April 20th, 2019: Into Tuscany on the “Winemaker’s Tour!!!”

We work up early this morning to make it to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station area to meet our guide and group for our Airbnb “experience”: the “Tuscan Winemaker’s Tour!” But first, we walked directly to the Santa Maria Novella basilica, which lay directly in front of the train station, to seem some amazing Renaissance frescoes.

The “luck” of Santa Maria Novella grew in the early centuries of the Middle Ages and manifested itself with its maximum climax during the Renaissance

“Difficult to choose between the works of art that are kept in this important place. The “luck” of Santa Maria Novella grew in the early centuries of the Middle Ages and manifested itself with its maximum climax during the Renaissance. Giotto, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Masaccio, Domenico Ghilrlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Giorgio Vasari, Paolo Uccello and even Michelangelo. These are just some of the names associated with the complex’s rich artistic and religious history. Santa Maria Novella is one of the places where the history of Italian art was made and where some of its most brilliant artistic exponents were trained.” (from the Santa Maria Novella basilica website)

“The Renaissance began in the 14th century in FlorenceItaly. Various theories have been proposed to account for its origins and characteristics, focusing on a variety of factors including the social and civic peculiarities of Florence at the time: its political structure, the patronage of its dominant family, the Medici, and the migration of Greek scholars and their texts to Italy following the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks which inherited from the Timurid Renaissance.” (from the Renaissance Wikipedia page) The discovery of America in 1492 also greatly influenced the Renaissance. “The Renaissance was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries. It occurred after the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages and was associated with great social change.”

Coppo’s map of the World – Venice – 1520, following the early expeditions to the Americas
Leonardo da Vinci‘s Vitruvian Man (c. 1490) demonstrates the effect writers of Antiquity had on Renaissance thinkers. Based on the specifications in Vitruvius‘ De architectura (1st century BC), Leonardo tried to draw the perfectly proportioned man.” (from the Renaissance Wikipedia page)
A political map of the Italian Peninsula circa 1494. Florence was the cradle of the Renaissance

We walked through the majestic Renaissance interior spaces of Santa Maria Novella basilica, admiring the the beautiful 3-D frescoes as we wondered through. They were remarkably well-preserved.

After the Santa Maria Novella basilica, we met our “Tuscan Wine Maker’s” guide, Roberto, and our small tour group at 10 a.m. sharp. The leader drove us in a Mercedes van, out into the Tuscany region, surrounding Florence, to the Montespertoli comune area.

First up, we went to a centralized wine-processing facility. There a wonderful English expat, Anita, met us and translated from the Italian spoken by our tour guide, Roberto. They explained the whole process to us, from start to finish. Grapes are separated by quality and the quality grape juice goes into certain vats, to make the best wine. The Tuscany region is known for its Chianti red wine, but many other types of wine are processed here, as well. At the end of the tour we could see pallets made ready for shipping around the world, with many destined for U.S. wine importers on both coasts.

First up, we went to a centralized wine-processing facility. There a wonderful English expat, Anita, met us and translated from the Italian spoken by our tour guide, Roberto. They explained the whole process to us, from start to finish
Grapes are separated by quality and the quality grape juice goes into certain vats, to make the best wine. The Tuscany region is known for its Chianti red wine, but many other types of wine are processed here, as well
Aging wine barrels, wine-production facility tour – Tuscany

From the wine-processing facility, we drove in our vans over the winding rural roads and up a long gravel driveway beneath ancient overarching trees, to the Castello di Santa Maria Novella, a 500-year-old castle on the highest hill in the Chianti region of Tuscany. The views from the Castello were spectacular -we could see all of central Tuscany laid out below us, with green rolling hills, lush vineyards, dense forests, fertile fields, gently flowing rivers, tiny villages, ancient churches and luxurious villas. We could even see the snow-capped peaks of the Apuan Alps far beyond in northern Tuscany. The owner of this castle could obviously survey all the lands he owned and those of his competing neighboring landowners in this part of central Tuscany. The Castello was most certainly built for defense.

The Castello di Santa Maria Novella, a 500-year-old castle on the highest hill in the Chianti region of Tuscany
When we walked through the beautiful grounds in front of the grand old castle and into a gravel side terrace, we were struck by the elegant table laid out for us, complete with red table cloths

When we walked through the beautiful grounds in front of the grand old castle and into a gravel side terrace, we were struck by the elegant table laid out for us, complete with red table cloths. We sat down at the long table, beneath profusely-blooming and fragrant wisteria. We were served slices of wonderfully crusty Italian bread, suffused with local truffle oil and extra virgin olive oil produced here at the Castello. We could dip our bread in the truffle and olive oils as much as we wanted – and we did, a lot! The bread and oils was paired with refreshing local sparkling, chilled Prosecco frizzante.

We were served slices of wonderfully crusty Italian bread, suffused with local truffle oil and extra virgin olive oil produced here at the Castello
We could dip our bread in the truffle and olive oils as much as we wanted – and we did, a lot! The bread and oils was paired with refreshing local sparkling, chilled Prosecco frizzante
Roberto, the Tuscan winemaker, serving extra virgin olive oil for dipping crusty Italian bread in
Mid-morning refreshments on the beautiful, scenic Castello terrace, with a stunning view of the Chianti region of Tuscany below
Mandy with wisteria on the scenic Castello terrace
Mandy and me under the wisteria on the scenic Castello terrace
The views from the Castello were spectacular -we could see all of central Tuscany laid out below us, with green rolling hills, lush vineyards, dense forests, fertile fields, gently flowing rivers, tiny villages, ancient churches and luxurious villas. We could even see the snow-capped peaks of the Apuan Alps far beyond in northern Tuscany. The owner of this castle could obviously survey all the lands he owned and those of his competing neighboring landowners in this part of central Tuscany

After the mid-morning refreshments on the beautiful, scenic Castello terrace, we were invited to climb the tall Castello tower, up a long set of internal stairs. From the Castello tower, the vineyards, hills and villas seemed to stretch forever. The colors were startlingly beautiful – yellows, oranges, greens, browns and reds. Everyone took their pictures along the crenellated tower ramparts overlooking the amazing vistas beyond.

Climbing up to the Castello tower for a grand view of Tuscany
The Castello tower
View from the crenellated Castello tower top. Note the old bell
Me on the crenellated tower with a view of Tuscany behind

After the tower, we were led into the Castello basement, past many very dusty stored bottles of vintage wines and many large metal containers of the Castello‘s extra virgin olive oil.

The Castello basement with extra virgin olive oil vats and wine barrels
The Castello basement extra virgin olive oil containers
Some very old bottles of wine aging in the Castello basement
A black cat in the Castello courtyard

There also was an old chapel on the Castello property, from the 12th Century. One of the guides told us that the Nazis hid their tanks here, next to the chapel, under the massive old oaks, to be invisible to planes flying overhead.

Huge, ancient tree on the Castello grounds, with the 12th century chapel beyond
Picturesque 12-century chapel on the Castello grounds
Chapel interior

Following the Castello refreshments and tour, we piled back into the touring vans and headed for Roberto’s own vineyard and home for lunch. When we arrived there, past the lush rolling hills covered in grapevines, Roberto showed us example plants of each of the varieties of grapes he was growing in his vineyard. There were half a dozen or so.

The winemaker Roberto showing us one of the grape vine varieties he grows in his vineyard

We then went inside Roberto’s lovely home and were led to a beautiful dining room, which had a ceiling of brick groin vaults, converted from a former stable. He and his staff had laid out a beautiful spread for us at the dining table, complete with gorgeous table cloths and candlesticks.

The winemaker Roberto’s pleasant vineyard house
The spread laid out for our tour group in Roberto’s beautiful dining room
At Roberto’s table in Tuscany
A bowl of mouthwatering handmade pasta at Roberto’s winemaker’s house
Roberto shaving local truffles over our pasta dishes

The spread was sumptuous and elegant, featuring local cheeses, wine from the vineyard and homemade crusty bread. We feasted on the bread and cheese with the vineyard’s own extra virgin olive oil for dipping, homemade basil pesto for eating on the bread. A wonderful lunch was then served of homemade pasta with homemade basil pesto. Our host, Roberto, personally grated a generous portion of local truffles onto each of our plates of pasta and pesto!

Roberto’s vineyard Chianti Reservo

We had a fantastic lemon tarte for dessert, along with a caramel gelato. Superb! Roberto’s staff sold wine by the cases or by the bottle after dinner. Most everyone bought a case and had it shipped to their homes. I bought 2 bottles to give as gifts in Europe.

Roberto’s delicious lemon tarte

From our host, Roberto, on Airbnb Experiences: “I live in the hills surrounding Florence, and every day I go into the fields to work my grapevines and make Chianti wine and extra virgin olive oil. I also love riding my motorcycle.I run this experience with the help of my friends and co-hosts Leo, Anita and a few others, since my English is not perfect.”

Roberto’s fertile vineyards on his winery in the Montespertoli comune area of central Tuscany

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