January 11, 2017

Hold on to your britches, this is gonna be a long one.
Y’all, Tony was made to drive in Italy. It was like someone trained him, his whole life, for his moment. Commuting to Washington really prepared him. Italian drivers are nuts. There are no police to regulate speeding. People just basically drive as fast they possibly can and try not to crash.

I had 31 heart attacks on the way to Siena.
Thank god we made it there in one piece and found our parking lot outside of the city. Siena has a huge wall that goes all the way around it. It of course was originally meant to keep out invaders and such, but now it is used as a way to know where not to park and which part is the historic district. You can not park in the actually city itself because first of all, the roads are too small, and secondly, they really try to preserve the history and keep it from being ruined by so much traffic.
We walked to the city center, which was surprisingly extremely crowed because they were having a Christmas festival for a major Italian Christmas holiday. It was basically the first day of the Christmas season for Italians. Even through the busy crowds, we were able to meet up with a super cute older Italian woman who held up an Airbnb card with our names on it. She spoke no English and her little legs were quick as all heck. Keeping up with her through the crowds was an event all in itself! We came to a beautiful building with huge metal doors, took an elevator 4 square feet in space up to the third floor, then walked up another 2 flights of stairs to find a small wooden door. Through this door was another small set of stairs that opened up intothe tiny apartment which overlooked the city square and the mountains of Tuscany beyond the town. You had to heat up the hot water an hour in advance and the "bed" was a pull out couch but we didn’t care because this view was ridiculous and we could walk to dinner! It was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life. So many layers of life in one scene! It made me sad that sunset couldn’t last forever.

For dinner, we looked up restaurants in the Michelin Guide to find the best places to eat. We found Osteria La Taverna A La Guiesseppe across the square from our apartment. This food. Oh my word. Every single thing we had was amazing! I was first introduced to black truffle at Fiola Mare, Tony and I’s favorite restaurant in Washington. It is a type of mushroom grown in Italy that people literally hunt. They are super rare and delicious! At Osteria La Taverna A La Guiesseppe, they covered your plate in truffle shavings. I was in truffle heaven! This restaurant was so good, we actually came back the very next night to eat here again. No regrets.

The next morning, we woke up early to get ready for our wine tour and witnessed the most amazing sunrise I had have ever seen in my entire life. Seriously. I ended up having to rush around a little bit because I could not pull myself away from our window. I wish that the sunrise had never ended because it was just so beautiful!

Bright and early at 8:00 AM, we were instructed to meet our wine tour guide, Donatella from Wine Tour in Tuscany, in a square of town not far from our apartment at all. She pulls up in a van, which she has nicknamed Sandy, waving to us with a huge smile on her face. Her bubbly and energetic personality got me so pumped for the day (not like I wasn’t already). It was so funny because along with Tony and I, there were two other couples on their honeymoon on the tour! One couple was from Australia and the other couple was from Venezuela, currently living in Miami. Once everyone was on board, we were off to Chianti Classico!
The first vineyard that we visited was Setriolo. It is a small vineyard owned by Susanna, who inherited the vineyard from her father, and her mother. Between the two of the them and their wine maker (also a woman, talk about girl power), they run the entire vineyard. They grow the grapes, harvest the grapes, press the grapes, rotate the wine 5 times a day, bottle it, everything, all themselves! It was also really neat because they keep everything organic. Running a vineyard in the Chianti Classico region has it’s own set of struggles. Because it is such a well sought after region, the government has put so many regulations to make sure that area stays as preserved as possible. Because of this, there are only so many vineyards that are allowed to grow grapes. For almost ten years now, there has been a hold on accepting new vineyards to grow grapes, so it’s a pretty big deal to own a vineyard in this area. We tasted Susanna’s wine and olive oil in her own living room by a large fire, accompanied with sheep milk cheese, various meats, and fresh bread. Susanna’s olive oil was the best olive oil that I had tasted while we were in Italy! I will find a way to get it, but right now it is only being exported to New York for the United States. Fun fact: their logo is of an olive tree in the middle of their grape vines that survived a storm in the 1980s that wiped out most olive trees in the region and her house was 500 years old!

The second vineyard that we visited was Querceto Di Castellina. An older woman named L’aura owned this vineyard with her family. I really loved how all of the vineyards that we visited, big or small, were family run. At L’aura’s vineyard, each of the wines are named after family members, and are also all organic. She offered us a flight of 4 wines, including a very good white wine. These were paired with more sheep milk cheese, and some super yummy crackers. Laura’s Italian accent was so dang thick that sometimes it was really difficult to understand what she was saying, but she did tell us all about her family and how they all play roles in the winery. She gave me the feeling that any loving grandmother would give, super warm and just so kind!

The third vineyard that we visited was Vallone Di Cecione. We hopped out of the van and the owner’s son greeted us at the top of the hill. He walked us down to the grape vines and explained how they grow roses at the ends of all of the vine’s rows because the roses are more fragile than the grape vine’s so they attract diseases sometimes up to two weeks before the disease would effect the grapes. This gives the farmers time to react to protect the vine’s before they are negatively impacted. Once again, super cool, this was an organic vineyard! We walked down to a tiny brick building and enjoyed wine with fresh bread, cheese, meats, and jam. We even got to meet his father who was the cutest little old man ever! A neat thing that we got to experience was being able to try two exact wines, made the same way, just in different years to see how weather can effect a wine. The 2013 bottle was a dry season, and the 2014 bottle was a wet season. It was so crazy how different they tasted, even though they were made exactly the same! This vineyard also uses a unique blend to create their Chianti.. It was delicious! We loved it so much, we bought a bottle to take home to our apartment in Siena to relax that night.

I’m all about experiences. I would say my favorite part of the entire day was lunch. Donatella took us to a friend of her’s house which was over 1000 years old. ONE THOUSAND YEARS. THREE ZEROS. Still blows my mind to think about it. The owner of the house was an elderly lady who greeted us with hugs and of course, kisses to each side of cheeks. We don’t have any photos of her house or lunch because we were asked to, and totally wanted to, respect her and her family’s privacy because it was their home that they invited us to. Take my word for it, it was the most beautiful house and property we had ever seen! After walking through the gates, we were greeted by 4 large dogs, all super adorable and friendly. She showed us into her dining room where she had prepared a three course lunch for our group including fresh bread, wine, a chicken dish, a pepper dish, the best lasagna Tony and I have ever had, the best tiramisu Tony and I have ever had, finished off with cappuccinos and espresso. We were blown away by her hospitality! I wish we could just stay with her for an entire summer! We will work for food and wine. Not a problem!

Our last stop of the day was a personal favorite of Tony and I’s because we even have ties to this vineyard from the states! Fonterutoliis a vineyard owned by the Mazzei family. The Mazzei family has had this vineyard in their family for over 25 generations, starting back in 1435! Although they were the first to make a Chianti wine, their winery has since been re-engineered by a daughter in the family to be gravity driven only. What the heck does this mean? This means that the winery has holes in the ground on the first level that large tubes are able to hook up to, to funnel the grapes into the floor below to be dropped into the vats for the fermentation process. Then, more tubes are funneled down to the third floor below for the aging process in barrels which are then bottled and shipped out. The reason for this gravity-driven process is to be as gentle as possible on the grapes and the skin so that they are less stressed (this always makes me chuckle because I image a grape with a super stressed out face, going through the wine process).

One of the sons (Phillip) has a wine named in his honor for his relationship with Thomas Jefferson because Phillip was asked by Jefferson to come to America and help him start his beloved Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia (AKA Monticello, the building on the back of our nickel). We actually first knew about this wine and tasted it at a wine and food pairing dinner at Casa Luca in D.C. By Chef Fabio Trabocchi when the Mazzei Vineyard came to speak and highlight their wines. We fell in love with the wines then and were so excited when we found out that Donatella could take us to the vineyard itself in Tuscany! We all watched the sun set over the mountains before hopping back in the van and saying our good byes.

That conclude’s our amazing wine tour day! Donatella’ wine tour can be foundhereif anyone is planning on traveling to Tuscany soon. We headed back to Siena for another dinner at Guisseppe’s, then back to the apartment to catch some Zzz’s for our flight to Catania from Florence the next day! Stay tuned of course for stay in the beautiful Taormina later this week!

Source: Costola

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about costola

meet andie

At home near the sea. Ever-focused on beauty and the thrilling art of creation; found in the moments that leave me breathless and in awe. 

After 15 years of capturing couples and families during the most precious times of their lives, she can truly say that this is exactly where she is meant to be. When she isn't photographing weddings, Andie enjoys the outdoors alongside her husband, Tony and daughters, Ava & Audrey.




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