! He said "no, no, no, take a new one!" and we said "no, no, no, it's fine, we'll just take this one!" (en Italiano, naturalmente), and as a wonderful compromise he ended up giving us the bottle and refusing to accept payment. We slipped in a tip, naturalmente.
Ominous storm clouds had started rolling in just as we arrived at the agriturismo, so as soon as we were done we jumped onto the scooter and hit the road. And no....we did not make it home without getting soaked. But it was worth it!
We are currently in Wilmington, DE visiting Jimbo's family, but we have official plans to leave for the west coast on December 26th. Can anyone say ROADTRIP? It's happening, and we are psyched. Meet us in Jackson Hole for New Years! More Italy memories coming soon....
Note: We weren't paid or perked for these reviews - we're just spreading the love!