Is there any point of going to Tuscany if you're not going to indulge? Probably not, which why it made a perfect destination after running a race. I knew I would have few regrets about relaxing, eating, and drinking as much as I wanted, from the moment we arrived at our AirBnB in Panzano, which featured a mural of the region's delights (top left). Of course, why would I spend time in the bedroom when I could get the same view from the balcony (top right)? Right in our backyard were olives, which were in season to be harvested (middle left), and grapes, which unfortunately could not be turned into wine during our time of our stay (middle right). Across the way -- and my uplifted feet -- I could see Vignole winery, which was on a better schedule to produce vino (bottom).
Cook Tuscan class in a villa near Sambuca (top). The villa has been divided into apartments, the top one of which belongs to Manuela and Silvio. Their home is a mix of collectibles (bottom left) and comfort (bottom right) that reflects their partnership. Manuela is a self-taught cook who instructs, and Silvio is an ex-salesman of Murano glass who translates.
polpettone, a rustic meatloaf that is stuffed with vegetables (top left). It wasn't as time-consuming to prepare but it was more fraught with potential pitfalls. Despite our best efforts, the loaf split while it was in the oven (top right) -- but that didn't make it any less delicious. We had more luck with the torta della nonna, which also requires technical precision in creating the crust and custard (bottom). With a lot of elbow grease, we succeeded in presenting a set and sumptuous dessert.
wine tour started at Castello del Trebbio, which was once the stronghold of the Pazzi family, whose crest can be seen in the courtyard (top left). Many family members were killed in the fortress as retribution for the failed plot to bring down Medici rulers, which is said to have been planned there (top right). Besides the mafia-like legacy, the castle has a oenologic heritage as well. The cellars are littered with decades-old and unfortunately undrinkable bottles (bottom left). The winery now based there attempts to use historically accurate methods, including an air-release valve invented by Da Vinci (bottom right).
As if having wine in a castle wasn't luxurious enough, we then proceeded to the villa of Marchesi Gondi (top left). The family's matriarch outlined her ancestors' rise prominence in Florentine life after helping financially prop up King Alfonso. As a result, the Gondis ran in royal circles, including with the Medici family; they became so cavalier that they tore down a house where Da Vinci supposedly painted the Mona Lisa in order to build Gondi Palace, which ironically now displays artistic masterpieces (top right). The winery is somewhat of a side project, so our tasting was held literally in the family's den (bottom left) after a tour of the cellars, which housed centuries-old vats used to store olive oil (bottom right).San Gimignano, so we could do something other than just eat and drink (top left). The city, whose central square is on the UNESCO World Heritage List (top right), was once a halfway pit stop between Rome and Florence. Its towers were easily spied from the surrounding hills, helping pilgrims keep on the straight and narrow path (bottom).
La Rocca wine museum, we sampled a series of white wines, unique within environs otherwise known for red Super Tuscans (top left). Then we swiped some free samples of cheese at one of the many shops along the cobblestone streets (top right). For our last meal, we descended into Peruca, where we capped off our few days of decadence with one final dish of pasta and glass of wine (bottom).