Before you even visit Tuscany, your head is already filled with the iconic landscape the region is known for. The scenery is the stuff postcards are made of - villas surrounded by cypress trees, acres of vineyards and olive trees, and the ever present rolling landscape.
But promise me one thing. When you come, make sure you get out into the landscape, at least once. Walk among the vines, smell the air, touch the earth. Feel the tight grape clusters in your hand, snatch a grape or two and savor the flavor.
There's really no better way to experience the Tuscan terroir (that's the soil) than to walk on it, with Beppe if you can!
Beppe was waiting for us with his hiking staff in hand and wearing a small backpack. It was a sunny and warm afternoon, perfect for a short hike.
He greeted us with a big warm smile and with Alessio interpreting (we really have to brush up on our Italian before our next trip!) we got a quick introduction about where we were standing - on one of the world famous Antinori Winery vineyards.
These particular vines were all sangiovese grapes used to make chianti, but not just any chianti. What is produced from these vines is among the finest chianti the world has to offer.
As we walked we noticed something here we hadn’t seen before. Under the vines for as far as we could see were small flat white stones. There wasn’t a row of vines that didn’t have them. Beppe explained that these were marble chips put in place to reflect light up to the grapes as the days shortened with the season. This method is employed by only the wealthiest of producers and apparently it works quite well.
After a twenty minute walk uphill we arrived at the end of the vineyard marked by a small irrigation pond and woodland forest. Beppe dug into his small backpack and broke out the most wonderful treats he'd baked himself - homemade almond biscotti and schiacchiata con l’uva, a thin grape foccacia that was out of this world!
He'd also brought along some meat and cheese snacks, and a bottle of fine local chianti.
So there we were with the sun slowly setting, and the slightest chill in the air. With our guide who spoke no English, the two of us who spoke no Italian, and Arianna and Alessio who spoke both. But the simplest gifts in life - like sharing laughs, and good food and wine with new friends, transcend any language barrier.
The beautiful Tuscan cypress trees, those tall, dark green, columnar shaped evergreens that seem to poke holes in the blue of the sky, have been used for centuries not only for the now iconic landscaping, but in more recent times as a natural way to mark property boundaries.
The view and the light of the countryside changed with every step we took, and I found myself taking more and more photos, not wanting it to end. One more...just one more, I promise. But I think this one of Arianna capturing the moment might be my favorite.
I can't think of a more perfect way to enjoy the sunset in Tuscany.
Want to GO?
Love a good hike in nature or getting close to the soil? Or maybe a yummy vineyard picnic filled with Beppe's fresh baked goods is more your speed?
Arianna and Alessio can specially curate a slow-travel, local, producer-oriented tour through Tuscany that suits whatever interests you. Contact Km Zero Tours through their website or email Arianna@KmZeroTours.com.