Friday, 18 July 2014

Panzano in Chianti

Here we are in Chianti, Tuscany. True, we were already in Tuscany when we visited Florence, but now we KNOW we are in Tuscany.  OMG!  We are in love with this part of Italy. Tuscany certainly does not offer the most beautiful vistas we've experienced on this trip, given what we saw on the Amalfi coast and the Liguria regions, but there is something about the combination of the hot Tuscan sun on rolling hills speckled with orchards and vineyards, the shadows, the depth of the landscape, that is so enchanting. As with many parts of Italy, we feel a sense of awe at how the land has been groomed to yield up its fruits... and in Tuscany, this often translates into wine!

View from the gardens of Villa Le Barone ...the mist, we've been told, is the result of unusually large amounts of precipitation the region has experienced this summer

A vista from another garden at Villa Le Barone ...we don't have to go far to see amazing vistas!
Villa Le Barone is a gorgeous spot.  Thanks to George and Elaina for suggesting it!  Your instincts that we would love it were one hundred percent right on.  The property is absolutely beautiful, with lovely gardens that offer public as well as private spaces for guests.  Great food too!

Today, we decided to walk to Panzano, I know, we're supposed to take it easy, but we seem to be hooked on exploring everything we can get our little paws into.  By the time we were half way along, sweating, winded, and wondering what the heck was wrong with us, um...there's a really nice pool at the villa we could have been enjoying instead, we caught up to an elderly woman and her walking companion who had already made the trek down the road from Panzano and were now heading back, uphill!  They were keeping a steady pace, thus having the double impact of both putting us to shame and proving inspirational at the same time.

This elderly woman made us look like spoiled North American wussies!
Once in Panzano, we decided to take the bus to Greve where we enjoyed what has become a staple for us at lunch, a Capresi salad with a glass of white wine, accompanied by bread with olive oil and balsamic, of course, not the real thing however, as we learned a few days ago.   We did make it back to the villa by 2:30 and yes, pool time!

Backtracking a bit, I forgot to mention that we hired a driver, Rosano, to take us to Villa Le Barone, and as part of the drive there, we stopped at a balsamic vinegar factory, San Donnino, and a winery in the Emilia Romagna region, just outside of Bologna. Rosano actually arranged these tours for us. We found him very helpful and informative.  At San Donnino, we had quite an education about true traditional balsamic vinegar.  It is in fact, not really vinegar at all.  The real traditional stuff is boiled down right after the grapes are pressed. The process is quite complex and occurs over a minimum of 6 years, with 12 years required for the silver standard and 24 for the gold!  They have some balsamic bottles that are over 50 years old.  Unbelievable! As the juice ferments, it is passed from the largest to the smallest of six barrels, and repeated each year until the final yield is ready.  In order to qualify as true Balsamico di Modena, the final product is tested by a licensed consortium, where it is bottled and returned to the producers for marketing.  We tasted the 6, 12 and 24 year product and wow...yummy!  It was great on ice cream too, believe it or not.  And Bob, if you'r reading this, yes...we're bringing some of the real thing home for you :)

This girl knows everything there is to know about traditionally produced balsamic vinegar!
Our stop at the winery was also very interesting.  The vintner is a former journalist who lost his job during the financial crisis in Italy.  We've been hearing quite a bit about the negative impact the switch from the Lira to the Euro has had on the everyday worker. His was just such a case. However, Davide's wife's family owns a vineyard which he and his wife have now taken over.  They produce an excellent white wine from Pignoletto grapes.  We loved both the still and sparkling white wine.  Davide, the owner prepared a lovely "snack" of bruschetta, a variety of salumi, prosciutto and cheese as a compliment to our wine tasting.  His Merlot was also quite good.

View from Davide's vineyard..Emilia Romagna Region

Labelling for the wine was inspired by the work of Davide's wife's grandfather, a well known local artist

That's it for now.  Tomorrow we'll be chilling by the pool until 3:00, at which time the cooking class starts.  Really looking forward to that.

Before signing off, is it me, or is Charles starting to look Italian?
Just sayin'


  1. What travel company are you two working for? In fact, I think Elaina and George must be part of the same company. Perhaps that's a little retirement sideline? These photos make me want to see and stay in the Tuscan countryside for an extended period of time. You certainly have a lot of places that would be nice to visit in retirement - with fewer crowds, less cost and lower temps. I'm not convinced Charles looks more Italian but if he wore a skimpy Speedo and a wifebeater I might see it more. Okay, really bad visual ... Enjoy.

  2. Oh Tuacany how I miss you old friend! Glad to hear you are treating mom and Charles well. Looks so lovely, especially given the fact that I'm currently looking outside at a grey, rainy, evening in the city. Has Charles met "the Baron" yet? I think he's a descendent of the Medici's. That might make for some interesting convo! You'll have to post about your cooking class. I still think you could show those Italian cooks a thing or two yourself ;) Make something delicious! Enjoy your pool day. PS are they still running the honor system for the snacks by the pool house? Fools!

  3. Okay Chuck in speedo OMG no. Sorry brother. Les talking here. Tuscany... Olive groves, vineyards oh how I miss them.

  4. Even Charles is horrified by his own visual for that one. We have some great shots of the cooking class. Thinking of doing a post just on that. Unfortunately the family is away on vacation, so we don't get to meet the Baron...or I think he may be a Count. We'll have to save the convo for next time :) Anyway, they are descendants of the Della Robbia family that goes way back, so I'm sure there were connections to the Medici's, positive or negative, I can't say. Yes, they still run the honour system for snacks and drinks by the pool, the wine bar in the hotel too! Very trusting.

  5. So I know this blog is about you guys but maybe you might want to know what we have all been up to for the past 3+ weeks. Doug was in for week. Jamie brought Marion up for lunch last Sunday. Cloudy, earlier rain here today. I'm going to Chicago on Tuesday for 2 days. That is it from our end. Exciting as week, right? :) Elaina, did Olivia do anything interesting or new? Anything new with you guys? Linda? Joe? Surely these 2 can't be the only ones having the best summer ever? Do I sound jealous? YES!!!

    1. Ha ha ha! Well, if it makes you feel any better it rained in Bologna this morning, but by the time we got to Rome, the sun was shining. Must admit we kind of feel like it's shining from our you know what these days. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Just a few days left now. About to post pics from our cooking session. Hope you enjoy.

  6. When you get back, we will have to have a nice salad with your balsamic and uncle Larry's olive oil!

  7. Hey Les! We are enjoying our summer. Spent a couple days in Ottawa visiting friends and then headed out east to Shediac, NB and stayed at George's family's beach house for a couple of weeks. It was really nice. Olivia enjoyed the sun and sand and Hali loved running on the beach. We are all good here. Olivia is crawling around and into anything and everything that isn't tied down. She's doing lots of "talking" just not sure what she's saying just yet! Chicago sounds great. Def a place I would like to visit! Hope to see you guys soon and catch up more!