It has become a bi-annual tradition for me to enjoy a couple of short getaway holidays with girlfriends of mine each year, just because sometimes we need a catch up, away from our routines and a very good excuse to enjoy some heartfelt conversations accompanied by genuine food and wine-tasting in between our shopping sprees in central Florence! We travelled with Ryanair from Malta and booked a taxi from the airport to our beautiful accommodation in a self-catering Tuscan villa with breathtaking countryside views.
The gastronomic delights that make Tuscany famous across the world include its red wines such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are as appreciated as its tasty, peppery extra-virgin olive oil. Then there are the numerous cheeses as well as cured meats such as the Cinta Senese, Salame Toscano or those made from local wild boar that make Tuscan cuisine simple, yet so delicious!
Wine Tasting at Castello Del Trebbio
On this holiday, we visited this Castle in Chianti for a wine tasting tour. Located a few hundred metres away from our accommodation, on a 350-hectare estate with vineyards, this enchanting castle in the twelfth century belonged to the renowned Pazzi family. In the fifteenth century, ownership was transferred to the Medici family who converted it into a villa. The current family purchased it in 1968 and today they have restored it beautifully, staying true to its origins.
The estate situated in magnificent surroundings, just like you see in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”, it comprises about 60 hectares of grapes, 10,000 olive trees and a forest. We enjoyed a well-presented tour of the castle, the old and the new wine cellars including a wine and olive oil tasting. Our fabulous and very friendly guide Alberto gave us information about the history of the castle and also enthusiastically gave us a few tips about wines, how to taste them, how to hold the glasses to observe the colouring, and useful tips for wine lovers. These wines and olive oils are of outstanding quality. If you are looking to go on such a tour, I highly recommend this one.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Unless you are vegetarian, you cannot visit Florence without ordering a Bistecca Fiorentina T-bone steak which is one of the most famous dishes you will find almost everywhere in Florence. The name refers to the particular cut of the meat. Normally the Fiorentina steak is cooked on a wood grill. In some restaurants, you can admire the interesting way they align the steak in vertical pairs. As a measure, if you order one bistecca for two, expect to spend at the very least 40 euros for around a kilo of steak. They serve excellent ones at Osteria de Giovanni in Via dal Moro which is where we dined on our last day.
Tuscany is also famous for its pecorino cheeses so if you are a cheese lover, here you will obviously find a wide choice of products to try out in their best element. From North to South, we learnt that Tuscan cheeses are made following ancient techniques and production processes handed down over the centuries, from one generation to the next. There is a large selection of fresh and aged Pecorino cheeses. (The word Pecorino derives from the Italian word “pecora” which means sheep).
After Sardinia, Tuscany is one of the largest producer of sheep milk in Italy. Pecorino cheese in Tuscany has ancient origins dating back to the Etruscan times. Sheep farming is spread across the country but the highest concentration is in Grosseto and Siena. When in Tuscany indulge in a platter of mixed cheeses at one of the many restaurants or wine bars who serve it daily. Cheese options also make for great gifts to take back home to relish with family and friends.
One of the pleasant highlights of this holiday for me was a visit to the Gucci Museum situated in Piazza della Signoria where we enjoyed a cappuccino in the café followed by a tour of the museum.
The museum, housed in a 14th-century building is designed to honour the Gucci brand’s legacy by contrasting the innovation of bamboo-handled bags or luxe sports equipment with modern art. Several rooms displaying the highlights from Gucci’s designs including the signature tricolor bags and belts some outstanding dresses worn on red carpet events by top celebrities around the world.
There is also a film room, where some of Italy’s iconic movies, from “La Dolce Vita” through “Il Gattopardo,” or “The Leopard,” are projected. They are restored in a Film Foundation collaboration between Gucci and Martin Scorsese, the director. For the Florentines and for tourists steeped in the grandeur of the Palazzo Vecchio, there is not only the Gucci museum but also an internet-friendly cafe and a Rizzoli book shop for browsing.
It was on the day of the wine tour, with this beautiful backdrop that we shot this winter outfit by River Island for the blog – a silk top, a neutral-coloured three-quarter coat, skinny jeans. I styled it with eyewear by Michael Kors and a bag from River Island. I couldn’t be happier with the photos by Francesca Pace, one of the ladies who was on this holiday. It is another part of the vacation experience that I will treasure forever!
Photos in this article are by Grazielle Camilleri and Francesca Pace