Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enjoy Your Wine But Enjoy Tuscany As Wel

November in Chianti Classico
There is, of course, more to Tuscany than wine. In fact there is more to Tuscany than food and wine! Like in most Italian destinations there are beautiful cities to explore, architecture to admire, great restaurants to enjoy, and picturesque villages to visit. You can also explore some of the region’s vineyards or sign up for organised wine tours to ensure that you experience the best of the local wine. Enjoy the Chianti by all means but it’s a good idea to plan ahead and have a few ideas of what else you want to do in Tuscany before you visit.


Visit Local Wine Makers

A trip to a local winemaker offers an excellent combination of a bit of learning alongside enjoyment of great wines. The Fontodi vineyard is found at the center of Chianti Classico country, just south of the town of Panzano. The entire vineyard and farm is organic, consisting of 80 hectares of vines and 30 hectares producing organic olives. Traditional methods going back centuries are used to produce wines with terracotta vats being used rather than wooden barrels to store wine. The owner Giovanni Manetti bucks the trend of many larger winemakers as she does not charge for tastings. You can visit the vineyard and not even be obliged to buy a bottle.

Wine Tours

Organized wine tours offer the chance of being escorted around some of Tuscany’s best vineyards,  and restaurants by tour providers who have detailed local knowledge. Do a little research and you can find tour operators running tours that last from a few hours to days or weeks at a time. Tuscan Wine Tours is a small company run by a group of local food and wine experts. It books tastings and sittings at some of the best local vineyards and restaurants, often negotiating discounted prices. Private tours can be arranged or you can join up with larger organised groups.

Sightseeing

As tempting as it may be to spend an entire trip in Tuscany settled inside a wine bar or touring vineyards, there are plenty of other tourist attractions where visitors can work up a thirst and an appetite. Florence is arguably the cultural highlight of a trip to Tuscany. Famous in any case for its fine food and wine, the city offers some of the best architecture in Italy and some of the finest art galleries in the world. The Uffizi Gallery, Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio attract tourists from all over the world and the city can become almost overrun in the peak tourist months. Cruise ship passengers disembark at the local ports of Livorno and Pisa and head into Florence to sample the food and wine for a few hours so there are times when it is best to head out of the city and explore some of the delightful local towns. Lucca is less than an hour drive from Florence and its cobbled streets, tucked away behind Renaissance period walls offer quiet sanctuary from the bustle of Florence. You can walk round the city walls, admire the color of the surrounding countryside and then wander back into town for a walk around the impressive Cattedrale di San Martino.

Siena is another Tuscan town well worth a visit. Again, filled with medieval churches and towers, it is the type of place to simply lose a few hours wandering round and admiring the architecture. There are plenty of dining choices, ranging from the expensive delis and restaurants along Via di Citta to cheap osterias which will still serve up decent local wines. There are a number of vineyards not far south of Siena and some are reachable by local buses so you can leave the car behind.

Where To Stay

There is accommodation to suit all budgets across Tuscany. The big cities have hotels across all price ranges and there are some luxury hotels dotted around the Tuscan countryside. There are also plenty of budget hotels or cheap bed and breakfasts, campsites are common, and plenty of vineyards and farms also offer rooms. For real wine lovers, there can be little better than spending a few days staying in a Tuscan farmhouse, surrounded by vines and some of the best Tuscan wines readily available at cheaper prices than will be found anywhere else.

@Laura Chapman