When I was really little, I wanted so badly to visit Italy. This might have been because I loved Italian food, though when I was really little I thought Italian food was Chef Boyardee. So that’s embarrassing but luckily by the time I reached middle school, I actually understood Italian food bore no relation to Chef Boyaredee. However I still loved Italian food and still wanted to visit Italy. It wasn’t until 2014 that I actually did visit Italy. Italy, like most countries has a varied cultural landscape and even more varied culinary flavours and wine regions. Where to start?
As a self confessed Francophile, I have an understanding of France, its food, wine regions etc… I even have a basic understanding of Spain and Portugal wine regions, even Germany a bit, but Italy was largely unknown to me. Italy is famous for its wine and even more famous for its food but its wine remained a mystery to me. I didn’t know how to pick it, what I was looking for or how to pair it. So when going to Italy, people had tons of advice on where to start. Milan, Almafi Coast, Bologna, Florence, Naples, Romes, Sicily ect.. but all roads led back to Tuscany. Famous for its wine, including the very famous Chianti, Tuscany promised beautiful countryside and amazing food. Logic would have dictated we stay in Florence but we picked Pisa. Though we did go to Florence, as you should. Florence is home to the beginning of the Renaissance. has some of the the best and most famous art work anywhere, fascinating architecture and out of this world shopping, food and wine.
Pisa however was our base, famous for its tower (which is stunningly beautiful) Pisa also has amazing food with both pasta, pizza, game and seafood being represented.
Oh and amazing olives. We lucked out with our uber trendy hotel the San Ranieri with its beautiful patio, deluxe fresh breakfast buffet and amazing pasta. http://www.sanranierihotel.com/en/ I still wanted to know more about wine so we booked a Tuscan wine tour from Florence. The tour took us to a vineyard in the heart of Tuscany for 6 tastings with food followed by a stop in the famous town of Chianti. So off we went, speeding ticket and all. In Florence waiting for the tour bus, I happened to spot an amazing little dress shop. Waiting for the bus to load and causing @benton8tor heart palpitations, I ducked into the shop, tried on the most lovely dress, bough it and was back on the bus before it finished loading. It is my talent.
Once on the bus, the guide began to explain about the different vineyards and grapes in particular Sangiovese and Trebbiano. He was good too, he drowned out the 4 young women on the bus who had been drinking steadily since the morning. I hoped they were well stocked on Advil, as it would be needed for them I am sure. Once at the vineyard we were treated to a tour of the grounds and beautiful chateau. In the vineyard, there were also lemon trees and olives. Sitting down to taste the wine, it became very apparent that Italian wines are complex and there is enormous pride in paring properly with food or appertivos. The wines, in particular the chiantis were somewhat tart, a bit smoky and very interesting. They paired very well with our bruschetta. The whites were high in acid, citrus (almost lime) and cut through richer cheese flavours. The tastings were fabulous, hosts warm and welcoming, but I left thinking I had so much more to learn. I also left slightly drunk. Italian wine is extremely varied and complex. On wards to Chianti, sampling more wine and back to Florence for amazing pizza served in a 14th century coach house. Again the pizza was paired perfectly with the wine so if you aren’t sure how to pair, ask your server, they will know.
Tuscany is all rolling hills, romantic vistas, tasty food, and amazing wine. Rome to the South offer more variety but Tuscany should not be missed.