An Intriguing History of Tuscan Wine

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The rolling hills of Tuscany are alive with endless rows of vines. In fact, wine is produced over most of the territory in this region of central Italy. The passion, gusto, and delightful flavors of the wine is directly related to the heart and soul of this beautiful land full of myths and legends. However, the historical truth is much more interesting. Read more

Splashes of Green in Pristine Puglia

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Puglia enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers. As one of the hottest regions in Italy, it also has numerous bursts of lush greenery in the villages and surrounding villas. It must be the heat combined with the clean white and cream-colored stones under the bright sunlight that brings on a thirst for refreshment. Whatever the case, those splashes of greenery are simply a treat for the senses. Read more

My 5 Favorite Italian Wineries

Among my very favorite things to do while in bella Italia is to visit the wineries. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, some of the very best come from Italy. Italy supplies nearly one-third of the global wine production. In fact, Italy is now the world’s largest wine producer by volume, closely followed by France. With more than one million vineyards under cultivation, Italian vintners know a thing or two when it comes to making delicious wine.

Each region specializes in their own varietals and blends of wine that give it a particular character. For instance, in Campagna to the south, the wines tend to have more minerality mostly due to the lava-rich soil of Mt. Vesuvius. To the north, the bold red Chianti and Barolo are intense, firm and supple with strong fruit flavors.

I have listed five wineries that I particularly love below. All of them have left me feeling richer in experiences, from the delicious wines and cuisine to the owners and staff themselves who take such pride in their products.

 

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Antinori Cellars in Bargino, Chianti, Tuscany

Must love unique architecture and great wine to enjoy a visit here. Marchesi Antinori, whose Florentine family has produced wine for over six centuries since 1389, owns and operates several wineries with this being one of his newest. Construction of the cellars was done with local materials, keeping a maximum respect for the environment a high priority. The cellars are one of the most amazing structures I have ever seen.

Situated less than 30 minutes from Florence and Siena, the Antinori Cellars in Bargino is ideally located. Wines produced here include the Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, the Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva, the Peppoli Chianti Classico and the Vinsanto de Chianti Classico.

Antinori of Chianti Classico

visite@antinorichianticlassico.it

antinori@antinori.it

ADDRESS
Via Cassia per Siena, 133 Loc. Bargino50026 San Casciano Val di Pesa

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Mastroberardino – Campagna

Located in Atripalda, a small town east of Naples in the region of Campagna, the Mastroberardino winery gives off the feeling that you’ve just stepped into an ancient world. Inside, ceilings are brightly painted with mythical scenes of scampering fauns and dancing goddesses. They swirl about each other much like wine swirls inside the glass when poured. In a land steeped in ancient lore, it only seems appropriate.

After a tour of the facility, a tasting of superb wine accompanied by traditional Irpinian foods, if you choose, awaits. From the ruby-red medium bodied Aglianico to the pear-fresh, mineral-structured Greco, these wines inspire the temptation to dream.

Mastroberardino is the only winery in Italy that is directly involved in discovering and producing the authentic grape varietals of ancient Pompeii right on the original vineyard site. Fascinating in itself, the resulting wine produced and bottled from these vines is called Villa dei Misteri, a blend of 40% Aglianico, 40% Piedirosso, and 20% Sciascinoso. Each year bottles of Villa dei Misteri are sold in very small quantities to those who highly value it.

Mastroberardino

Via Manfredi, 75-81, 83042
Atripalda AV
t. +39 0825 614111

 

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Castello Monaci – Puglia

The Castello Monaci Estate is housed in a beautiful 16th-century castle, complete with crenelated walls and a stunning inner courtyard garden. Popular as a wedding location, the medieval foundations are still evident, attesting to an earlier existence. The grounds were once owned by Basiliani monks who operated a long-standing winemaking tradition.

Today, the Salento winery can be experienced with a cellar tour followed by wine tasting. It is one of the few estates in Puglia certified sustainable. Intense sunlight, typical of the area, combined with the cooling breeze from the Adriatic and Ionian seas produces wine with exquisitely balanced fruit. The estate produces predominately Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia Nera. The popular Salice Salentino, a popular blend made from the Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, has a deep color, medium-full tannins, and berry fruit flavors.

Castello Monaci s.r.l.
73015, Salice Salentino
Phone: +39 0831 66 57 00

 

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Cantele – Puglia

The Cantele estate believes that wine is food, and when combined with dishes at the dinner table contribute to making the balance, aromas, and flavors of a delicious meal. With a great concern and emphasis on making a minimal environmental impact from herbicides and pesticides used in the vineyard, the Cantele winery has put themselves on the cutting edge of pursuing a healthier product and lifestyle.

While tasting these delicious wines, I enjoyed a nice conversation with the owners and staff.

Wines produced here are typical of the Salento region with the addition of the straw yellow Verdeca and a crisp Chardonnay. Their newer vintage called Rohesia, a rich cherry Rosè “without compromise,” as they call it, has shown promising results.

Cantele

via S.P. 365 – Km 1 – 73010
Guagnano (LE) Italy
E-mail: cantele@cantele.it
Telefono: +39.0832.705010

 

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Castello Verrazzano – Chianti, Tuscany

Nestled in the heart of Chianti Classico lies the veritable Castello di Verrazzano. Surrounding Renaissance gardens give way to a late Romanesque tower that served as a lookout over the Greve valley to control the trade between Florence and Siena. The estate is truly picturesque.

Giovanni da Verrazzano, the famous navigator and descendant of the family, is credited with being the first to explore the east coast of America by persuading King Francis I to fund the expedition. Giovanni was convinced he could find a passage to the west from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was on April 17, 1524 that he reached New York Bay. But on his third expedition in 1528, he fell in with a tribe of cannibals.

Verrazzano produces outstanding and world renown wines. Among them are the Chianti, Chianti Classico, Super Tuscan such as Sassello di Verrazzano and Bottiglia Particolare. In the ancient cellars are housed vintages since 1924.

Fattoria Castello di Verrazzano
Cellars & Offices
Via Citille, 32A Località Greti
50022 Greve in Chianti (FI), Italia

email: info@verrazzano.com
Phone: +39 055 854243

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Affogato!

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Dreamy, refreshing, creamy and heavenly! The affogato is my caffeinated drink of choice on a warm afternoon while exploring Italy. Many people stop to rejuvenate with a shot of espresso or two, but nothing can refresh me and give me that jump start that I need like a cool cup of frothy goodness.

Since my very first Affogato experience in the little seaside town of Camogli on the Ligurian coastline in northern Italy, I have been smitten by them. An affogato is simply a scoop of vanilla gelato “drowned” in a fresh shot of espresso, which is what the word affogato means. It makes the perfect hot-cold pairing with the creamy sweet gelato and the bitter espresso. Who knew gelato and espresso could marry so well?

The basic Italian affogato is my favorite, often sprinkled with biscotti crumbs, but there is a variety for every taste. Try splashing on some of your favorite liqueur. Chocolate gelato gives a rich and delicious twist to the espresso bitterness. Or try some Pistachio gelato sprinkled with amaretto and sliced almonds, guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

I simply substitute a good quality ice cream for the gelato when I’m not in Italy and I’ve never been disappointed. All you need is an espresso maker and the gelato, or ice cream. The cup should be as cold as possible since once the espresso is poured over the gelato, it will melt fast. The frothiness is delightful and morphs quickly into a glorious bittersweet puddle.

So if you find yourself in a mid-afternoon slump on a warm day, you know what the answer is….affogato!

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Dreaming of an Italian Adventure? Ask Diana

 

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Diana Skok Corridori 

 

When I first began contact with Diana Skok Corridori, travel designer, and planner through her website, Italy Translated, I liked her immediately. I discovered that this Texan gal and I share the same sense of humor and curiosity about life around us. Although I have yet to meet Diana in person, I’ve grown to respect her natural abilities to bring Italy to life. She can make it sing for those seeking more than just a travel itinerary.

What I have observed and appreciate about Diana is that she does much more than put together an itinerary for those who dream of Italy. She has the natural ability to be personable and comfortable to converse with from the get-go. As a result, she discovers heartfelt desires and interests and creates a unique, tailor-made experience. Her goal is to enhance your Italian adventure. She uses her own personal knowledge born from experiences while living the life of an expat in Italy. I have read her stories of how she learned the Italian way of life as a young mother from Texas. I’ve found myself connecting with her thoughts, emotions and learning curves countless times. Through trial and error, there is no doubt that Diana has discovered the real heart of Italy.

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Below is an interview I had with Diana that will give you some wonderful insight into her delightful personality and acquired skills as a travel consultant. I hope you enjoy getting to know Diana as much as I did.

  1.   Diana, you provide travel design services for the independent traveler on your website, Italy Translated. What do you offer that is unique from similar sites?

Well,  I think the core service is the same for all of us; and that is providing a smooth and hassle free trip for clients as well as making the most efficient use of their precious vacation time while showing them the “real Italy.”  Whoa – that was a mouthful!  But I think those are the goals and they are all equally important.   There is nothing worse than losing an entire day due to an ill-planned cookie cutter vacation.

Having said that, I feel my strengths come from my love of understanding the Italian way of life as it compares to life in America and my own traveling adventures throughout the years.

I have done it all: solo female travel, couples travel, traveling with babies and traveling with my family (as in all of us: my family, my sisters’ families and my parents – talk about a logistical challenge!).  And honestly, I feel like one of my unique offerings stems from my mistakes Yes, as crazy as that sounds, it is true. Of course, all this traveling has allowed me to offer clients first-hand knowledge of the beauty of Italy, but it has also allowed me to anticipate potential problems and offer time-saving advice to my clients.

I also really try to promote getting into the Italian way of life.  Many clients think this is not possible because they don’t have family or friends living in Italy.  But I offer suggestions on how to get in there and hang with the locals.  In my opinion, the best way to do this is to take a little time off from sightseeing and just do some normal, everyday activities such as going to the grocery store or even the neighborhood park.  It might seem trivial at first, but these places can be really fun and offer a great insight into the lively Italian way of life.  Also, feeling like you are part of it all is totally priceless to me.

  1.  As a contributing writer to National Geographic and CNN, as well as maintaining your own blog about life in Italy, what is your highest priority when helping those who want to see Italy?

My biggest priority when helping someone plan a trip is to listen to what they want.  It is THEIR trip, and it should be everything they dreamed of and more.  I have a business development background and learned that identifying the customer’s needs is always the focus.   After that, it is being consistently available and responsive.  As you mentioned, I have other projects, but those will always be put on the back burner when I have trips to plan.  So don’t be surprised if you don’t see blog posts for a while.  

  1.  You have a great sense of humor and your articles are always packed with cool tips and information that someone who is planning a trip to Italy would love to know as well as those who love to armchair travel. What has been your most memorable experience so far in assisting someone to see ‘the real Italy?’  

Well, thank you for your kind comment.  I guess it is easy to write fun stories about the crazy, beautiful life here because almost every day has some surprise in store.  And that leads me to the answer to your next question about my most memorable experience planning a trip.  It actually involved my husband’s family.  He has a big family and most of them live in Rome.  He has uncles and cousins that work in the film industry for special effects.  My husband’s uncle was working on the James Bond movie, “Spectre,” and asked if we wanted to see some of the filming, but we weren’t going to be in Rome.  However, one of my clients was!  So she was able to see the chase scene along the Tiber River!  And not only that, afterward was invited for dinner with the crew and my husband’s family.  What a unique experience!   

  1. Being a gal from Texas who met an Italian and followed him to Italy, how did you experience the Italians as a new expat?

Well, honestly he was the first expat of the family.  After getting married, we lived in Austin for 8 years.  He even became an American citizen (and honorary Texan).  Because of a job change, we moved to Milan.  I was probably more excited about the move back to the old country than he was.  He loved Texas and the ease of life there.  As an expat, even in a big city like Milan, I have to say the people were so kind and helpful.  I think this is interesting to note because Milan has a reputation for being a hectic city as well as a little boring and maybe even a little cold. But everyone was always so kind.  

In fact, I don’t know how I would have managed if the people had not been so wonderful because I have to admit the first six months were really tough.    And the odd thing was that I felt so prepared.  I knew we would be exchanging our four bedrooms, two bath home for a two bedroom, one bath apartment.   I walked into our rented apartment so boldly, only to notice there were no kitchen cabinets or stove or fridge or even a sink.  In Italy, when you rent an unfurnished apartment, you are renting the walls, floors, ceiling and electrical wires (no light fixtures either).    Yes, the empty apartment with a three-month-old baby and toddler was not so much fun.  But we got through it and with time I learned to adapt to the Italian way – which means learning to be very patient.  I also gained a new appreciation for my own, wonderful country.  I think being an expat really makes you appreciate the things we take for granted.  I feel very fortunate to have had the option of living in these two great countries.  Obviously, both have their pros and cons, but we try to take the best of America and incorporate it into our lives here, just as we did when we lived in Austin:  only pasta for lunch (sandwiches were forbidden), along with a glass of wine of course!

Thank you, Diana. I’ll take you up on that glass of vino and a side of pasta one day soon in bella Italia!

 

Diana Skok Corridori

Travel Designer and Planner

Italy Translated