Featured Writer: Gina Fava
While sharing a bottle of Castello Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino 2006, with my editor and friend, Amanda, we poured over photos from a recent trip my family and I had taken to Italy to research my latest novel. She told me that she and her husband had dreamed of visiting Italy someday as the ultimate anniversary gift to each other. They even had their ideal itinerary planned, which included such cultural gems as Florence, Rome, and Venice.
I told her to scrap the plan. (Cue the scratch of the needle on the vinyl album.)
Romantic anniversary, trip to Italy, lovers of fine wine? Redo. Add some wine to this itinerary, and now you’ve got something to write home about! A trip with such promise MUST incorporate a drive through the hills of Tuscany.
Here’s some advice: Before you leave the States, check any imported bottle of your favorite Italian fine wine, search the web for the location of the producer, and then add it to your itinerary. Any travel agency can hook you up with accommodations and wine tours, such as AAA or check the internet for a reputable company like www.tuscanwinetour.net.
Better advice? Ditch the train schedule, rent a car and lose the GPS. Instead, get lost on the single lane road (S222) that winds through the vineyards, olive groves, and castle-dotted estates of central Italy. Pull over at any roadside enoteca di vino (local wine shop) to sample and purchase gorgeous wines, or tour a larger producer’s facility to learn how wines are made. Countryside towns like Montepulciano and San Gimingnano boast enoteche built atop subterranean wine cellars centuries ago. Other towns, like Montalcino, have an enoteca built right into a castle. Villas and countryside inns abound between Siena and Florence, often offering homemade meals and self-produced vintages. Drive, sample, stay overnight, repeat.
One of Italy’s oldest and most renowned vintners is Castello Banfi. Last summer our family made it a point to include this producer in our own drive through Tuscany, just outside Montalcino center. It MADE the entire trip. Here’s why:
Banfi set us up with a private tour of their magnificent facility. Even my children were amazed at the immense maze of pipes that connected the gargantuan barrels inside the factory and the warehoused cellars.
- After, we enjoyed the best dinner of our lives at Taverna Banfi, where we feasted on a five-course Tuscan menu paired with their finest wines. You don’t have to be a sommelier like my husband to know what a treat this is. Click on the link to get a taste of their sumptuous multi-course menus and pairings.
- Had a little too much to eat? Imbibed one too many? Or just want to stay a little longer to tour the castle, balsameria (homemade balsamic wine tasting), glass museum, and grounds? Stay the night in one of their luxury rooms or suites at Il Borgo.
Needless to say, I’ve convinced Amanda to explore Tuscany, and, while Rome, Florence, and Venice are truly places for which my heart always yearns, no trip to Italy is complete without a tour of Tuscany.
If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to stop by Gina Fava’s Blog to read more on my journey to publication. I’d love to meet you!