Our Italian Sojourn, Part 2

As I opined in my last column, don’t go to Florence in June, July, or August if you can go any other time.

I had been before in December, and it was magnificent. Florence has so much to offer, from Michelangelo’s “David,” to its awe-inspiring Duomo, to the Ponte Vecchio, to so much more.

But in the summer, there seems to be eight times as many people, everyone acts as if they are on edge, and it’s hot and sultry.

To escape the crowds, Terry, our longtime friend, Sandra, and I opted for a Vespa tour of the nearby Chianti hillsides.

After almost an hour’s van ride from Florence, we arrived at a villa that had a large gravel parking lot with sloped contours.

We now had 15 minutes to prove that we were not a danger to ourselves and to the local residents on the motorbikes

Our lead guide, Tommaso, inquired as to the bi-ped experience of our group. A few owned motorcycles back in the States, so they were naturals


Some others had a good sense of balance and took quickly to the vroom, vroom Vespa. Terry was one of these. Those who failed were relegated to ride as passengers with the tour guides. 

I desperately did not want to suffer that embarrassment, nor did I want to miss the quintessential Italian experience of zipping up and down the country lanes. 

Well, I guess I was too nervous, since after a few attempts, Tommaso set me aside, clearly planning on not allowing me to drive.

Ten minutes later, I begged Tommaso to give me another chance, to which he reluctantly agreed. After a few attempts, I scored just well enough to qualify as a Vespa pilot. 

And thank God I did.

I loved accelerating up and down from one small village to another, enjoying the vistas the Chianti region offers.

I even survived a torrential downpour (that only lasted 10 minutes but seemed like the Great Flood was upon us).  

We stopped at Greve in Chianti, with its iconic black rooster (more about that later) and shops decorated with perhaps one hundred hind pig legs hanging from the ceiling, aging and maturing to that delightful treat, prosciutto. 

Then, it was on to Impruneta, where we had a tasty lunch at Villa Olmo. Its sister winery, Diadema, hosted our wine and olive oil tasting.

Our guide gave us a thorough appreciation of Italian extra virgin olive oil. We discovered how very different one oil can taste from another, even though they are from the same olive groves.

We tasted four or five wines.

A truly unique one is called Candegli, which is mainly Sangiovese (the main grape in Tuscany for traditional Tuscan wines), with a hint of Cabernet Sauvignon.
OK, so up to here, nothing too unusual. But this is where Diadema adds its creative flair. Rather than follow all of the other wineries, Diadema ages Candegli in terracotta amphorae.
Since the wine sees no oak, no extra tannins or taste notes are added from an outside source. The terracotta is relatively neutral. The result is a wine that is ready to drink upon bottling, rather than needing a few years in the cellar.
Da Noi A Voi
We also enjoyed Da Noi A Voi, their olive oil. It had grassy and herbaceous notes (along with a touch of mint).
We liked it so much we bought a few bottles to enjoy back in the states and to share with others.

We now jump forward to our visits at Casanova di Neri in Montalcino and Brancaia at Radda in Chianti.

Dedicated to the pursuit of exceptional wines