Under the Tuscan Sun, and Battling a Frankfurt Fog

We are nearly finished with Tuscany a little more than a day and a half after we arrived. Such is life when you have many places to visit coinciding with less than perfect travel schemes.

One such scheme was our Vancouver – Frankfurt – Florence trip aboard Lufthansa (more on them later). It was to my thinking the most efficient way we could get to Tuscany, but a painfully long day once all was said and done. We departed Vancouver at 4:00 pm on Monday, and after a 9 hour flight to, and 4 hour layover in, Frankfurt, and then a 1 hour flight and 2 hour drive (plus the 8 hour time difference) we arrived in Tuscany at approximately 8:00 pm on Tuesday. All told we put in an actual 32-hour day considering when we woke up Monday and finally went to bed on Tuesday. Thank goodness my wife convinced me to have a couple of quick naps… Despite the sleep dep and jet lag I didn’t feel too bad, though next time I would prefer to skip the 4 hour Frankfurt layover given a chance. Pain-Ful! Who knew Frankfurt, one of the world’s 10 busiest airports, moving 50 million people annually, would have such a disinteresting and dated airport? And Florence’s airport is surprisingly small, with infrequent service, so the layover was pretty much our only option.

Alas it was well worth the effort! Tuscany is beautiful. Rolling hills mix interestingly dense forests (never knew Tuscany had these) with sprawling vineyards and they are dotted with historic castles dating back hundreds of years. Cities like Siena and Florence have smallish towns like Gaiole in Chianti and Abrezzo in between, and all feature narrow cobble stone streets and classic stone and mortar edifices with tiled roofs.

The wineries aren’t as visible as I’d expected. When you visit the Okanagan valley, or Napa in California, the wineries are densely situated and visiting one means you can easily drop in next door. Thus a full day of tasting can take place within a few kilometers. But we’ve been in Tuscany for a day now and along the vast horizons I’ve yet to see any vineyards beyond that of our host company’s, nor any road signs directing me to look elsewhere. I know they’re out there, I just haven’t seen any!

Our host for this quick visit is Barone Ricasoli, one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the world and the inventors of Chianti wine. We have a room in their quaint little guest house (Agresto) surrounded by Sangiovese vines and under the supervision of the Ricasoli family’s majestic 12th century Castello (castle). The Castello di Brolio is breathtaking (see picture 2), not only in its size, but it’s historical significance. Witness to, and participant in, medieval wars between Siena and Florence (when Italy was made up of individual city-states) and even a German stronghold during World War 2, there are visible scars from fires and artillery throughout the outer fortified walls. The family keeps an extensive museum of artifacts including an armory which is fascinating.

The winery is a mixture of history and modernity, with traditional brick and mortar walls intermixed with steel staircases and seamless glass partitions. This symbolizes the family’s dedication to combining tradition with innovation, a trait found in their wines as well. Great wines, I must say, and a pleasure to taste them on the grounds from which they are born and to be described by the family who makes them.

Tomorrow we drive to Florence. Home of Michelangelo’s David and countless museums and galleries. Looking forward to it, but breathing in every second of ‘now’ that I can. Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself: despite my travel fatigue, where we are ain’t so bad really.

Click pics for bigger versions…





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