Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chianti...it's not just a wine! Tuscany, here we come! Thursday, June 20th

Today we are docking back in Livorno where many people go to Florence and Pisa. Since we did our whirlwind in Florence on Tuesday and stopped in Pisa yesterday, we decided to do a tour of the Chianti Region today!

We met our driver from Joe Banana Limo’s at 8 am, and off we went! Our tour is to include a winery, but we did make sure to let them know in advance that we didn’t want the day to focus on wine tasting since we have two kids with us. Our driver, Stephan, didn’t follow the tour’s exact description on the website to the letter, but the day we had was absolutely perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day in Tuscany! 

Stephan was fairly quiet as far as drivers we had went. But when he had something to say, it was interesting and when we had any questions, he shared what he knew. We drove for about an hour and Stephan told us a little about the area and what we’d be seeing during the day.

Our first stop was at some sort of castle type place with a small church. We got out for a picture stop. I don’t have the name written down and I can't figure out what it is. The tour itinerary says we'd be stopping at the Verazzano Castle, but I just don't know that this is where we stopped.

It was a hazy day, but the view was just amazing!

Next we drove to the Medieval town of Montefioralle. This is one of the best preserved Medieval villages. It was once a walled castle that evolved over time as houses were built around the wall. There is a ring of homes built on narrow cobblestone streets. It was one of the most picturesque places one can imagine!

Amerigo Vespucci lived here!

Next we went to the town of Greve.

There were many shops here including Falorni, which is the most famous shop, a butcher shop which has been in the square for more than 500 years! Keith was most impressed here and got some prosciutto and cheese! It was quite interesting to see all of the meat hanging from the ceiling – some still had tails and hooves on them!

There is also a monument here to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano.

We wandered around for quite some time, shopping and just relaxing a bit.

Our next stop would be a fantastic winery, Fattoria di Monttechio! This was by far one of the highlights of our entire trip. Actually this whole day was a highlight…

But we pulled up to a gorgeous, well I suppose the word might be estate?

We first had a tour of the grounds of the winery. The views were just amazing. If I could spend the rest of my life somewhere, it would be right there. The guide who was taking us through the grounds and then the winery had some issues with translating her tour to English, but we all got the idea of what she was trying to tell us. 

These are the hives for the bees in their honey farm.

Look at all of the grapes!  Now this is a vineyard!

After touring the grounds, where we not only saw the acres and acres of the grape vines, but also that they have olive trees and some bee hives for their honey production and olive oil production as well….we went inside to see the process used in making the wine. It was quite a facility! We saw the old oak barrels, the fermentation tanks, the bottling machines. You name it!

Then it was time for what we were told would be a light lunch. At this time we were the only people there. A group was leaving when we arrived, and when we were leaving another group was arriving. 

The table was set for us and we started with one of their Chianti wines.

We had bruschetta, bread with olive oil, and white beans served with the Chianti Classic first. Next we had two different Peccorino cheeses with honey served with the Chianti Reserve. After that we had Salami and Mortadela with a special blend sort of like Merlot. The salami was amazing. Why is it that everything is so much fresher in Italy? Next us we had Keith’s favorite, prosciutto and more cheese, with a Cabernet blend. I will tell you that by the time we were done, this was not a light lunch! There was no main course, but the food kept coming – meats, cheeses, breads. 

Oh, then we had biscotti dipped in some type of strong liquor…it was amazing! The wine seemed to flow freely along with the food. If we finished a plate or a bottle, they just opened another or brought more food!

Now, when I think of a wine tasting here in the US, I think of a few sips of each type of wine. This was bottles of wine! Of each type of wine! Sure they were going to pour FULL glasses for the kids too – WOAAA hold that! I let them have sips, but we have a long ride back and we don’t need anyone getting sick in the van! So, essentially for four of us drinking the wine, I believe we were given 6 bottles of wine in our tasting? Plus a glass or two each of the dessert wine? Good grief – let me tell you, the ride to our next stop was a sleepy one. 

I found a new appreciation for Chianti though! It was nothing like any Chianti wine I’d ever had here in the US – hence the shipping 6 bottles home! The person who was running the tasting was so personable. We spent some time chatting with her. She lives there at the winery and was just a lovely person.

But guess what, our day wasn't over yet!  Nope, we still had another stop!

Ok…so, we’re in the van heading to our next destination and yes, some of the group may have had too much to drink. I can’t imagine how that could have happened! I could have done with maybe a glass or two less. But I knew once I got out of the van I’d be ok. But Keith, he really had too much and lucky for him, he is one who doesn’t have the experience of hangovers! But we had to watch him pretty carefully at our next stop. Honestly we almost lost him when he went to look for the public WC's in the Village! But overall the winery was a great time with lots of laughs and great conversation!

Next we stopped in San Gimignano. This wasn’t on the proposed itinerary on the website, so this was a super pleasant surprise! We loved it here! Well, those of us that didn't sleep through the visit! 

Yes, he slept through the visit here...after we almost lost him in the WC's! Too much wine...actually when we told him we had to leave and he looked at us like we were crazy, a woman next to us, laughed and just said "did you just come from a wine tour?" Guess it happens fairly often here in Tuscany!

We were told by Stephan, our driver, that they have the “Best Gelato in Italy” and to be sure to get some! We walked around for some time. Browsed, took pictures. This was another great Medieval town! And found the sign on the shop- “the Best Gelato in Italy”! So, we got some, and yes, it was pretty darn good! I had mango and chocolate. 

We loved all of the colorful pastas in the shops all around Italy!

After our time here, we met back at the van and headed back to the ship. I was so glad to have planned the trip this way. I felt like we really got to see the best of it all. By stopping in Florence on the way back from Venice, we got to take that in and we were able to stop at Pisa on the way to the ship. And we all absolutely loved our day in Chianti. It was a super relaxing tour day where we got to see the Italian countryside. We really got to enjoy one another’s company today.


  1. Hi Shelley,
    My wife and I just got back from a cruise on the Ruby Princess that stopped in Livorno. Like you we did a private tour and ended up at Fattoria di Monttechio. WOW!!!!! Was it Fantastic. We had the same "light lunch" and wine tasting that you had. The wine, the food, the scenery.....everything was wonderful!

  2. I agree, WOW!!! That was a day I will never forget. It was one of our favorite days of our trip. Thanks for sharing your experience and reading along!

  3. Hi, Shell. Followed you over from cruise critic. You have an amazing blog which I'm using as a planning guide for my family's trip next summer. Do you recall how much the tour with Joe Banana cost? Thank you

  4. Hi! Thank you so much, glad you followed me over from cruise critic! The tour with Joe Banana in Chianti was 500 Euro for the 6 of us. We had to pay extra for the food at the wine tasting, and to be honest, I have no idea what that cost at this point. It was very reasonable though for the amount of food and wine that we had! If you have any other questions - give me a shout!