Two eyes to see
Two ears to hear
A nose to smell
Two eyes to see
Two ears to hear
A nose to smell
The last day of our Italian trip this past Spring was spent in Bologna, Italy. It was the coldest and the rainiest day of our entire trip.
There once stood 72 tower houses within this double walled city, each built to demonstrate the wealth and power of the competing noble families. The fourteen that remain, rising proudly above its palaces, preserves the history of a feudal town controlled by rival factions ever ready for conflict.
San Gimignano mainly developed in the first three centuries of the Millennium, thanks to its favorable geographical position becoming an important transit stop for pilgrims traveling from France to Rome. The city flourished until 1348 when two thirds of its population was decimated by the Black Death. San Gimignano knew a long period of decline in the shadow of dominant Florence. This decline served to insulate San Gimignano from the influence of different architectural styles as there was little subsequent development. San Gimignano remained preserved in its medieval state until the 19th century when its status as a tourist and artistic destination began to be recognized. Today San Gimignano continues to preserve its authenticity thanks to the strict enforcement of the restoration principles.
The Antinori family has been involved in the production of wine for over six centuries, through twenty six generations. Antinori nel Chianto Classico was opened in 2013 and served to relocate the company headquarters from its Renaissance palazzo in Florence to the hillside of Bargino, literally, the winery is folded into the hillside resembling a pair of rust-colored slashes in newly planted vineyards. “The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says Antinori.
We drove past Radda on our first day in Tuscany on our way to Antinori winery. We drove past Radda two days later on our way to Podere La Piaggia for our cooking class. We were about to drive past Radda on our way to San Gimignano when we finally stopped. I could imagine us, returning home and saying to ourselves “What was that cute town we kept driving past?” and being filled with wanderlust-regret. We played on the playground, browsed the shops, chatted with an artist whose art was being displayed in the Palazzo del Podesta and experienced the charm of this 9th century medieval town for just about an hour on this Monday morning.
One of the experiences I insisted on having during our trip to Italy was a cooking class. There are many options and it becomes challenging to discern one from the next. Fortunately our hotel recommended a private class offered by La Piaggia. This experience was beyond all my expectations; it was intimate, immersive, elegant and casual all at once.
Podere La Piaggia is a family run estate nestled among the hills of Chianti Classico. Situated on the slope overlooking Siena and the Val d’Elsa, the estate occupies an area of just over forty hectares, half of which are uncultivated and consist of woods, while the rest of the land is divided between vineyards and olive groves. In the center is the farmhouse, with the cellar below dating back to the 1600s. Three generations tend to this land. Despite the necessary modernization carried out over the years, La Piaggia holds to the ancient winegrowing tradition with a respect for nature in all of the production phases.
Castello di Ama is a winery in Siena, Italy. Ama takes its name from a small hamlet that dates back to the 12th century. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. In the 1970s a group of families, fallen under the spell of this magical spot, set themselves the task of reviving Ama’s past glories and of producing a Chianti Classico that would rank among the world’s most prestigious wines. Today Castello di Ama, one of Tuscany’s most famous wineries, is owned almost entirely by the couple Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti.
Castello di Spaltenna is a converted medieval castle from before the 12th Century. Spaltenna is an ancient feudal hamlet consisting of the church, Santa Maria a Spaltenna, with its bell tower dated from the year 1000, the adjacent castle and a small group of houses. The castle became a monastery than a convent before becoming the resort it is today.
There is an ideology, a romantic notion of “getting lost”. To get lost is to throw away the maps and the plans in hopes of discovering something new. Driving on the Autostrada, 70 kilometers outside of Rome, we saw a small town sitting on a high cliff. It was shocking in contrast to the surrounding landscape. We drove into the small town on a narrow road that runs one-way through the entire town. And when I say narrow, I could reach my arm out of the car window and touch the stone walls. I craned my neck to stare up the length of the buildings and the only thing keeping my mouth from hanging open was the repeated utterance “Guys look at this, what a gem!” It was a gem because it was a treasure we were not seeking yet discovered all the same.