Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tuscany - art, wine and dolce vita on the countryside

After a Sunday dedicated to sports, the new week started with Florence...
Florence, the cultural richness of this city can be seen everywhere in elegant piazzas, Renaissance palazzi, academies, parks, gardens, churches, monasteries, museums, art galleries and ateliers. It is just overwhelming.


    The Cathedral
Santa Maria del Fiore

It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical characters, such as Dante, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Guccio Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci, and very many others.

arcades Palazzo Pitti

And also the beautiful countryside is studded with villas, country parish churches, convents and small, atmospheric villages. So where to start? Maybe with a nice walk into the city center, stopping by the at the Cathedral made of different colored marble in white, green and red and having a nice gelato in the afternoon sun. Walking down the streets to the Palazzo Vecchio with the replica of Michelangelo's David. 
Those movie fans amongst you might now scream: This is the balcony in Hannibal! Do you remember the scene where Hannibal Lecter is telling the police investigator about the bitter history of his family and that they have a tendency to finish their live hanging from this balcony? Well in any case, now you do.

But let's continue our walk and have a look at the medieval jewelry shops while crossing Ponte Vecchio and let's take some rays in the afternoon sun in front of the Palazzo Pitti.

Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Gardens
Florence is also the gate to the Chianti region, so we decided to have a little introduction to Chianti and Italian wine in general before we explore the countryside ourselves. An ideal place for this is the Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina directly situated at the Piazza Pitti. I would recommend their wine tasting menus which include three or four different wines selected by the skilled sommelier of the house who explains the backgrounds and flavors you will experience. They have also a nice assortment of cheeses and other delicacies to accompany the wine.

view from Boboli Gardens
After this amazing start, we needed to decide which of the cultural treasures we would explore the next morning and we came to the conclusion it will be the Palazzo Pitti with the treasure of the Medici, the Galleria Palatina and Galleria d'arte moderna, Galleria del Costume and the beautiful Giardino Boboli. Once again an overwhelming overload for the senses, but we have greatly enjoyed the exhibition "Il sogno nel Rinascimento - The Renaissance Dreamin the Galleria Palatina.

"This exhibition will offer visitors a chance to explore, for the very first time, a theme as absorbing and as fascinating as the Renaissance Dream, shedding light on its richness and variety.  The theme of the dream was considered to be of particular importance in ancient mythology and in the culture of the Renaissance, as shown by its widespread popularity in the figurative arts, particularly in works of religious art or in connection with the rediscovery of Classical mythology.

(...) It also displays, in a secular sense, the speculative and inductive potential that it offers the human mind; it transfigures daily life and reveals its erotic dimension; it plays a valuable role in the theory and practice of art, which focus just as much on dreams as they do on literature, philosophy and medicine."


But now let's leave the city and let's head to the countryside! Aftr a last glimpse of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo the destination for the afternoon was the Fattoria Nittardi. Our overheated navigator lady was obviously on strike, so we were heading on our own through the Tuscan landscape with a vague address in our hands. Thanks to my man's stubbornness we made it in the end and were welcomed with a smile and the words: "We have already expected you one hour ago!" Well yes, we got a little lost... But the Tuscan landscape is not the worst place to get a little lost!

Fattoria Nittardi
under the jasmine arch
I have chosen this vineyard, because I got intrigued by the artsy background and indeed this place has a certain magic. Situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico region on the boundary between the provinces of Siena and Florence, the Fattoria Nittardi was originally a defensive tower, known as early as the 12th century by the name of “Nectar Dei“ (The Nectar of the God). 
In the 16th century the property belonged to Michelangelo Buonarroti (yes the one and only Michelangelo!) who in 1549 wrote to his nephew Lionardo: “I’d prefer two casks of wine rather than eight shirts,” and on that occasion sent the Nittardi wine to Rome as a “genuine gift to the Pope”. To be honest I was also more successful in finding good wine than shirts, but that is another story...

Over the centuries the property changed hands often until it was taken over in 1982 by Frankfurt publisher and art gallery owner Peter Femfert and his wife Stefania Canali, a historian from Venice. As homage to Michelangelo, the art tradition of the winery is intensively cultivated. Every year a well-known artist paints the label as well as the wrapping paper used for a limited edition of Casanuova di Nittardi wine bottles. The collection, started in 1981 and includes works by internationally renowned artists such as Guenter Grass, Hundertwasser and Yoko Ono.

Today Fattoria Nittardi produces five different wines:
* Casanuova di Nittardi: An elegant and refined Chianti Classico named after the new house of Nittardi that is simply called Casanuova di Nittardi as it is only 500 years old.

* Nittardi Riserva Selezionata: The premium Chianti Classico of Nittardi is made with the best grapes from the vineyard Vigna Alta.

* BEN: Is the youngest wine of Nittardi coming from Maremma made with the indigenous white grape variety Vermentino. BEN stands for Beniamino, a typical Italian name that is given to the youngest and most beloved son.

* Ad Astra: One of the two Super Tuscans from the vineyard in Maremma is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah grapes. The name Ad Astra (“To the Stars”) comes from the Latin motto: Ad Astra per aspera that means “A rough road leads to the Stars”.

* Nectar Dei: The super-premium wine of Fattoria Nittardi was christened with the ancient name of Nittardi from 1183.


I felt pity leaving this beautiful place with the smell of lavender and jasmine in my nose, but we still had to find our accommodation for the next two nights; the Casa Chianti on the border of Fiano.

the terrace, the view
Two days without internet, but therefore getting spoiled already in the morning with fresh coffee, ham, bread, eggs, yogurt, cake and cherries and for the evening there is a lovely osteria at the ground floor of the building offering authentic tastes of the Tuscany with view to the vineyards!
the breakfast

It's lovely to have a base in the countryside and having the possibility of making excursions to the surrounding places. One of this excursions brought us also to the seaside of Livorno and to Pisa with its famous leaning tower. But very close is another interesting place for all two-wheel lovers; the factory and Museum of Piaggio!

first prototype!
A place which made me immediately smile. Cuties everywhere! Small ones and BIG ONES! And with endless creativity in use as for example as fire brigade, military vehicle, rally Vespa, and and and... The use of Vespa seems to have no limit, especially seeing also those strange attempts to make her fly. Not sure if my cutie would like to fly, but I prefer to stay on the ground with her...

Also the design phantasies seems to have no limit as we can see with the Ape painted as "carretto siciliano". I felt like a little girl in the candy store! 

favorite places in Florence and Tuscany:

for wine:
Pitti Gola e Cantina - Piazza Pitti, 16 - Florence
Fattoria Nittardi - 53011 Castellina in Chianti (SI)

for dinner:
L'Osteria di Casa Chianti - Loc. Case Nuove 77 - Fiano - Certaldo (FI)

for ice cream: 
Gelateria Grom - Via del Campanille/ Via delle Oche -Florence

for Vespa:
Museo Piaggio "Giovanni Alberto Agnelli" - viale Rinaldo Piaggio 7 - 56025 Pontedera (PI)


All in all the whole journey was amazing, we could see so many great places in such a short time, but if you had given us more time, we probably would have traveled the whole of Italy! But definitly we will come back!

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