Almost everyone has heard about Tuscany. Its capital Florence is a living work of art, whose relatively small historic center contains far too many sites to list here. I donít where else you can find world-class jewelry in shops lining a bridge as they have been for centuries on the Ponte Vecchio. You might be surprised that Bistecca all Fiorentina, the local beefsteak, is excellent. Enjoy it with a Chianti or other fine Tuscan wine.
Tuscany is a lot more than Florence. You may want to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa and visit the partially walled city of Lucca, home to 99 churches. Or visit Florenceís historic rival, Siena, which has retained its medieval flavor. Its Piazza del Campo is one of Italyís finest squares. Try to see the Palio, a historic horserace pitting the cityís 17 neighborhoods against one another every July 2 and August 16. The Renaissance village of Montepulciano is best known for its Vino Nobile de Montepulciano DOC. Go to Saturnia to see some Etruscan and pre-Etruscan tombs. Thereís a lot more to see, for example, the region of Chianti.
What about the wine? Virtually everywhere you turn in rural Tuscany somebody is making fine wine. Most of it is red, but there are some great whites as well. Tuscany is home to Super Tuscans, wines that defied traditional wine making practices and regulations and so arenít allowed to carry Italyís fine wine designations. Many of these wines sell for well over $100 a bottle, so successful producers are laughing all the way to the bank.
In Tuscany Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape. Itís the heart of Chianti DOCG (with and without the Classico which refers to the traditional Chianti region), Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, and many others. Donít be confused but many Super Tuscans contain Sangiovese and sometimes no other grapes. Other common Tuscan red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The whites are simpler. The most common are Trebbiano, especially Trebbiano Toscano, and Vermentino. The famous Tuscan sweet wine Vino Santo is made from white grapes.
Companies selling wine tours of Tuscany include Prime Italy, Select Italy, and Alabaster and Clark Wine Tours Worldwide. Tuscany wineries providing visits include Antinori in Firenze now in the agriturismo business, Avignonesi in Montepulciano, the organic winery Badia a Coltibuono in Gaiole in Chianti which offers a restaurant and lodgings, Barone Ricasoli in Gaiole in Chianti, and Ruffino in Pontassieve to name but a few. A few words of warning are in order. Make sure that you check ahead of time for opening hours and whether English is spoken. Some places may charge admission; others may expect you to buy some of their products.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Wine tours, wine vacations, wine holidays in Tuscany, Italy