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In last week’s column, I delved into our family’s immersive journey to Tuscany. My discourse was a broad overview, with my effusive virtual tour as a lens of the magic that is the natural beauty of the Tuscan landscape – and my ethereal wine experience.
This week I’m offering a glimpse of the daily life of our week in Tuscany. The primary focus of our family vacation was to introduce everyone to the history and culture of this ancient, medieval- and Renaissance-steeped region in central Italy. Our villa was geographically located in the heart of the famous wine region of Chianti Classico, within short drives to world-acclaimed wineries and historic cities, villages, hamlets, small settlements, even expansive estates.
Our experience in all of these adventures always centered around the hospitality of the locals in welcoming us and sharing their heritage, traditions and a spirit that has passed down from generation to generation, sustaining themselves in the face of an ever-changing world around them. And of course, our experiences were amplified and intensified by the local food and wine we consumed.
Everywhere we drove, we passed world-famous wineries, whose wines I’ve enjoyed at many media wine events. I valiantly resisted the temptation to visit these legendary wineries, in order to focus on the local wines, typically sold only at the wineries and/or in the local restaurants.
Our base was a 500-year-old former monastery on 25 acres planted with grapevines and olive trees. The current property owners craft wine and olive oil from these plantings, which vines and trees we could view from every window of our villa.
Our cellar was stocked with their proprietary Chianti Classico as well as Vernaccia white wine, which is produced by the owners from grapes grown a short distance away in the hills surrounding the medieval city of San Gimignano. Bottles of their proprietary olive oil were always on hand.
These were the wines we enjoyed at villa dinners and every post-meal wrap-up and wind-down. The 2019 Sangiovese-based Chianti Classico was a reflection of the terroir of the villa, with a balance of fruit and acid with a touch of tannins, which paired well with the local pasta and meat dishes. The Vernaccia was bright and crisp, with a touch of minerality.
For the majority of dinners, we enjoyed not just the cuisine of the local trattoria (to the exhortations of “Mangiare! Mangiare!” from the owners), but also the broad vistas of the Tuscan countryside before us. Lifting our gaze from each forkful of pasta or local meat, we were inevitably met with rolling hills and countryside, colorfully dappled with the lush green of vineyards and forests, the sienna-colored stucco and red-brown ceramic roof tiles of homes dotting the landscape and the brilliant oranges, reds and yellows of the setting sun.
Our daily sojourns included touring the centuries-old culture, art and history of Siena and Florence, then mangiamo, beviamo and gelato at Osteria da Divo and Ristorante Natalino. Our favorite dishes: linguini with cinghiale (wild boar) tenderloins and Pici pasta with the local version of tomato and basil sauce, paired with Chianti Classico with the classic profile described above and produced down the valley and up the following hill. Gelato? Stracciatella (vanilla laced with chocolate shavings).
Next, the historic smaller localities of Monteriggioni and Barberino Val de Pesa, where we casually strolled along piazzas and ancient – and very narrow – streets, walkways and paths, and too-many-to-count ancient steps, worn thin by millennia of residents and visitors.
Then mangiamo, beviamo, gelato at Il Torri. Favorite dishes: braised coniglio (rabbit) and Pici pasta with cinghiale ragu, paired with a classic Chianti Classico produced in the winery we viewed in the background from our table. Gelato? Mint with chocolate chips.
A culture that is ancient, yet with a modern sensibility. Easy for our family to immerse ourselves in, if only for a week.
(Note: Space constraints force me to carry over our two favorite Tuscan dining and wine experiences until next week.)
Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.