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A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of cycling through Tuscany with a group of friends. We enjoyed a guided tour of the wonderful countryside, small roads and many hills. In my opinion, Tuscany is the “great equalizer” for biking as there are practically no flat roads, it goes up or down. My husband was in school, so he was unable to participate in this beautiful vacation.
By the time we arrive at the beautiful bed and breakfast, located south of Florence, in the middle of a vineyard; I knew that my husband should visit Tuscany. Anyone who loves wine, history and the beautiful countryside must visit and fall in love with Tuscany in their lifetime.
We recently left our temporary home in Provence for a week in Italy, a few days in Tuscany, and a few days walking around the Cinque Terre. Our exploration of Tuscany was also from a hotel located in a vineyard. We stayed in the beautiful Borgo San Felice. The vineyard has been in operation for centuries, but in recent years it was purchased and is now operated by Alliance.
Temperatures in early April were still cool. At this time of year, the fields are just beginning to turn green and the gnarled vines are showing their first shoots. These are the first promises for the future harvest.
So what is Tuscany all about? Wine, History and Field
Wine It’s serious business in Italy, after France, Italians can boast of having the second largest production (by volume) in the world. Italians also love to drink wine, with the highest per capita consumption in the world. Vines have been growing in Italy and parts of Europe for millennia, however organized cultivation began under the Greeks, with viticulture recorded in Sicily around 800 BC. C. In today’s Italy, there is a classification system with four categories, two for table wine and two for “Quality wine produced in a specific region”. The lower to higher quality system is as follows (similar to the US naming system):
- Da Tavola Wine (VdT)
- Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT)
- Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
- Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
There are twenty (20) wine regions in Italy, among which thirteen (13) areas produce thirty six (36) of the DOCG wines, these are the most sought after and typically the most expensive wines. It probably goes without saying, but we did try and buy a few bottles during our short visit.
Tea historical The roots in Tuscany run very deep. With just a couple of short days in the region we were able to visit Sienna, Montepulicano, and San Gimignano, and even that went at a dizzying pace. Sienna alone deserves a long visit; the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town is not large and can be easily visited on foot. There is a very good shuttle bus system available from outlying parking areas. Parking in some lots is free and the bus costs one (1) euro.
In Siena, every visitor should visit Piazza dell Campo, this large shell-shaped public space dates back to the 13th century and is where the Palio (horse race) is held on two summer dates a year. Il Campo is definitely one of the best-preserved public squares in Europe. The other key site of interest is the Duomo (Cathedral), this impressive 13th century large-scale church is well preserved and the crowds of visitors are now in check as you must purchase a combo ticket to access the buildings and panorama. point of view. The ten (10) Euro ticket is worth the price and seems to control the flow of crowds in one of the most visited cities in Italy. We had to wait about twenty minutes to access the panoramic viewpoint. I’m not a big fan of waiting in lines, however I would highly recommend that your patience be rewarded with the stunning views.
Siena is a city of symbols; in each turn there is a plaque or tile that indicates the territories or districts of Contrada. There are seventeen Contrade left today, before there were fifty-nine. The realities of managing mini-cities have forced them to consolidate over the years. The rest of the Contrade can participate in the Palio horse race around Piazza del Campo on July 2 and August 16 according to the rules. Although we haven’t been to Sienna for the Palio, we understand from locals that there is a wild atmosphere surrounding the event and associated celebrations.
Montepulicano and San Gimignano are very well preserved ancient cities. Montepulicano dates from 308 BC and requires a good pair of walking shoes to reach the top of the town. Stunning views of the Tuscan countryside will reward your hike to the top. San Gimignano is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city once had seventy-two (72) towers, where eight (8) remain today. There was a settlement on the current site between 200-300 BC. The city reached its pinnacle around 1300 before the Black Death. The city is still beautiful, although it is a shadow of its former glory. However, San Gimignano is really crowded (even in April) with tourists and is almost unpleasant as a result.
Tea countryside It is a series of hills, covered with endless pine forests, vineyards and olive trees. The sun in Tuscany plays with the rolling landscape to provide a wonderful ever-changing feast for the eyes.
In the end, a “Sample of Tuscany” was excellent to confirm that it takes much more time to soak up the sights, enjoy wine and local specialties.