We were in the middle of black truffle season and had a wonderfully unique opportunity to hunt for truffles with a hunting dog–what fun! I could not help but think what a beautiful job to have: a dog by your side as you stroll through the trees of an estate and watch as your dog seeks out truffles. We followed the dog as he put his nose to the ground. When he found the right spot, his master dug the earth with his hands and uncovered the truffles hiding below. He rewarded the dog with a treat each time. Now, that is what I call a fabulous way of living life!
We are at Tenuta de Damugliano, just a 30-minute drive from the coast. This the finest area in Tuscany for tartufi! LOVE that! The region produces about five tons of black truffles and about half a ton of white truffles each year. Purveyors here manufacture anything you can imagine involving truffles: oils, salts, sauces–can you smell it?! One of the most renowned truffle companies in the region is owned by Marco and his family. Their company is called Savitar, which exports their fresh truffles to some of the best restaurants in the world.
We continued walking the fields, enjoying the sights and working up an appetite for lunch. Just another day having a four-course aromatic truffle luncheon. And we drank our first rose wine, “rosato,” of the trip.
We did stop on our way back to Lucca at Piazza dei Miracoli, home of the leaning Tower of Pisa. We could not come this far and not take the typical photo holding up the tower. After having such intimate experiences so far on the trip, we were careful to not linger too long in this commercial den of tourism. However, it was just perfect. I am not sure how the tower has looked in the past but it was really clean.
Our host, Jason, took us to dinner at one of his local favorites, La Cecca. It was another memorable night. We indulged on the finest menu, sipped on refined wine and for those who felt inclined, relaxed with Cuban cigars. All there for us to enjoy! As we headed back home to Villa Chelli, we reflected on another fabulous day in Tuscany. Each day exceeds our expectations!
Those who know me know wine is, indeed, my “thing,” especially red wine. A day without wine is like a day without sunshine. It is an indulgence that continually gives me joy, especially when consumed with friends and family!
Our Chianti experience began in the town of Calcinaia. There, we met Count Sabastiano, who treated us to a personal tour of his family’s 12th-century vineyard and cantina. A count giving us an exclusive tour? He knew that made us feel special right from the start. He told us of his family history, what makes a “Classico” Chianti and how his estate wines are made in the classic aging style.
Imagine our setting for lunch, a long table dressed in white linen with an abundance of glassware. The sparkling and still mineral water interspersed along the table. Then, we were all served with our own appetizers on a wooden board. Oh, and the table was perfectly placed in a shady spot surrounded by sunshine that overlooked the vineyard!
At Castello di Monsanto Vineyard we walked between the vines of this family owned vineyard that had so much history and charm. We were taken to the peak of the valley, where chilled wine in a green checkered tablecloth and sparkling glasses for the pour of a superb Chardonnay waited for us! You might say quite a magical moment. We continued the tasting in a historical room off the caves and on the other side were long door windows opening up into the manicured gardens! The chef prepared us appetizers and a fabulous ricotta wild mushroom ravioli as we sampled all the wines.
The best Sangiovese grapes are used to produce particularly esteemed wine. Gran Selezione is granted to the grapes after they passes a suitability test conducted by authorized laboratories and a special tasting committee.
We arrived in Siena late in the day just when the last rays of sun were hitting the deep brown walls of the city. Apparently, the Crayola crayon color “burnt Sienna” comes from this very vision and sight. We were sitting in historic Piazza del Campo where we sipped Aperol Spritz and chewed on canapés and people watched. It felt quite special as we learned that this very place is where horses run in Paleo di Siena every July and August as thousands of spectators attend.
The Palio di Siena features ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The race circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid. The race is run for three laps of the piazza and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finish the race without their jockeys. Quite a story!
LAST DAY TOGETHER
After a fabulous breakfast at Marignolle, a charming relais chateau in Florence, we headed to Mercato Centrale de San Lorenzo in the heart of the city. An idyllic time that took us through Florence which we captured for the photo opportunity. Yes, we have to go back and explore. You just cannot fit it all in and not have a reason to go back, right?!
Next, we climbed up and out of the city to the most famous hill above Florence, the town of Fiesole. This took us to Villa San Michele, once a monastery from the 14th century and now a deluxe 5-star hotel. The entrance was picture perfect. The service was impeccable, warm and engaging. The food was classically clean and fresh and simply divine. We retired to the garden and drank glasses of Prosecco in abundance, we had conversations and frolicked in the memories of our time together. We did not want this beautiful afternoon to end!
But all good things do come to an end.
Added: Without a doubt this journey to Tuscany was absolutely fabulously FABULOUS. I went home with a lifetime of memories with new friends. These friends, indeed, need to be mentioned as much as this trip. For as much as it was all about Tuscany, the beauty, the food, the culture, it was also about who I shared this adventure with that made it even more special.
The hospitality not only made me happy, it elevated my culinary richness. The weather was “perfecto.” What was more special was the environment gave me time for reflection, it was stress free and did I say a lot of laughter!?
Every place every moment was special whichever way you look at it. My heart was open to embrace all my findings and it gives me such pleasure to share my experience with you. Yes, this trip was brought together through the eyes of Jason and Alessandra. I am one lucky lady and thank them for sharing their LOVE for Tuscany!
The TEN days were a marathon of three hours lunches and dinners with so much in between!!! I ate like a horse, drank like a fish and drank water like it was going out of fashion! BUT I also walked miles in between these adventures because that’s what one does in this environment.
The espresso I loved. I had no idea the coffee could be that good! Although never truly hot, but that did not matter to me. The bread–now that I was disappointed with. I was expecting that fabulous crusty ciabatta, but I did not have it on this trip. However, the pasta made up for it! I suppose one does not need to be overindulged with carbs, huh?!
I was stress-free and inspired by all things Tuscany. I suppose I was TUSCANIZED, as Alessandra would say! Ten PERFECT Days in Tuscany!!! It was all about the Food, the Fun, and the LOVE! Of course!