In the Castel Verrazzano
We are talking about the famous explorer who on April 17, 1524, at the age of 39, was the first European to discover the New York Bay. The castle, in Val di Greve, was the abode of his aristocratic family of origin, the Verrezzanos. In one of the letters Giovanni da Verrazzano wrote to King Francis I of France – at whose service he had started his adventures on the coasts of North-America – the great seaman wrote: “We often went five or six leagues into the interior, and found the country as pleasant as is possible to conceive, adapted to cultivation of every kind, whether of corn, wine or oil…”Words we might borrow to describe the luxuriant Tuscan hills of Chianti Classico, where the Castle rises with its 16th-century cellars and its 220 hectares of land, which have produced excellent wine for almost a millennium. A place that was, and is to this day, “as pleasant as is possible to conceive”. Overnight in Florence supper on your own.
Since the 1920s, this territory has been the official area of production for the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico Gallo Nero wine makers consortium. Our first stop today will be village of Greve. Greve's history is connected to the beautiful Castle of Montefioralle located above the town when it served as the castle's marketplace in the 13th century. The strategic position at the crossroads of three important pilgrimage roads - the Chiantigiana road, the road to Valdarno and the road to Val di Pesa - favored its economic growth. At the beginning of the 1500s, the curious shaped square was already built and was later described by the Grand Duke Leopold I as "a beautiful square where every Saturday a big market of livestock and food takes place". While in Greve we will have our first wine tasting with lunch (included).
Later we head to San Gimignano, the city of Bell Towers. Encircled by 13th-century walls, its old town centers on Piazza della Cisterna, a triangular square lined with medieval houses. It has a skyline of medieval towers, including the stone Torre Grossa. The Duomo di San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio in its Santa Fina Chapel. The "Historic Centre of San Gimignano" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town also is known for saffron, the Golden Ham, and its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area. There will be some free-time to explore this fascinating city on your own before heading out of the city limits to an “agriturismo”, Podere La Marronaia, for delightful supper of truffle and wine tasting.
producing regions in Italy for over two centuries. In fact, it was the Habsburg-Lorraine ruling family, most notably Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany,, who, during the 18 C and 19 C, began cultivating the grapes that would become modern Chianti.
Departure Day— Thursday, October 3, 2019
Today you depart from Newark International Airport for your evening trans-Atlantic flight to Italy. Meals and entertainment are aloft. Time schedule TBA.
Day 1 — Arrival in Italy/ Transfer to Florence Center - Friday, October 4
Upon your arrival in Florence, you will check in to your hotel and have some time to settle in, unpack and freshen up before tonight’s group supper (included) in the local Florentine; Buca San Giovanni restaurant with wine, water and coffee included. Prior to leaving for supper we will have a “Welcome Drink” in the hotel bar. Overnight will be in Florence. For those still energized after supper we can take a walk around city center in the evening to catch some of the sites beforehand.
Day 4—Monteriggioni & San Gimignano—Monday, October 7
Today, we continue our journey south of Florence along the Chianti Road to the medieval village of Monteriggioni. Monteriggioni; represents one of the most important walled castles in the territory. It has incredibly preserved an intact structure as if time had never passed on the hill from which it elegantly dominates the surrounding landscape. Its perfect circular perimeter makes one suppose it to be an artificial construction while, in actuality, it was created by just following the curves in the natural ground. The castle was built by the Sienese between 1213 and 1219 for defensive purposes; its strategic location atop a hill overlooking the Cassia Road allowed the castle to control the cities of the Val d’Elsa and Staggia and be on the lookout for any armies approaching Siena. The intact fortified wall presents 14 towers along which the guards used to walk and patrol the walls and 2 gates, one called the Roman Gate which faces Rome and the other known as the Florentine Gate since it heads toward Florence. The “well” in the center of the square is the well described in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here in Monteriggioni we will have our first wine tasting of the day.
Podere la Marronaia is a little jewel set on a hill, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, a few km from the historic center of San Gimignano, in a very scenic location.
The unique architecture of the property, which immediately drew the attention of the present owners, Luigi and Silvia, was the old watch tower,
Day 6—Florence Free Day (optional excursions) Progressive Supper—Wednesday, October 9
Today enjoy a free day around town. Take time to do some shopping for gold and jewelry along the Ponte Vecchio or for Leather apparel and handbags in the Santa Croce district. In the main square close to the Duomo you can many visit of the designer stores. You may chose to hop the train to Pisa for the day to see the Leaning Tower, its just an hour train ride from the city. At approximately 5:00 pm we will re-gather and meet for a progressive supper through some of the off the beaten path districts of Florence.
Florence food tour starts in the lovely Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence, a step or two off the well-trod tourist path. Here you’ll stop in various places (the order changes according to the night) to taste cheese, cured meats, truffles and Florence’s answer to focaccia, along with various olive oils and balsamic vinegar. Your guide will talk you through this, explaining how and why these key ingredients differ so much from one end of Italy to the other.
From there it’s a walk through the Piazza Santo Spirito to every Italian’s favorite time of day – aperitivo hour. Visit a local enoteca (wine bar) for a tour of the cellars and a wine tasting experience, including either one of the region’s famous Super Tuscans or a very special surprise wine, and local crostini (bruschetta).
important Italian museums, and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance. On your own. Tickets can be purchased at the main entrance for approximately 16.50 Euro per person. (The museum is vast so you should allow at least 3 hours or more to visit the many galleries). Supper (included) La Bussola with wine, water and coffee. Overnight in Florence.
Throughout your Florence food tour, you’ll be accompanied by an expert (fun) local tour guide, who will teach you about local ingredients, seasonality and why there’s no such thing as “Italian” food. With a small group of just 14 people or fewer, your experience will be relaxed and casual – more like an evening with friends than a tour. Overnight in Florence.
Day 2— Florence City Tour—Sat. October 5
This morning, after breakfast, we will begin our walking tour of Florence. We’ll begin with the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s famous “David” and “Prisoners in Stone”, then onto Piazza del Duomo, once the center of religious life in medieval times. We continue on to visit the Piazza della Signoria which was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the main point of the origin and history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political and governmental focus of the city. The next stop will be the famous Ponte Vecchio; the bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. After the tour there will be free time to visit the city or visit the Uffizi Gallery; (on your own if you wish) one of the most
The participants will be provided with some aprons, chefs hats and everything that is necessary for the cookery. The recipes will be written out for them as well. In this way, you will have the chance to seize the secret of a typical Tuscan cooking, for example to prepare some good gnocchi or tortelloni with tomato sauce.
Followed by a Tuscan stew and a home-made dessert (according to our cook's choice of the day), the participants will also be able to taste some of our own wine while they are cooking. And here you have a real Tuscan lunch!
Finally, there will be a guided tour of the Castle and a lunch with the dishes prepared by the participants along with some more of the wines made from the vineyards surrounding the Castle. We return to Florence later in the day, this evening is free time to have a light supper or simply just enjoy the city by night with a glass of wine in an outdoor café. Overnight in Florence.
Day 3 — The Chianti Road “La Chiantigiana” - Sunday, October 6
This morning, after breakfast, we will leave Florence for the Chianti Wine Region. We will be traveling along the “Chianti Road” or ”Chiantigiana”. The Via Chiantigiana is one of the most enjoyable motoring routes in Italy. It runs directly south from Florence to Siena through the middle of the Chianti Classico wine zone of Tuscany, one of the most instantly recognizable landscapes in the world. After passing Ugolino Golf Course, the oldest golf club in Italy, the Chiantigiana runs upward and follows the ridges between the Val d'Elsa and the Valdarno, wandering from one farmhouse and villa to another, from time to time passing through villages and small towns.
The territory traversed by the Via Chiantigiana has been one of the most important wine
located in the central part of the building.
From the info found in the historical archives of the town, it was discovered that this tower was part of a larger group of fortifications, towers, built around 1200 to defend the city of San Gimignano. Already at that time the property reported as “Magronaja”, due to the current “Marronaia”. In the XIX century Podere la Marronaia was owned by the Monastery of St. Jerome. Today the building is named among the “special historical and artistic interest” heritage of the city.
The guest of honor of this tasting with dinner is the famous Tuscan truffle.
A guided tour to discover the sharp accents of Tuscan truffles, harmonized throughout the meal with local products: extra virgin olive oil, wines, appetizers and assorted dishes. Later back to Florence. Overnight in Florence.
Day 5—Tuesday, October 8 - Cooking classes at Oliveto ~ Typical Tuscan Recipes
Today we leave Florence city limits once again and head out to the Wine Region. Our destination today is Castello di Oliveto in Castelfiorentino. The Castle of Oliveto is an ancient manor built in the 15th century located in the heart of the Florentine hills, 30 km from Florence, and well connected with the most beautiful and picturesque areas of Tuscany. Today, lunch will be by your own hand as we enjoy a Tuscan Cooking Class in this medieval castle.
The course (which lasts about 2 hours and a half) will take place in the kitchen of the Castle where the participants, helped by the chef and her staff, will prepare a typical Italian meal.
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Day 7—Florence –Departure Day — Thursday, October 10
End of services today upon check-out. Today, we bid not farewell, but Arrivederci (see you again) to Italy as we transfer to airports or train stations. Upon boarding your flights homebound, or trains elsewhere, not only will we be carrying many kilos of Italy in your luggage, but many memories of fun days, wonderfully interesting meals shared with friends, a bit more culture to add to our already cultured consciousness, but above all, the recollection of an impressive and wonderful journey in Tuscany on the ITALIAN PENINSULA.
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