Dates: May 27 - June 2 // August 26 - September 1
- Wine estates: Cesani, Panizzi, Castello di Romitorio, Ciacci Piccolomini & more
- Walking: 3-4 hours (7-10 miles/day) on country paths (LEVEL: Athletic beginner)
- Visit the towns of Volterra, Pienza & Montepulciano
- Hear Gregorian chants at a medieval abbey
- Arrive/depart: Florence.
Day 1: Montalcino's Wine Trail
We shuttle from Florence to Montalcino, a fortified town crowned by a medieval fortress. After a complementary welcome lunch, we'll embark on a hike that loops past vineyards on the north side of the Brunello zone. At the hike's end, we'll stop for an introduction to Brunello, a structured, long-lived red that is among Italy's most prized wines. We'll taste either at the boutique winery Il Marroneto, which offers a vertical tasting, or or at Castello di Romitorio, owned by the artist Sandro Chia. In addition to great Brunello, we'll also encounter its younger sibling, Rosso di Montalcino. In addition to great Brunello, we'll also encounter its younger sibling, Rosso di Montalcino. For the first of our wine dinners, we go to a family-run restaurant with fabulous versions of traditional Tuscan fare, such as tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, wild boar (cinghiale) ravioli, and rabbit stewed with black olives. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Montepulciano and Pecorino Cheese
The ability to make Pecorino cheese was once considered so valuable a skill that women could list it on their dowry. We'll learn their secrets in a pecorino cheese shop in Pienza and sample pecorino aged in walnut leaves, olive paste, hay, or grape must. Pienza is even more famous for its Renaissance architecture, commissioned by Pope Pius II. After visiting Pienza's piazza and church, we'll embark on a beautiful walk over gently rolling hills, past cypress trees, and ultimately to the town of Montepulciano. Here we'll try another of Tuscany's prized red wines: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Beloved by nobles, this wine was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and Voltaire. We'll sample Vino Nobile and its younger sibling, Rosso di Montepulciano, either at Icario, a terrific up-and-coming winery, or at Poliziano, one of the leaders in Vino Nobile's renaissance in the 1980s. We cap off the day with dinner at a countryside restaurant near Montalcino that serves up elegant nouvelle renditions of classic Tuscan cuisine. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 3: Gregorian Chants
Today we trek to the Abbey of Sant' Antimo, where monks still live. The hike offers scenic views of Montalcino, then proceeds through lush forests and along hill crests until we arrive at the Romanesque abbey in time to hear the monks chant. After lunch at a local osteria, we'll taste Brunellos from the south side of the DOCG zone, either at Ciacci Piccolomini di Aragona an historic estate with highly rated wines, or Fanti, an emerging star with powerhouse wines. We'll then return to Montalcino and have free time to peruse the town's excellent wine shops or visit the fortress of Montalcino, which houses an enoteca (a wine bar) and offers a fantastic view of the Tuscan countryside from its ramparts. Tonight dinner is on your own in one of Montalcino's charming restaurants. Includes: (B).
Day 4: The Art of Siena
Today is devoted to Siena. We'll start with a cappuccino at Nanini, Siena's most famous coffee bar, and sample their panforte, a dense cake laced with nuts, candied fruits, and spices. We'll then tour Siena's Palazzo Pubblico, which houses masterpieces of Italian Gothic fresco painting by Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. We'll also visit Siena's striped cathedral, home to artworks by Michelangelo and Pinturicchio. Then there's free time for lunch and time to shop or visit the Enoteca Nazionale, Italy's national wine museum/wine bar, located in a Medici fortress. We then drive to San Gimignano, a hilltop city that bristles with medieval towers, and settle into our accommodations at a country inn with vineyard. Dinner offers more of Tuscany's woodland cuisine, based on wild boar, fowl, and other game. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: Circling San Gimignano
Today's hike encircles San Gimignano, offering great views of the town and vineyards around every turn. Here we'll find Vernaccia grapes, which make the area's crisp white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. After lunch at the hotel, we'll have a wine tasting at Panizzi, one of the leading producers of Vernaccia and head of the DOCG consortium. Then we'll visit San Gimignano and see its towers and exquisitely beautiful frescos in the main church. Dinner is in town, where we'll be treated to regional specialties like garlic toasts (bruschette), peasant vegetable soup with bread (ribollita), king-sized lasagna (pappardelle), and grilled meat skewers. Here we'll learn the proper way to dip almond cookies (cantucci) in Vin Santo, a golden dessert wine first created by medieval monks. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Walk the Etruscan Byways
Before Roman rule, the Etruscans controlled Tuscany and planted its first vines. We'll revisit this ancient civilization on our hike to Volterra. After hiking along a ridge lined with cypresses and farms, we'll explore this Etruscan stronghold. There will be free time for lunch and a visit to the Etruscan museum, where this sophisticated culture comes alive. For our afternoon wine tasting, we head back to San Gimignano and visit Cesani, a small family estate that produces a superb Super Tuscan, as well as two excellent versions of Vernaccia. Our farewell dinner is in San Gimignano, allowing us to see the city in all its quiet magic at night. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 7: Arrivederci
A shuttle to Florence and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Italy Outdoor: Land Rambler Walking Tours Food & Wine
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