Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuscany - Where wine and food got married

We had our first official holiday last week in Tuscany, where we stayed in a small town near Sienna. Before I get into the details of our fabulous trip. I want to explain the concept of holiday -because Europeans and Americans have vastly different executions of holidays. Phrases I often hear:
"We went to France for our holiday, but it was only 2 weeks."
"You only stayed in Tuscany for 1 week?"
"In France, I had 6 weeks of vacation, it is so hard to adjust to the 4 weeks in Switzerland."
Holidays in Europe are for real. And EVERYONE goes on holiday for at least 2 weeks. No email, no phone. It is expected and it is amazing!

OK, now that you understand why this was a holiday, not just another trip.
Our Tuscan holiday commenced with a 7 hour drive Saturday, with most of it taking place in Italy. Let's just say that all the stereotypes of Italian drivers are true. It is as if speed limit signs are really just billboards - because no one pays attention to them, blinkers are obviously perceived as unnecessary, and honking is ever present.  Josh says it's like driving in a third world country except there are alot more Ferrari's. 

We arrived in our rented house, which was in Monteriggioni (took 4 days to figure out how to say that). It was situated in a small little cluster of very old stone homes that was surrounded by some agriculture. The house was small but had a giant private yard with a pool. We lounged by the pool every morning!
On our first night there, we drove to the medieval castle of Monteriggioni and had an excellent dinner (pasta and steak) paired with a delicious wine. The first night was foreshadowing the culinary excellence that was to come.
Sunday was a 100% pool day and we did nothing but lounge - the perfect way to wind down for our holiday. We ate the best pizza of our lives at this unassuming place called Indios in a nearby town (Colle di Val d'Elsa).
Monday: We had some car issues that took a turn for the worse on Sunday, but nothing is open so we had to deal with it on Monday. Long story short, our car was making a rattling noise and lots of blinking lights. . We took it to a dealer in Sienna that would honor our warranty. Since a mini cooper is technically a BMW, we went to a BMW dealer and they had fantastic customer service and all was taken care of in an hour. Turns our our oil was just low. Holiday back on track! We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around aimlessly and doing wine tastings.

For the remainder of the week we spent the mornings by the pool relaxing and reading. In the afternoon, we would pick a nearby medieval city to explore and take the back roads so we could stop by wineries en route. During one afternoon, we went into Sienna to do a wine course which was super fun and informative.  We loved going wine tasting after that and acting like we new what we were talking about! 

The thing that most struck me about Tuscany was as you may have guessed, the wine and food. I don't know which came first, but they are a perfect complement to each other. The Tuscan wines tended to be tannic, which translates to as Josh calls it - Cat noise. When drunk alone the wine is not easy to drink, but when paired with the right food it is super amazing and make both the wine and the food even more delicious.

Wineries we visited:
Cesani: Wonderful, friendly, and idylic. They are well known for a white wine - of course we bought a case.
Fortuneri: Not recommended, very commercial, but nice wines to taste. The resteraunt under the same name is fantastic and we enjoyed a picture perfect lunch (melon +ham +arugala, wild boar ragut, and pesto goat cheese tortellini) paired with their Chianti classico house wine. Perfection.
Viscine: Friendly host, good wine, but nothing to write home about.

Towns we visited:

San Gimignano - Medieval town (which most of them were) that was a little touristy but definately a must stop in Tuscany.  We had a great lunch with an amazing fig salad at Cum Quibus. 

Volterra - The oldest town we have ever been too, some of the ruins were over 3000 years old! 

Pisa - Didn't really see the town, but the Leaning Tower and surrounding buildings are amazing to see in real life. 

Casole D'Elsa -  Smaller medieval town that was fun just grab some gelatto and walk around. 

Closing Statement by Josh: 

All in all it was a great holiday and we would go back in a heartbeat!  Great food, great wine, and a pool...talked me into it!  I actually really enjoyed driving in Italy.  I once got us to a restaurant in half the time that the GPS said we would get there.  Don't know how fast I got up too but had to slow down as Nicole started yelling in mostly four letter words.  I would say the trip was pretty much perfect until somebody hit my Mini Cooper while we were at lunch one day and put a huge dent in it.  We walked out...no car, no people, no note...nada.   All I have to say is Karma is a bitch sir!