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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013: Finally kissed by an Italian...

Today was my last "outing" in Tuscany. I had booked a tour with a company called "Fun in Tuscany," and it really was a perfect title for the business! Christian, our tour guide, picked a group of us up at Santa Maria Novella at 9:30am. There were only five of us on the tour, and it was two very nice young couples and myself. I sat up front with Christian in the van, and we all had a nice ride out to wine country.

The tour started at a villa overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano. The winery was beautiful, and we had a tour of the vineyards and the lab where they make the wine. The people there were very nice and set us up at a table outside, overlooking the country and skyline of SG. We tried three different wines: Vernaccia, Chianti Classico, and their Merlot. Vernaccia is a white wine made by the green grapes (without skins) grown in the San Gimignano region. It was delicious! Their Chianti Classico was the best that I had ever tasted, and I picked up a bottle (for 5.50 Euro!) to take home. We learned that for a wine to be considered real chianti, it must be made up of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. The merlot was quite good as well!

San Gimignano in the distance

It kind of does look like Manhattan...if you really blur your eyes. Or drink more wine.


Is it sad that I was thinking of marching band while taking this?

Bistecca Fiorentina (I know...I'm mean)

Lots of (future) bottles of vino!

This is where the aged wine is stored, with each barrel full to the top and corked so no air can get in.

The green glass is an invention of Da Vinci, so you can actually see that the barrel is full without letting air in.
What a guy.

Our wonderful guide, Christian!

Pointing at the Sangiovese

Modeling for their catalog. JK.

We then headed back towards the medieval town. Christian described it as the "Manhattan of Tuscany," because SG is known for its 14 towers still standing today. Taken from the web: San Gimignano developed on the site of a small Etruscan settlement and grew considerably during the Middle Ages thanks to the Via Francigena, which runs through the town. In the thirteenth century San Gimignano became an important halt for pilgrims and merchants travelling throughout Europe. In this period the town knew its highest splendour, and there was a remarkable flowering of works of art adorning churches, palaces, and monasteries. Its robust economy, based on the commerce of local fine-quality products such as saffron and wine, benefit the development of aristocratic families who boasted their political power by building the famous towers: of the original 72 towers in the fourteenth century, only 14 remain today.

Medieval gate

Model of the old city


Famous twin towers. Families who had a lot of money and power built towers to boast their wealth.

View in the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun"

It was absolutely gorgeous. We had a nice walk through the southern gate of the town, and Christian led us around and explained many of its important landmarks. We then tried some of Sergio's "World Famous Gelato" from his well-known gelateria, "Gelateria Dondoli." Cousin Dawn is a friend of Sergio, and she gave me a picture of the two of them to show him. Christian yelled to him to come out of the kitchen, and when he introduced me as her cousin, Sergio started yelling, kissed me on either cheek, and proceeded to tell me (while yelling the whole time) how much he loves to make people happy, and "when people come into my gelateria, I make them happy, so I'm happy!" We took some really funny pictures of the two of us, laughing the whole time, and I tried some of his vernaccia gelato. Perfetto!

Love Sergio! Favorite Italian thus far.

Photo of Dawn and Sergio

We left the town and headed over to our last wine stop of the day, and this was the place we were eating lunch. We got to a beautiful vineyard and met the owner, who was quite passionate about his wine. He said that we should not consider him to be crazy, but when we drink his wine, it means so much more than just a drink. "It is about engaging all the senses, poetry, and love." He showed us to the dining room and turned us over to his son (or nephew- I don't even remember!) and he took care of explaining the wine and food that we were about to partake in. Of course, with me being the only single girl at the table, he latches on to me, flirting his you-know-what off. I'm tellin' ya, he and I were breathing the same oxygen at one point, nose-to-nose, and he gave me a huge kiss on the cheek (after "threatening" that after trying his truffle oil, it would compel me to really kiss him). It was a riot, and after nine (yes, NINE) tastes of different wine, our table would not stop laughing at his antics.

We finished our amazing lunch (antipasti of meats and cheese, balsamic vinegar aged for 30 years, Ribollita soup that was cooked for seven hours, and amazing meat lasagna with truffle oil). Biscotti and dessert wine to top the day off.

We got back in the van and headed back to Florence. Christian brought us up to Piazzale Michelangelo to have some champagne. He had Eric (one of the guys) literally pop the cork with a sword. Ridiculous, but totally awesome!

I have been so lucky with tours on this trip! I highly recommend Fun in Tuscany because you really WILL have fun in Tuscany. Thanks to Christian for a great day!

The night ended with a "walkabout" around Florence with Pam, where we had some of our favorite gelato at Santa Trinita. I need to make every gelato count at this point!

All of us with the "friendly" waiter :) 
Yup..that's a sword. In the piazza.

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