Wine & Cooking in the Heart of Chianti and Florence, Tuscany

Dec 1, 2018
4,225   |    |    Our Vacations

This video only touches the surface of what our Chianti Vacation weeks are like. How do you pack a week’s worth of a wonderful vacation into a 5-minute video? Not easy. So, while you see lots of beautiful scenery and gorgeous landscapes and vineyards, cathedrals and wonderful food and wine... Believe it or not... There’s so much more!

What you say?

Well, for starters, we stay in an incredible, completely renovated renaissance palace whose origins date back to the 13th century. Over the years, it was home to elite Tuscan families as well as being frequented by dukes and other nobility of the day.

Our guests are the nobility this week as we are treated to fine foods, wines, beautiful scenery, wonderful outings and good company. This all starts right away as we arrive in the quaint Tuscan village of Radda in Chianti and our accommodations there, the Palazzo Leopoldo.

Soon after your arrival and we’ve all settled in, you will understand why we were so thrilled with the town, the hotel and staff, and, of course, the rooms themselves. Full of upgraded elegance and charm, along with modern conveniences, the common areas of the palazzo are gracefully appointed with beautiful furniture and art. There are also comfortable areas to sit and relax either indoors or outside on the spacious veranda overlooking the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. We take our breakfast out on this veranda as well. It’s a great way to start the day in such a peaceful and relaxing environment.

The hotel staff are kind and attentive. No detail is left undone and the staff is at your disposal, always happy to help.

Our traditional welcome dinner is now also at the hotel as they have opened a new restaurant in the past year in their newly renovated palazzo adjacent to the hotel. We’re also going to be having our cooking classes with our chef instructor, Simonetta, who also happens to be the head chef at the restaurant. She is such a delight and you will love our classes with her at the well-equipped and outfitted kitchen in the restaurant. We’re going to be shooting some new video to include Simonetta as she is not in the video you see here, as the footage was shot before Simonetta was part of the staff. In

The renovated palazzo also has a wellness center with all modern amenities. During some down time, the spa area is available to our guests. Other services such as massages or other body treatments are available by appointment. For more information and photos of the palazzo and the wellness area, please click on this link here.

We’ll get into the cooking classes later as our Chianti vacation week takes us beyond the kitchen and out to explore some amazing parts of Chianti and Tuscany.

But, since it is Chianti, we’ll start with the wine that made the area world-famous. In fact, after our first cooking class and lunch, we’ll meet later in the afternoon for a proper wine-tasting with a certified sommelier. He takes us step by step through the complexities and nuances that give these wines their distinct characteristics. He’ll go over some brief history of the wine and the grapes that are used, along with how the progression and refinements of the wine have transformed over the years.

Tvhe local grape that nearly all Tuscan wines are dominated by is the Sangiovese. Depending on which area of Tuscany you have your vines, the type of soil your vineyards are on, or which wine you are making, you are going to grow one or another of the numerous varieties of Sangiovese. If you are making the coveted Brunello wine, you will be growing the Sangiovese Grosso. This variety has a little bit thicker skin than other varieties. This is to protect the fruit inside and preserve the sweetness.

For Vino Nobile, you will grow the Prugnolo Gentile which tends to grow better in the terroir of Montepulciano. If you are making Chianti, you would typically use Sangiovese Piccolo, along with other red grapes to round out the flavor profiles of Chianti wines.

It’s not necessarily that one is superior over another, however it has more to do with which variety thrives in the diverse climates and soils of Tuscany and produces that maximum amount of tannins, sugars and acidity. You will learn how to differentiate these characteristics that make wine taste the way they do during our time with the sommelier.

You will also learn that the name Chianti, itself is synonymous with the area as well as the wines that are produced there. The town Radda in Chianti, where we are staying, was one of the original Chianti wine producing areas. Along with Gaiole and Castellina, it was here, in the 19th century, an Italian statesman, Baron Bettino Ricasoli, created the recipe for what we now know as Chianti wine. After the Chianti wine consortium was created to maintain the quality and control production of their wines, this original area became known as the Classico zone of the Chianti wine growing region.

Now that we’ve been adequately equipped with some local wine knowledge, it’s time to hit the road and discover Tuscany!

Our excursions into Tuscany this week include visits to a couple of the larger, more well known cities. One is the capital of the region, Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the most beautiful art in all of Italy. This includes Michelangelo’s David as well as the Uffizi Gallery. The town boasts such iconic structures as the Duomo, Giotto’s Tower, The Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace. Our time in Florence includes a guided foodie-walk through the small stands and eateries that are typically known only to the locals. We’ll also have a guided tour of the Academia Galleria to see the aforementioned, David. This is one of the most remarkable sculptures and pieces of art in all the world. You will also have time on your own to visit some of those other iconic places, including some time to shop!

We also visit the beautiful city of Siena. The birthplace of Catherine of Siena, she later would be canonized and is now, along with Francis of Assisi is one of the patron saints of Italy. Her tomb and gilded bust is inside the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena. Siena is also famous for its incredible Piazza del Campo. This shell-shaped and angled piazza is considered one of the most remarkable medieval piazzas in all of Europe. It is also home to the world-famous Palio horserace. The race is held twice a year and is an event that every citizen in the city is involved in. There is an incredible amount of civic pride with each contrade or neighborhoods compete against each other for more than bragging rites. The Palio is the lifeblood of the community and can be felt throughout the city.

Our other excursions include four family-run wineries. Through a lot of research, that means many glasses of wine to be sampled, we found some wonderful wines from local growers that do it out of passion and tradition, rather than for quantity and profitability.

We’ll be drinking a nice sampling of Tuscan wines from different parts of the region. We’ll have Chianti wines from Greve and Radda. These towns are in the heart of Chianti Classico zone and their vintages include reserves as well as other blends.

We’ll also be guests of our friend, Roberto and his family at their vineyard in Montalcino. He makes the full-bodied and artisanal, Brunello wine. This is one of the premier wines in all of Italy as well as around the world. We will have a unique opportunity to be treated to lunch in their vineyard while sampling their amazing and complex wines.

We also will be guests of another friend of ours, Enrico, and his family at one of the most beautiful wine cellars in the world, Cantina dei Ricci. Home to another incredible Tuscan wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, this winery dates to the medieval period and has quite a storied history. We’ll be wined and dined in their private tasting room for a truly unique and exclusive experience.

Without giving too much away, our visit to the Chianti wineries present their own unique experiences as well.

At the winery in Radda, we’ll have lunch on the grounds of their vineyard, or inside the wine cellar and enjoy their medal-winning wines. Some are light and ready to drink, while others are rich and complex and suitable for aging. The scenery is tremendous and our hosts are gracious, warm and welcoming.

At the winery of our friend, Simone and his family, we’ll be hosted to a family dinner and barbecue party on the grounds of their vineyard. We’ll help out with making the Tuscan bread, Schiacciata, and be treated to delicious home-made appetizers, including cheeses and salumi. And then... the best steaks in Italy – the Bistecca Fiorentina – this is the local version of a thick porterhouse that comes exclusively from Chianina cows. Served rare to medium rare. Don’t even ask for well done! The locals will have... A Cow!!!

Our other excursions include a stop in the beautiful town of Pienza. This medieval town has been the backdrop for many films due to its incredibly restored architecture and classic Italian feel. It also has gorgeous panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside. It also happens to be the pecorino cheese capital of Tuscany. We’ll stop at our favorite shop there and have a private tasting of the different aged cheese. You will also have time to explore the town to stroll, shop and, no doubt, take lots of photos! We’ll meet up for some artisan gelato before we head on to the winery in Montepulciano.

If you were wondering what the pictures of the goats are in the video, we can tell you that it is one of our great visits during the week! On the outskirts of Radda is a beautiful property nestled amongst the oak trees that is home to a cashmere goat farm. Our friend, Nora, has an incredible story that she will share with us. She is known throughout the world for producing some of the finest cashmere anywhere! You will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentile and charismatic goats. During the spring, the kids are born and our guests can bottle feed these little cuties! Truly an unforgettable experience.

While we touch on some of the many highlights of the week, there is so much more that happens in-between that gives us a full and memorable experience. We haven’t even touched on the cooking classes that are interspersed throughout the week. These are the moments that really bonds our groups as there is so much interaction between everyone. This is where everyone gets to know everyone else in a casual and fun setting. We’ll drink wine, play music, sing and dance while we learn to cook some authentic and traditional Italian meals. Our recipes are selected as they are mostly regional dishes as well as being accessible enough for our guests to take what they’ve learned and make these recipes back at home for their family and friends.

Our cooking classes this week are more diverse than some of our other destinations.

We already mentioned the Schiacciata we’ll be making with Simone in Greve, to have with our Bistecca Fiorentina. But we’ll also have two classes with Simonetta. She is the head chef at the hotel. She will be teaching us how to make some of her favorite dishes. It is a very unique opportunity for all of us to be able to experience what cooking in a professional kitchen is like.

Another one of our classes is more about home-style, Tuscan cooking as we venture off to the town of Cortona. Cortona is the cute village that was featured in the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. We take it a step further and cook a fabulous lunch with a local family at their villa just outside the city center. Another wonderful experience with a family that has roots here for generations. Much of what we are making is truly farm to table as they grow many of their own vegetables and herbs.

Just to recap...

We’ll have some of the best wines Italy has to offer... We’ll have some amazing dining experiences, including our own cooking classes where the food is just as good as it can be. We’ll be going on incredible excursions, oftentimes having private access to places where most tourists could only dream about.

If this description doesn’t make you dream of Tuscany, how about the video? We’d love to see you here! Living the Tuscan dream.

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