Next stop on Day 2: Chianti!
I made sure I had antihistamines with me, especially for this part of the Tuscan experience. I wasn’t going to miss this region’s most important and famed product, the Chianti Classico, even if I am allergic to tannins! I’m not the most experienced of wine drinkers (My first taste was when I was already in my 20s!), so I didn’t really know what to expect during our trip to the Castelo d’Albola, which is one of the oldest wine-growing estates in Tuscany.
The beautiful vineyards of Castelo D’Albola! I just had to do this pose!
The Castello d’Albola is situated on a hill in Radda, Chianti, the wine region of Tuscany. The vineyards in this region date back to the early Middle Ages, with some ruins dating back to the age of the Romans and Etruscans. The Castelo d’Albola belonged to a feudal family of nobles, the Monterinaldi, and was later passed on to other prominent Tuscan noble families. Today, the 12th century castle is open to tourists, and has gained fame for its impressive wine cellars, which have been making Chianti’s finest wines since the early 1830s.
Our group was welcomed by Alessandro Gallo, the Castelo d’Albola’s current director. We were graciously received in the castle’s tasting room, where we were treated to a welcome drink of proseco (yum!) and a sampling of the Castelo’s premium wines and olive oil variants.
The courtyard of the Castelo D’Albola; an old wine press in the tasting room.
The cellars in the Castelo d’Albola.
The cellars were amazing. I had no idea what a wine cellar really looked like, and these huge oak vats were each about eight feet high. The wines in this particular cellar had been aging since February 2012. The temperature in the cellars is regulated, so it’s always cool.
Beautiful gardens on the grounds! All the fresh vegetables and fruit we ate during our meal was grown here.
Part of the tour to the Castelo includes a traditional Tuscan-style lunch in one of the dining rooms. We were actually dining with Alessandro and some of his business associates, one of whom happened to be the son of the estate’s current owner. It was sure to be an interesting lunch, and our group was excited to sample some of the region’s traditional fare.
The team, seated at table, family style! By this time, we were all geared up to eat, famished after all that walking in Siena!
And boy, it was worth the wait.
Antipasti: Bruschettas (L-R: Tomatoes, olive oil and basil; chicken pate; lardo or pork fat with herbs and spices)
Primi: Zucchini and parmegiano risotto. This was absolutely divine. I think I had three helpings!
Fresh garden-grown beans and bell peppers, braised in wine and vinegar. Perfection!
Secondi: Roulade of chicken, verdure, prosciutto and egg, with roasted potatoes. I’m totally going to try making this at home!
Dolci: Apple cake, which was accompanied by a lovely dessert wine that we all had too much off!
Some of the group! (L-R: Gladys; Rommel; me; Christie; Alessandro Gallo, the director of Castelo D’Albola; (seated) Gab; Millet; Pia; M., and Annalyn)
It was around 4 PM when we left the Chianti Classico region — which meant we had an approximately 2-hour bus ride if we still wanted to reach Pisa. (And we did!) We managed to arrive in Pisa just before the sun began to set. We had about fifteen minutes for a flash photo-blitz around the Piazza dei Miracoli, the main cathedral square of the city of Pisa.
Despite our rushed visit, we were able to have our fill of Pisa’s piazza, the site of the Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta, its elaborate baptistry and, of course — Pisa’s most famous “mistake” and landmark the Leaning Tower, or the campanile (bell tower) of the cathedral.
The grand baptistry and duomo of the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, an 11th century structure. Seeing this for the first time felt like I was looking at a postcard! (I ended up buying a magnat with a painting of this scene; it’s now on my fridge.)
I just love this old doorway. I don’t know why, but I have a thing for doorways, gates and passage ways. I have so many photos just of doors during this trip, because there were so many pretty ones in Tuscany. (I feel like breaking into song, a la “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: “Doors/Open doors/They are yours to open wide/Take a step, take a chance…” — Still one of my favorite musicals.)
The door above was from the old wall surround the piazza; the door below was a side door of the duomo.
Of course, we were there to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. I approached the structure with bated breath.
Wow. There it is!
And, of course, I did my own “leaning” pose. I didn’t feel like doing the “oops-the-tower-is-falling-on-me” shot, but I did my “hey, beautiful” pose, like this:
By the time we had all finished taking photos and grabbing a few souvenirs, the sun was setting.
Early evening in front of the piazza in Pisa
Chianti was a totally new discovery for me; Pisa was an item checked off my travel bucket list. And being in Siena earlier that day, as you know, was just a dream come true. Being able to visit three beautiful places in a span of 14 hours was hella tiring, but completely worth the long bus rides, the aching feet (and backs!), and the tireless clicking away of our cameras. (One of my companions, Millet, was totally out of phone memory by the end of this day!).
Patrizia, our group leader, said that there was just too much to take in in Tuscany, and recommended we return for a month just to see all there was to see in this one region. I believe you, Patrizia. I’m already planning (and saving!) to return. I want to discover more, to be even more amazed, and to have my breath taken away all over again with each new discovery.
Read the other entries in this Tuscan Blogger Adventure Series: