Thursday, October 16, 2008

Italia and Valpolicella, a "valley full of cellars".

Italy. What time of the year to go to Italy? Anytime or on the shoulder seasons.... our Canadian autumn is a great time to explore the rest of the world that may have a different temperature and growing season than our agricultural ways. The end of September was perfects as it was harvest time and thus we started off on our Harvest Wine Tour of Italy, 2008. Tuscany and Valpolicella in the fall? Our timing could not have been better.

Our tour started in busy Florence and our adventuresome travellers were there a few days early to drink in the culture and get over their jet lag. We delighted in some of the art and history of the capital of Toscana for a few days previous to the tour and as a bonus we got to take in the Florence Wine Festival!! Who knew that it was perfect timing as the vendemmia was in full swing and wine was on the mind...

We carried on south to San Gimignano for some extra special gelato after tasting some Vernaccia in the region. Our mini Maroni bus got us through the hills and valleys with no trouble... a great way to travel indeed, who says that driving in Italy isn´t fun, you just have to keep up!!!

We spent three nights at the apartments of good friends at Il Poderuccio, overlooking the Tuscan hills and the Banfi Estate where we enjoyed the six course luncheon with wine. There was no need for dinner after that special treat! The next days were spent in the small towns, tasting and shopping, of course there was time for a dip in the Thermal Baths of Bagni Vignoni.

Stopping for a gelato and a glance of the Red Beret trickster in the Piazza del Campo of Siena, we carried on through the countryside to Lucca, the walled city. What an excellent place to shop!

The night was spent in the hills of Camaiore with a dear friend who welcomed us with a glass of wine and a luxurious bed. The view of the Versilia coast was spectacular and we were lucky to be able so spend three nights in the region of Viareggio exploring the art of Pietrasanta and the coastline of the Unesco World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre. I was proud of our group as they took advantage of the walk through the ¨five towns¨ and did it all by foot! We coudn´t have asked for better weather and more adventuresome clients.

On the speedy autostrada to Valpolicella we encountered some fast cars. Lambhorghinis and Ferrarris made their presence known so we decided to make a stop at the Ferrarri Museum near Modena to make us feel part of the Italian racing culture! Of course our nine passenger van didn´t go nearly as quickly but we sure gave it our all as we precipitated up through Verona to dine at the Trattoria di Bepi . The Amarones and Ripassos made by our good friend Giuseppe Lonardi were on par with the wonderful varietals of the region ¨full of cellars¨.

During our stay at La Foresteria, we were graced with the presence of the Count of Serego Alighieri. We our wine taste and stay on the Estate was a real highlight as we relaxed in the vineyard housing and learned the in depth secrets of Serego Alighieri´s tradition in winemaking. In the region we toured Verona at a leisurely pace to take in the art, music and fashion. Also a day was spent ferrying around the beautiful Lago di Garda as we explored Sirmione, Lazise and Garda. Exquiste.

Our last leg of the Harvest Wine tour had us visit one of the most popular cities in Italy, yes, Venice. The city built on water is not only unique in the world but filled with history and amazing architecture. We met some kind locals who told us the history of Venice and we met some jovial waiters at one of the best seafood restaurants in town, Ristorante Riviera. Our farewell meal was just what we needed to top off an excellent tour.

With our small group of six we had an wonderful time getting to know one another and we were even able to share lots of inside jokes! The cohesiveness of our travel companions made it a wonderful guiding experience for me, all the while touring a country steeped in history and gastronomical delights, not to mention really, really good wine.

Next post is our fall adventure in Brazil, Argentina and Chile; Wine and Waterfalls tour for Women. This one will be a great adventure as we cross three countries and several wine growing regions!

Grazie mille for a great tour travel companions,

Natascha Radchenko
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