Italy: Wine Festival in Chianti

We decided last night that we would go out to another one of the hill towns today, but we hadn’t decided for sure which one.  So as we got ready this morning, we debated between San Gimignano and Chianti, both of which I’ve read amazing things about.  Since we only have a limited amount of time and can’t do it all on this trip, we weighed our options:  cool city… beautiful vineyards and wine; old buildings and architecture… beautiful vineyards and wine.  Ultimately, the beautiful vineyards and wine won out.  See ya next time, San Gimignano.

We left the apartment around 11:00 with no idea where in Chianti we were going.  We decided to just wing it – show up at the bus station and buy a ticket for the next destination in Chianti.  Lucky for us, that next bus just happened to be going to Panzano.

We got on the bus and waited for several minutes as the bus started to fill up, then became jam packed, then became uncomfortably-close-to-people-I-don’t-know crowded before the bus driver finally climbed aboard and started the engine.  The drive was a lot like yesterday – speedy, bumpy, swervy and a little bit nauseating.  But the scenery was wonderful.  We passed through open fields, small towns and rolling hills on the small two-laned road.

When we got off the bus in Panzano, we were ecstatic to find that that Vino al Vino wine festival was going on today!  All of the vintners in Panzano were gathered in the little piazza in the center of town with booths set up full of wines and olive oils for tasting.  (Good thing we missed that bus to Greve this morning or we wouldn’t have stumbled onto this gold mine!)

When we first walked into the piazza, the vintners weren’t all set up for the tasting just yet, so we walked outside of the center of town a little ways on a path that had us perched right over top of the rolling hills, dotted with terra cotta houses amidst the sprawling vineyards.

VineyardView

There was a strong, warm breeze barreling across the countryside and into our faces as we stood and took in the beautiful, rolling landscape all around us.

RKVineyardView

By the time we got back up to the piazza, the wine tasting was in full swing.  There were wooden booths set up all around the perimeter of the piazza with a small stone-walled pond in the center.

VinoAlVino

Just to one side of the pond there was a crazy sculpture over our heads of a man, arms spread as if he were flying, with a glass of delicious-looking red wine in his hand.

VinoAlVinoSculpture

We paid €10 each for two giant wine glasses, entitling us to all the wine and olive oil we could possibly ingest.  Game.  On.  But before we started in on the wine, we were distracted by the cheese stand, selling all sorts of cheeses made in Panzano.

VinoAlVinoCheeseStand

We got two big chunks of cheddar; one an aged, sharp cheddar and the other a softer, younger cheddar.  We paid €5 for the two giant chunks and walked away with our brown bag to start our wine tasting adventure.

VinoAlVinoCheese

After only a few glasses of wine, poor K got some wicked heartburn, so he spent most of the time eating cheese and olive oil and writing down notes.  I’m not a wine snob like he is, though, so my notes weren’t impressing him.  Most of them were something like, “It’s good.  Not too many floaters in this one.”  “What do you mean ‘what flavors’?  Grapes and alcohol.”  (So I have more of a palate for beer.  Sue me.)

KVinoAlVino

I did my best to power through and taste every wine at least once so we could make a good decision on which wines to buy.  (What a rough life I live…)

RVinoAlVino

We wandered around, enjoying the weather, wine and live music, talking to some of the vintners and browsing some of the local artists’ work on display.  There were some amazing grape/wine canvas paintings that I would have loved to have, but they were expensive and we’re still gone for so long I didn’t want to ship it home and have it sit on the porch for a week or two.  Maybe once we get home I’ll order one…

WineCanvasPainting

Paintings by: http://www.lucacarfagna.com/

We bought a couple of bottles of wine, and probably would have bought more except for the fact that we waited so long that when we finally got down to the wine shop, they were sold out of three of the five we wanted.  Boo.  I’m still in a bit of mourning over the fact that I missed out on a bottle of the light, smooth Sangiovese I fell in lust with.  We ended up with a Chianti Classico and a Toscana Roasato.  Yum, yum.  Two really good bottles of wine for less than €20 total.

I had one more glass of wine and then called it a day.  Clouds started rolling in and the festival was winding down, so when my glass was empty, we got on our way.

VinoAlVinoGlass

More bad news for my thunder thighs:  We had to buy our return bus tickets in a gelato shop.  There’s no way I was going into a gelato shop and not having some, so we bought our tickets and a double scoop of stracciatella (chocolate chip) and scarfed it down while we waited for the bus.

We got back to Florence around 7:00.  The bus station in Florence is right around the corner from the train station, so we decided to stop and buy our tickets for Rome to avoid a repeat of our Venice situation tomorrow.  With tickets in hand, we decided to take advantage of our location and the super long, very cheap happy hour at Joshua Tree Pub and go back for a few (too many) beers.

Saturated with beer and starving, we finally dragged ourselves from the bar around 11:00.  For dinner/mid-night snack, we ended up at McDonald’s.  We had to walk past the train station to get home, and K had a craving for Mickey Dee’s, so we stopped.  I chowed down on chicken nuggets and fries in hopes that it would soak up some of the alcohol, while K scarfed his double quarter pounder and fries.  We left feeling slightly disgusted with ourselves for eating McDonald’s – especially in Florence – but feeling better that we had something other than beer in our stomachs.

We left the station and wandered slowly home.  Thankfully K knew our way home since I was pretty tipsy and generally suck at reading maps.  After what seemed like five hours trudging on my tired feet, we arrived at our building.  Time to pack up now and get ready for bed.  Tomorrow we’re off to Rome!

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