In Italy, people will tell you that they take more time for life. Families gather for meals daily and wine is a staple at the dinner table.
For a chance to learn about its history and culture, take a wine holiday to Tuscany, which is located in Northwest central Italy. Home to romantic cities such as Siena and Pisa, it is also where you will find the Chianti region, near the Arno River between Florence and Siena, where wine has flowed in the Tuscan hills since medieval times. The Chianti Classico wines have led the trend in richer and better-balanced wines. The region’s famed Sangiovese grape is specially cultivated and the wine-making process follows strict standards.
Rent a villa, such as Le Marangole, on the Castello D’Albola wine estate. It is a splendid example of Tuscan architecture in the heart of the Chianti Classico district. Its rolling hills are dotted with vineyards, olive groves, and the region’s famed cypress trees.
Unwind at the Chianti Wellness Center in Radda in Chianti with a refreshing dip in a whirlpool filled with grape skins. Follow this with a massage. Rested, you will be ready for a meal served with the region’s best wine.
At Lucignano–a medieval, elliptical hill town–visit Ristorante Solissimo on the Castello di Lucignano wine estate, seven miles Northeast of Siena. Classic Tuscan fare has been adapted to new recipes. Try the Fillet of Chianina Beef with Spinach. It is wrapped in a pastry coat and accented with rosemary sauce.
And if you’d like to try your hand at making Tuscan cuisine, enroll in Lorenza de’Medici’s famed cooking school, located on the Badia a Coltibuono wine estate, also near Siena. Classes last five days and offer expert training.
A worthwhile stop is the Vignavecchia wine estate, near Radda in Chianti, a small village in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. The Beccari sisters inherited this winery. It belonged to their great-grandfather.
“When my sister Brigida and I started to work at the winery in 1992, we did not imagine it could be so tough and fascinating at the same time. Ten years ago, [Radda's] mentality was very narrow-minded. The wine business was, above all, a man’s world,” says Orsola Beccari. Today they toast society’s advances–even as they maintain and cherish an age-old tradition.
For Le Marangole villa, specifically, and wine tastings at Castello D’Albola, visit www.chiantinet.it/albola/welcome .html. For smaller, deluxe accommodations visit www.villa antea .com; for information on Chianti Wellness Center, visit www.wellnessinchianti .com; for tastings at the Castello di Lucignano wine estate, call 011.39.0577.747.810; for reservations at Ristorante Solissimo, call 011.39.0577.747.837; for the Badia a Coltibuono wine estate, restaurant, and cooking school, visit www.coltibuono.com; for tastings at the Vignavecchia estate, visit www.vignavecchia.com.
As for Chianti Classico wines, generally, if you can remember nothing else, look for the Black Rooster label and www.chianti classico.com.