I realize I gave you a little London detour, but there is a final chapter in our Italian adventure. I did save the best for last—partly due to the idyllic scenery, mostly due to our tour guide Monika. I’ve only splurged on a private tour twice in my life (the other time was in Barcelona). Both times it absolutely made our trip. It’s sort of like buying a friend—a local friend that hangs out with you all day and shows you the best places to well…do whatever it is you love to do. In our case, gawk at scenery and drink wine. Pretty much a lesson in la dolce vita.
That morning, Monika whisked us away from our hotel in Florence and off we went through the beautiful Tuscan countryside—the Chianti Classico region to be exact.
We live in California, so we don’t exactly have a sub-par wine country. But, I assure you, even though we’ve commented many times that ‘ohhh this view in Napa looks just like Tuscany,’ it doesn’t. Tuscany looks like a painting and nothing else comes close.
Our first stop was a family run farmhouse (since 1932!) and vineyard called Fattoria San Donatao San Gimignano. You can actually stay there for a more authentic experience than a hotel could ever give. They even cook your meals using ingredients from their own farm. We didn’t stay there, but we did drink their wine ;).
Surprise! We bought a house. Can you imagine?…
From there we walked around the village of San Gigminano, known for its medieval architecture.
Its also home of the best gelato we had our entire trip–at Gelateria Dondoli. They are known for their unexpected flavor combos like Raspberry Rosemary and Gorgonzola & Walnuts.
Monika was a “gift” from our cousin Nick who has the very hard job of planning all the Stanford alumni tours (rough life). She knows everyone in Tuscany (and her husband is quite the chef), so she also knows a thing or two about food. Nick assured us we couldn’t go wrong being in her hands and he was so right. I’m paying it forward. Consider her my gift to you…
Monika was so excited to take us to Panzano to see her friend Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher in the world. His butcher shop felt like a party, bustling with people all gobbling up the complimentary samples and, of course, drinking Chianti. He is very selective about which restaurants get to carry his beef (Monika’s husband’s restaurant was one!) and he travels the world giving demonstrations.
Not having had enough meat, we next stopped in at Salumi Tipici.
They also had this cheese–which I’m pretty sure would be illegal in America. So naturally we bought as much as we could possible devour before leaving the country.
The highlight of our day was meeting Fernando who is the owner/wine maker of Azienda Agricola Montefioralle, a family run chianti classico winery. He is a good friend of Monika’s and also of our cousin Nick, so we were welcomed to the family with open arms, delicious bruschetta and as much wine as we could drink.
Though we don’t speak a word of Italian and vice versa, by the end, we were great friends proving that food (and wine) is the universal language.
After our tasting, we went to Montefioralle pictured in the distance to “do business” (buy wine). Business is not discussed at the winery…that is for pleasure only. What a concept!
People actually live here! As Monika would say…”can you believe??”
Evening was upon us and Monika had shown us every nook and cranny of Chianti. There was one more surprise she had left in store though. She timed it so we arrived back in Florence just in time to see the sun set over Piazzale Michelangelo. Bellissimia!
Monika Iris Private Tours in Tuscany. firstname.lastname@example.org. +39 348 738 1129
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