November 14, 2017
Let’s face it. No matter how much you love your home, and I love my home in Liguria, sometimes you need a change of pace, see other friends, walk different paths. On the spur of the moment, when I was living in Minnesota, there were few places of escape for me within three hours of home. There were numerous lake resorts, gambling institutions, ice fishing spots and shopping. But they were not my thing. Here, in three hours, I traveled from the seaside in Liguria to the Chianti Road and the Renaissance of Florence.
Taking trains in Italy is a very relaxing, elegant form of transportation. I boarded, drank my water and watched the seaside turn into autumn fields and ancient villages before arriving at the Santa Maria Novella Firenze Stazione Ferroviaria, the main train station of Florence.
My friends, Alessio and Arianna of Km Zero Tours, met me at the station and whisked me away to the hills and beauty of the Chianti Region of Tuscany. I have visited here on three separate occasions and every experience with these two very genuine people has been a gift. This time we planned a few simple experiences and time to share stories about our adventures.
For years I had heard of the beauty of Tuscany in the autumn months. My camera was ready to capture colors and lines of the area in this time. It was an overcast day. The sky had no color. It was all in the fields and the people.
All the yellow branches are the grape plants resting until spring. In the distance you can see the silver-grey of the olive trees contrasting with the dark evergreens. Arianna and I are bundled up against the cool breezes.
The red colors are the autumn tones of the Merlot grapes. They were few and far between in this area of the yellow Sangiovese used in Chianti wine.
Besides stops for photos, we headed first to visit our friends at Vallone Di Cecione, the biodynamic, organic vineyards and olive groves in the heart of the area. Here Francesco met us and I had the opportunity to taste is fabulous fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sample a few of his fabulous wines to clear my palette.
I purchased 2 liters of oil and only one bottle of wine this time.
Francesco’s father still works on the vineyards and olive groves as he has since he was young. Originally this area was owned by a well-off family. Francesco’s family were merely workers on the land. When the owner chose to sell, this family managed to scrape together enough money to buy the land they loved and have worked it ever since. You can taste that love in their products, feel it in their hospitality. I feel like I am with family whenever I visit.
Next, we headed to Arianna’s favorite baker in San Casciano. Beppe, the charismatic Baker prepares gluten-free bread, pizza and focaccia for Arianna. He made some for me this time too.
He offered to ship them to me overnight whenever I wanted more. I may take him up on that. His products are very tasty.
Beppe decided to share a wine liqueur with us. We sampled his cheeses and toasted one another.
Alessio, my friend and a sommelier, approved of the scent of the beverage before the pour. The herbs and wine together were tantalizing.
We saluted one another and enjoyed it together like family. Afterward, it was like saying goodbye to an uncle or cousin. I promised to return.
That evening we visited a local, slow food restaurant near San Casciano, La Baracchina, the Little house. Everything offered on the menu was authentic, organic and good. For appetizers we had Tonno del Chianti,
This tonno was made of pork shoulder in wine, not tuna—how it is usually translated.
For my main course I enjoyed Pappardelle con sugo cinghiale. That wild boar sauce was mouthwatering, a bit spicy and so flavorful. The homemade pasta was delicious too. Alessio chose a rabbit dish cooked traditionally while Arianna ate a pork dish with a huge porcini mushroom top, grilled to perfection.
Of course, we shared a bottle of Chianti and enjoyed some dolce. We ate the sweets without photos.
Km Zero Tours had a busy schedule so we called it an early night. Ciao for now, my friends. We will see you soon.
The next morning, I headed into the valley where the exquisite city of Florence, the city of my soul, paints an entirely different picture. When you begin your walk within the walls of Florence you walk into the Renaissance itself. This city is the heart of the Italian Renaissance and you can see it everywhere you look. Plan to walk your feet off when in Florence. It is easy to do. And every corner holds another treat.
I began my walk near Piazza Signoria, a spot I personally adore. This time, the fountain was under construction and a contemporary sculpture at the center of the square,
jarring the feel of this glorious step back in time to the age of the Medici rulers. Original sculpture and copies surround half of the square while sculptures of the great Italian artists and scientists line the entrance to the famous Uffizi Gallery.
Ignoring the contemporary artwork, I took in all the beauty of the piazza. Next it was time to fare le spese, to shop. It is almost Christmas after all. I found several items and, after the strain of shopping I headed to Gilli, a bar on Piazza Della Repubblica, for sustenance. I was deterred by the music, the jazz group busking for money in the square. They were so talented that I had to tip them and stop to listen.
The crowd increased as lunch time approached. Somewhere someone was blowing huge bubbles
As people continued along their way and the Merry-go-round spun.
Hunger won and I stopped inside Gilli for Moroccan Mint Tea and two canducci, sliced almond cookies like my Nonna Amelia made. Now I was ready to walk further, back to my hotel before sunset.
I got turned around along the way and I was so glad.
I found myself in Piazza S.S. Annunciata, a spot I had only visited once before. Here locals and students gathered on the stairs by the porticos. It was so quiet, except for one eccentric gentleman who held his own conversation.
He was beautiful in his unique self, leaning against an ancient pillar. I sat near him and pulled out my map. This was actually a shortcut to my hotel, Hotel B&B, beyond Sant’Ambrosio. When I arrived in my room and dropped my bags,
I grabbed my camera and walked onto my balcony. No sea or water view but it was a glorious view of the surrounding hills,
The red, tiled roofs,
And sunset lighting the local synagogue.
There are always surprises in Florence. I found a new, inexpensive and fun hotel in Florence. I revisited old haunts like Gilli. I heard excellent music. And I shopped till I almost dropped. This was a short trip down Renaissance Lane for me. But, as always, I feel as though I have walked these streets hundreds of years ago as well as several times since 1971.
I will return to Florence and Chianti soon. But now, I am home in time for a spectacular sunset on the Mediterranean Sea in Liguria.
It was like lava on the water.
I must have taken 100 photos in between sitting on a bench watching the colors and clouds changing.
And now, I am home in this spectacular place until my next travel adventure. Thank you to Km Zero Tours, Vallone Di Cecione, Hotel B&B, and all the rest.
When you are ready to experience, really experience the joys of Italy, let me know. I would love to introduce you to very personal adventures like these.
Ciao for now!
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