As Leah mentioned in her post last week, we just arrived back in Los Angeles after a three week expedition to central and northern Italy. We planned the trip months in advance and originally wanted to fly nonstop to Rome, but when you have four children and need six tickets using airline mileage credits to afford the trip, you take whatever flights and routes you can get. So, we flew into Milan, which "forced" us to spend more time in northern Italy than originally planned. Of course, we also spent about half our time in central Italy, but never got as far south as Rome. Naturally, that gives us an excellent reason to start planning our next excursion to Italy—not that we need any excuse to return.
We went in search of great wine and food, but we found much more. In the coming weeks (and likely months), we’ll be posting vignettes from this Italian adventure. Yet, it wouldn’t be right to wait until the last of our posts to reveal one of our key discoveries. Arriving late at night in Milan after a long series of flights, we spent a few hours sleeping in a hotel and started our driving journey by moving to Viareggio (stopping for lunch in the Emilia-Romagna city of Parma) at the northernmost part of Tuscany’s west coast. From there, we swept through Pisa and some smaller Italian cities and towns to an agriturismo about 20 minutes southwest of Siena.
During our week on the farm, we took day trips into the Chianti countryside (Greve, Rignana, Radda, Volpaia), Florence, Fiesole, the Val d’Orcia countryside (Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano) and various other towns and sights. From there, we stopped for lunch in the Emilia-Romagna city of Bologna on our way to a castle just south of Padua for a one-day stopover before arriving at a home in the Veneto village of Bosco Chiesanuova, about 30 minutes up a winding road into the high hills north of Verona. We used our stay near Verona as base camp for more day trips to Verona, Venice, the Dolomite Mountains of Trentino-Alto Adige and the northern Italian countryside. Before our harrowing departure from Milan, we prepared ourselves for the inevitable by spending two nights at another agriturismo in the Valpolicella district near Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake). Overall, we found several notable wines and wineries that were new to us (and we hope new to you, but soon among your favorites) and many delightful, scrumptious dishes to complete the picture.
So, what was the key discovery? We went looking for new and unusual wines, wineries, meals and experiences. We’ll be reporting on that as time passes, but the unexpected realization was a renewal of why we started this blog in the first place. Passion and sharing! We made several new friends during our journey, mostly through fortuitous encounters—a senior man whose life plays out in the piazza of a small village; a rising vintner with the drive to extend beyond Italy; a family with stories to tell; a woman who devotes herself to a sustainable garden that feeds a small community; an enoteca manager with a vault of rare wines who wants to experience more California syrah; a woman with sage advice on how to live well; fellow travelers sharing a common experience; and many others. Some we may never see again. Others we will likely stay in touch with for the rest of our lives. In either case, they have one thing in common—passion and a desire to share it with—impart it to—everyone who touches their lives. In each case, the catalyst was wine, food or both—simple but powerful ingredients to a recipe for life.
For more Wine Imbiber articles on Italy, check out Italy.
July 7, 2008 at 5:15 pm
What? No preview pix?! Certainly you must have taken many (by the look of your itinerary). I myself just recently returned from a trip to Europe and can’t wait to cross-compare our finds in Italy. Did you just keep to Italy, or visit any nearby countries? Europe boasts of many wine regions, but Italy will always remain my favourite!
Yes, we have a lot of pictures. We’ll pull out a few and put them in the detailed posts about various aspects of Italy. We went only to Italy this time, except for connecting flights.
jerry L said:
We look forward to viewing some of the photos.
Dave O said:
what was the best new red you discovered and is it avaialble in the US?
The best new red we discovered…hmmm. It is so difficult to narrow the field because we had so many excellent and different wines in so many wonderful settings. By new, I am assuming you mean new to us, rather than new to the world, because many of the “best” ones have been produced for a very long time using traditional methods. I can’t say there was one absolute best, because they are so different from one another. So, I’ll limit this answer to a traditional Chianti we encountered at PoggioantinorA, a vineyard in Chianti (www.poggioantinora.it) nearer to Radda than to Gaiole. We sampled their 2002 Chianti Classico Pèghera di Baccio Riserva. PoggioantinorA’s website describes it as “a wine produced from 1992 in the old ‘ricasoliana’ way, with a percentage of white grapes (Malvasia del Chianti and Trebbiano). It is a ruby red shading to garnet–red and has a flavoured scent and a delicate, velvety and balanced taste.” Their description is very accurate and this wine is among the short–list of the best Chiantis we found on this trip. My notes state that the nose was lightly reminiscent of a Cinghiale ragout, with a subtle, balanced flavor, very light on the palate compared to some Chiantis. We had left the kids at home and we lingered in the shade on a warm, sunny day at Antinora’s hilltop tasting patio, looking over the Chianti countryside in the early afternoon. When I asked how to get it in the USA, I was given the contact information for Tuscany Wines (www.tuscanywines.net) in Florida. This wine is listed on their site today for $34.95 a bottle and it may be available elsewhere (but I haven’t done a search yet). We found a new favorite Brunello di Montalcino at Fattoria dei Barbi and a vintner named Stefano Milanesi whose wonderful wines haven’t made it to the USA yet. We’ll be writing more about all of these wines and others in the coming weeks. Ciao!
Dave O said:
I have ordered some of the Chianti Peghera from the recommended Tuscany wines shop. Thanks for the tip. I will let you know how I like your suggestion. All the best!