Tuscany, as we all may know has a romantic reputation for wine, good food and a slow relaxed lifestyle… so a visit to the area was a must while in Italy. We undertook this trip while in Florence, and decided to do an organised tour for convenience and time’s sake. Normally we keep a wide berth when it comes to organised trips and tours, preferring to navigate ourselves on trains. So after a recommendation from a fellow artist in the Florence exhibition I was involved in we booked our trip and crossed our fingers.
As it was the ‘off’ season (winter) our only choice was the half day trip which included a commentaried tour of the Tuscan countryside, a stop at Castello Monteriggioni for an olive oil tasting, with the final stop being Sant’Appiano for wine tastings. The were transported in a mercedes people mover syle van, so it was a comfortable ride with about eight other people in the tour.
Being Italy during the winter, we were lucky enough to have gorgeous sunny weather for the trip, which enabled us to fully appreciate the scenic route to Sienna (rather than the freeway), and we were able to stop a couple of times and take photos.
During this part of the tour we also were shown -from a distance- Sean Connery’s castle, which he purchased in Sienna because he loves the famous annual no rules horse race, Il Palio, that happens there annually. Unfortunately I could not get a good photo of this castle :-/ AND unfortunately I do not believe in horse racing!
After driving for a few hours we arrived at our first stop, the Castello Monteriggioni, a typical walled castle atop a hill – so as to overlook the approaching enemy. Here we tasted some amazing olive oil – and purchased some, as well as a jar of olive oil hand cream which was scrumptious! (a must have for artists)
Unfortunately we arrived at this walled city too late to explore, it was getting dark and late, and we were on a schedule for the wine tasting… so after a quick photo of an old church (which I have no information about) we piled back into the people mover.
After a short upward journey we reached Sant’Appiano, which has been a winery since the 14th century. Today it is run by a family now in its third generation of operation, and they have expanded to offer accommodation for tourists.
The group was given a tour of the winery and then seated in the restaurant for tastings, which included some platters with wine and cold cuts, as it is traditional in Italy that wine is not consumed without food – which was great when we went for an afternoon or evening wine during our stay in Italy! the wines were great, the cheese was great… pity about the cold cuts: being vegetarian!
Don’t go on organised tours anymore! It was a one off and it didn’t work! Even though the weather was great, because it was an afternoon tour it was rushed and we were not able to stop and spend time looking around. Also, though the wine was good, there was not enough of it for the price, and there was no vegetarian option. SO, if you can brave driving through Florence traffic it would be a better option to hire a car, or to go there via train and spend a day or two doing your own thing – in my opinion 🙂