There’s just one thing that you need to know about Tuscany. It tastes good. The pasta is good. The wine is good. The vegetables are good. The mushrooms are good. I’m pretty sure that the dirt tastes good, though my lovely bride would not help me perform a scientific experiment on this hypothesis. Naturally, I would be the control, and Christine would eat some tasty rocks. Well, the world may never know. We must be content to resign ourselves to ignorance.
But before you get to taste Tuscany, you need to get there. The train is clearly the way to go. But the lure of the open road had us comfortably situated in a fast little Alfa Romeo. The main highways on the way through Umbria and Tuscany aren’t much to speak of. We had been looking forward to seeing the Adriatic coast on the way North, but the hedges on the side of the road are intentionally set to block the view from the highway. Harumph.
Our destination was Chianti, which is a smaller region within the province? state? county? of Tuscany. Once we finally arrived, I was surprised to find that they were in the process of placing hay bales and signs for a rally-cross road race over the hills and through the little towns. Did you catch that? I ended up on a race course. Woohoo! I really let the little Alfa rip around the corners with the firm thought in my mind: This would be an OK way to go. Might as well floor it.
Turns out all of the roads in Tuscany are twisting and turning, ups and down, around and around. On the approach to our lodgings, I found a little meadow at the bottom of a valley where the road flattened out a bit. The road was loose gravel here. A perfect spot to try drifting the car around the corner because sliding off the road into the meadow would be a lot better than going off the side of a cliff! I’d never had a chance to try drifting through a corner at speed, so I tried it a few times at around 40-50kph using the hand break just a little bit. Woohoo!
After our time on the race course, we were excited to finally arrive at our destination, the town of Radda in Chianti. Actually, we discovered, it was just outside the town in a local farm/winery. The rented GPS was completely useless, so with broken English we divined the location of the Inn itself. Actually, that was completely useless too, and we eventually succumbed to turning on international data roaming on my phone. The name of the winery/farm/Inn/restaurant we stayed at is Livernano. Their Chianti Classico is amazing, so if you get nothing else from this post, at least get that, and go order some!
Once we finally arrived, we were showered with kisses and hugs by our very Italian host Daniella. I half expected her to yell “You must eat! You all the skin and the bones! Eat! Eat!” Instead she pressed a glass of wine into each of our hands and bustled us up to our room to recuperate before dinner.
Oh! Dinner! While the grounds were stunning, and the hospitality warm and inviting, the thing that really set Livernano apart were the dinners. The Inn had an amazing chef that prepared a novel selection each evening. Being a vegetarian in Chianti is very easy. Locally grown vegetables grilled with a liberal basting of Olive oil made on the estate? Yes please! Salads doused in a sweet balsamic vinegar made just in the building over there? Sign me up! Pasta made fresh from scratch and liberally covered in a delicately prepared reduction? You bet! Wine from the reserve in the cellar? Why not!
Once we checked into the Inn, it was hard to leave. But we finally got our butts in gear 24 hours later to go out and explore the area. I’ll admit, we only made it about 10km that first day. Lazing about in the park in the town of Radda in the afternoon sun of late summer, we each made slow progress through our books. Often looking up at the scenery and getting lost in relaxing daydreams, I found myself on the same paragraph an hour after arriving. This is the kind of place that a person could spend two or three retirements. It is the kind of place that begs the visitor to stay a while, and get very, very fat.
The next couple of days had us roaming in an ever widening spiral out from Radda. We visited about half a dozen of the key attractions. Some of our visits were to better known locales, such as San Giginano, a medieval town with preserved walls and towers. Other visits were to lesser known spots such as Castello Brolio, a castle and manor house that evokes a sense of the grand nobility of the late Renaissance. In each of these, I capered about like the immature American that I am, pretending to storm castles and playing in crypts. The French would have been mildly annoyed, but the Italians are mildly amused. Tuscany is an amazingly relaxed place and the people here will put up with a lot as long as everyone is having a good time.
The trip to Chianti surprised me. I’ll go back. It feels like the kind of place that can be visited many times in a lifetime. Repeatability in a vacation is a rare thing for both Christine and I. Adventures enjoyed on the first visit to a place pale in comparison on a repeat. That isn’t a danger in the sun drenched paradise of Tuscany because the only thing to do here is relax, rest, and eat. These are activities that can be enjoyed infinitely, and so I will definitely come back here for a more extended stay.