It’s been a couple of years since I returned from an amazing experience at Lisa Ravà’s panoramic agriturismo, Il Poderaccio. The beauty of the Sienese countryside was beyond words, a place where I could spend much of my time soaking up the gently rolling hills and neighboring farms. During my stay, Lisa invited me to meet with her early in the morning to feed the horses (all 15 of them). I came, but she did all the work while I chatted and observed.
You will not believe the beauty of this early Tuscan morning…..take a look!
The panoramic views of the Tuscan hills drenched in golden sunlight greeted us as we passed through the iron gate and down the long driveway of La Fattoria Il Poderaccio. Horses, long-legged and sleek, grazed in the pasture as two young foals frolicked nearby. One of the farm dogs greeted us with friendly eyes and wagging tail. We parked our car and inhaled the views once more before we met Lisa Ravà, our host.
The classic country architecture of the old stone buildings, some covered with flowering Bougainville, dates back to the 13th century. Read more →
Buried underground and nearly invisible to the eye, the Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar just north of Florence is introducing a new wave of architecture by using a design that merges delicately with nature. Every act in the building process of this state-of-the-art winery has considered the surrounding natural environment as a sacred responsibility to nurture and embrace. The results, the accomplishment of an eight year long project, is dynamic. This Hobbit-style complex embraces sustainability and green thinking on a grand scale, making it very unique in a world of mindless progress. Read more →
Chianti, an area of Tuscany located between Florence and Siena, is beautifully grooved with vineyards over wide rolling hills. Castles often decorate the tops with their surrounding estate of vineyards full of grapes grown plump and aromatic under the warm Tuscan sun. Castello Di Verrazzano, overlooking the town of Greve in Chianti, is one of them.
The “vineyards situated in Verrazzano,” are mentioned in a manuscript dating back to 1170, preserved in the Abbey of Passignano. Olive groves are recorded to have been growing on the estate simultaneously.
Today, the Renaissance villa is built around the tenth century tower. Originally, the castle was an Etruscan, then a Roman settlement until the Verrazzano family acquired it in the seventh century.
Giovanni da Verrazzano, born in the castle in 1485, was a Florentine navigator who explored the bay of New York and most of the East Coast of North America in the early 1500’s. Not one to keep a low profile, while seeking entrance to the Pacific Ocean near South America on his third and final voyage, he mistakenly landed on an island with cannibalistic natives. End of story….almost. New York immortalized him by naming their double-decker suspension bridge the Verrazzano-Narrows in 1964.
The Verrazzano Estate’s boundaries have not changed in over one thousand years.
Today the Cappellini family runs the estate after acquiring it in 1958. At the time it was in a neglected state and needed repairs. The villa was restored and the surrounding 220 acres of land reorganized, nourished and replanted in vines which are replaced every twelve years. A system of thorough organic fertilization as well as the practice of agronomic techniques has contributed over time to superior wines. The harvest is done exclusively by hand through a careful selection of grapes.
Most good stories have a great ending, and this is no exception. In my next post you are invited to come along with me on a wine tour of Castello Da Verrazzano. I promise a dungeon with cells, but no dragons! Stay tuned…..coming this Wednesday!
One of my greatest temptations when visiting a city is to wander off the beaten path. It’s useless to resist. What is this place all about? Who are these people? How does it feel, taste, smell? Nooks and crannies, alleyways and winding cobbled streets that lead to…I must find out! Just what is around that next corner?
“Vagabonding” tourism is free and enriching. Urban Trekking takes you where many feet have never trod and sights that have been overlooked. It means walking through beautiful parts of a city that even the locals aren’t familiar with, up and down hills and stairways, under (or over) arches, along walls, across ramparts, through alleyways, and meeting the unexpected. Urban Trekking is seeking out the interesting and fascinating sides of an area.
There is a special excitement that comes from watching the sun set over a medieval turret and then walking the cobbled streets as twilight gives way to the night. I remember the evening I got delightfully (some would say hopelessly) lost in Venice. After visiting some cicchetti bars, we ventured out into the night, padding up and down pathways that wound deep into the heart of the city. We encountered shopkeepers that sold us stuffed eggs and vino for a song. We passed balconies with open shutters and the sound of voices drifting on the air. Smells of the lagoon and the shine of the moon on the inky waters. The gentle lapping of boats tied to their mooring. I became acquainted with the sights, tastes and smells of the real Venice. I had developed a deeper, emotional connection. Away from the crowds. Slow walking.
Sienais great for exploring on foot. One of the first cities to establish a traffic-free zone, practically the entire area within the Renaissance city walls is off-limits to all but residential traffic. Even so, the residents are required to use the beltway if they want to reach a different part of the city. But any city or village in Italy has fascinating things to see on foot. Just set your course and go. Having an itinerary is great, but I have set out to explore a city without one and stumbled upon some memorable places and experiences that otherwise would have been missed.
Besides the health and heart benefits of walking, Urban Trekking creates an emotional bond between you and the land. The art and architecture, breathtaking panoramas, alleys and gardens, chance meeting with locals, embracing the feel of a place…..this is true vagabonding. I encourage you to bring home the real Italy. The memories will last a lifetime.
Suggested Urban Trekking Routes and Tours (links below)—for those who prefer some structure, these are great ideas.