I'm almost embarrassed to keep posting these pictures from Europe. I'm SOOO close to finishing the edits, though, so bear with me! Once I get these done, I'll be on to edits for photos from May (like Caroline's birthday). Sheesh.
Since our trip was 6 months ago, I had to refer back to my travel journal to help with the details! This was one of our favorite days of the trip - a tour of Tuscany with a private driver! We used Verbena Blu Viaggi Travel Agency and went on the "Chianti Classico Wine Tour, Tuscan Delights, San Gimignano and Siena" excursion.
Wednesday, February 8
At 9am, our driver, Carlotta, picked us up at our hotel for our day trip around Tuscany. This was a neat experience! We first stopped at San Gimignano where we toured the medieval city's gates, walls, and towers. Carlotta explained a lot of history, and while Nick paid attention, I took pictures. :) It was quite icy as we made our way up, and the views were far reaching. Unfortunately, they just weren't the traditional Tuscan views I'd hoped to capture; instead, I caught a much rarer landcape - Tuscany loaded down with snow!
After San Gimignano, we drove to the Castello Monsanto Winery. The history was interesting: the original owner had seen the property (with castle!) as a young man, saw its beauty, and he purchased it soon after. He gave it to his son who started producing more grape varieties. Or maybe I'm getting all of this wrong. I'll have to just read Nick's account (or Google it!). Anyhow, the son was quite a pioneer, his becoming the first winery in the area to produce a white wine. We toured the cellars, learning all about their barrels and aging process for each wine. They had a tunnel dug under the winery to the castle, and they made it look beautiful! In one special stretch, they carved out niches to commemorate a birth or special event, like a marriage. The wrought iron spelled out the year and the name of the honoree, and bottles of the special reserve wine were (are) stored in the niches for 25 years. After seeing the storage, we walked back through the castle garden to go do our tasting. Unfortunately, we didn't get to tour the castle since it's the family's private residence. The tasting was fun. They had appetizers and 3 wines for us to try: the Chardonnay, their Chianti Classico, and the "Nemo" Cabernet. We liked them all, but the Nemo was our favorite. Loading back into Carlotta's car, I wondered how I'd be able to eat any lunch after that!
Lunch was our next stop, and we went to the medieval village of Certaldo for lunch. We took a gondola ride up to the top of the hill to "A Casa Tua Ristorante." Carlotta ordered some fried foods sampler as an appetizer, and then my meal came (pasta w/ ragu), and even though it was amazing, it was so rich that I couldn't even eat half of it. We each signed our name to the wall on our way out.
After lunch we drove to Siena, Carlotta's home town, where we toured the main square and saw the outside of their duomo. It was interesting to hear of the medieval rivalry between Florence and Siena, but the plague had hit Siena hard, and so Florence won out over them. Their rivalry showed in their buildings as they always tried to one-up each other.
Carlotta drove us back to Florence, dropping us back around 7:30pm, a 10.5 hour day! We mapped out directions to our restaurant, "Antico Ristoro di Cambi" and walked along the river to it. We were, by now, figuring out how to order; splitting antipasti and ordering just a main dish (usually pasta for me and meat for Nick) was all we could manage. We wondered how it would be possible to eat all of the courses you were supposed to!
Hope to get pictures of our last day (Florence morning, Milan afternoon) done and posted soon. What a triumph it will be to finally have all of them finished!