A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of cycling through Tuscany with a group of friends. We enjoy a guided tour of the wonderful countryside, small roads and many hills. In my opinion, Tuscany is the "great equalizer" to ride a bicycle, since there are practically no flat roads, whether it is going up or down. My husband was out at school, so he could not participate in this beautiful vacation.
At the moment we arrived 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 landscape should visit and fall in love with Tuscany in their life.
Recently, we left our temporary house in Provence for a week in Italy, a few days in Tuscany and a few days walking through 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 the Alliance.
Temperatures in early April were still cool. At this time of the year, the fields are just beginning to turn green and the twisted vines show their first shoots. These are the first promises for the future harvest.
So what is Tuscany about? Wine, history and countryside
Came It is a serious business in Italy, after France, Italians can boast of having the second largest production (by volume) worldwide. Italians also love to drink wine, with the highest per capita consumption in the world. The vines have been growing in Italy and parts of Europe for millennia, however, the organized organization began under the Greeks, with a viticulture registered in Sicily around 800 BC. In modern Italy, there is a classification system with four categories, two for table wine and two for "Quality wine produced in a specific region". The system from the low range to the superior quality is the following (similar to the US denomination system):
- Da Tavola Wine (VdT)
- Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT)
- Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC)
- Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (DOCG)
There are twenty (20) wine regions in Italy, among which thirteen (13) areas produce thirty-six (36) of DOCG wines, these are the most sought after and typically more expensive wines. It is probably not necessary to say it, but we tried and bought some bottles during our brief visit.
the historical The roots in Tuscany are very deep. With only a couple of short days in the region, we were able to visit Sienna, Montepulicano and San Gimignano, and even that was 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 easily be visited on foot. There is a very good bus system available from the peripheral parking areas. Parking in some lots is free and the bus costs one (1) euro.
In Sienna, each 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 each 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 large-scale church of the 13th century is well preserved and the crowds of visitors are now controlled, since you must buy a combined ticket to get access to the buildings and the panoramic point of view. The ten (10) euro bill is worth it 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 don't have much to wait in the ranks, however, I strongly recommend that your patience be rewarded with the stunning views.
Sienna is a city of symbols; at each step there is a plaque or tile that indicates the territories or districts of Contrada. There are seventeen Contrade today, before there were fifty-nine. The reality of the administration of mini cities has forced consolidation over the years. The remaining Contrade can participate in the Palio horse race around Piazza del Campo on July 2 and August 16 according to the rules. Although, we have not been to Sienna for the Palio, we understand from the locals that there is a wild environment surrounding the event and the 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. The breathtaking 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 an agreement on the current site between 200-300BC. The city reached its pinnacle around 1300 before the Black Death. The city is still beautiful, although a shadow of its former glory. However, San Gimignano is really crowded (even in April) with tourists and, as a result, almost unpleasant.
the countryside It is a series of hills, covered with pine forests, vineyards and endless olive trees. The sun in Tuscany plays in the undulating landscape to provide a wonderful and changing feast for the eyes.
In the end, a "Sample of Tuscany" was great to confirm that it takes much more time to enjoy the views, enjoy wine and local specialties.