After I posted Our Honeymoon : Part 1 I received a few questions about how I packed for such a long trip. Jeremy and I shared one large suitcase, each brought a carry-on, and backpacks (on sale for under $30). We knew we’d be hopping on a couple of trains so we didn’t want to have too many bags with us.
Anyway, back to where we left off…
DAY 4: CHIANTI
We woke up to the most beautiful sunrise out of our window that morning. The whole Chianti region is one of the most scenic places I’ve been in my life. I live in Tennessee where there are hills everywhere, but there’s something about the countryside of Italy. The hills are so grand and it’s green everywhere you look. For those of you that don’t know, Chianti is super famous for producing wine. I’m obsessed with wine. Like, I literally went through a phase in my early-twenties where I wanted to become a sommelier. All that to say, visiting a few wineries was important to me.
We started our day at Barone Ricasoli. It’s the oldest winery in Italy and the second oldest in the world. I’ve never been to a castle before so this was a fun place to start. They had beautiful gardens and the views were super expansive. We opted for a self-guided tour of the grounds here and made a reservation at their restaurant for lunch. I don’t usually drink much white wine and this may be the only glass of white wine I had one the whole trip, but it was SO GOOD. We had a little time in between lunch and our next activity, but I have a little backstory here.
My dad’s side of the family is Italian and I grew up eating spaghetti all the time. My great grandmother and three great aunts, in their eighties and nineties, all lived in one house together in a small Italian community in Louisiana. We would drive 45 minutes to Independence to eat with them after church almost every single Sunday and have “gravy” (AKA pasta sauce). Since we spent so much time with them, I always felt really connected to our Italian heritage. As soon as we booked the trip, I immediately looked for cooking classes. Part of my dream of visiting Italy was going to a cooking class and making pasta where it originated.
If you are going to Tuscany and looking for somewhere to take a cooking class, I highly recommend Villa Bordoni. I know this sounds cheesy, but at one point Jeremy looked at me and asked if I was okay because I had tears in my eyes. It just felt so surreal to be across the world in a place I’ve always wanted to go, doing something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and having the most fun. Villa Bordoni is also a hotel. This time we stayed a bit closer to the vineyards we were visiting, but next time we’ll definitely stay there.
The instructor was the chef and owner there. He was a great teacher and we learned a lot about how Italian food is so different in Italy than in the U.S. There were three other couples in our class – two of them were on their honeymoon and the third couple was from Tennessee, too! We cooked our dinner over the next several hours. We made homemade pasta with Amatriciana, a peposo veal stew dish, and tiramisu for dessert. We got to take copies of the recipes home with us and I ordered a few things on Amazon so I can make the same pasta at home. (The pasta cutter, scale, flours, and roller are all linked.) One of my favorite foods in the world is veal and it’s something I’ve only attempted to cook a few times so learning how to make it in a new way was really exciting! At the end of the class, the chef asked if we’d like to eat together or in couples. We immediately pushed the smaller tables together to create one huge table, enjoyed the meal we prepared as a group, drank way too many bottles of wine, and stayed there until after midnight talking about our Italian vacations. I can honestly say that was one of the best nights of my entire life. I truly hope that if you go to Italy that you’ll go to Villa Bordoni and have even half the experience we had there.
DAY 5: CHIANTI
And now it was time to drink allll the wine. We started our last full day in Chianti at Castello di Ama. If you love contemporary art, this winery should be at the top of your list. Jeremy and I both liked Castello di Ama, but most of the tour there is about their art exhibitions. They add a new piece to their collection almost every year and it really was interesting. After an hour a half of learning about their art, we finally got to drink some wines.
Our next stop was a quick one. I was dying to go to Antinori. We didn’t book a tour here due to time constraints, but I’m so glad we saw the place. The winery is super modern and the staircase alone was worth a visit. Antinori is known for being a high-end wine producer for the region and we popped into the gift shop to do a wine tasting there. If you aren’t planning on spending time in Chianti, but are going to Florence, this would be a great winery to add to your itinerary. It’s right outside of the city and super accessible from the city.
Driving in Italy seemed pretty straightforward. However, we made a major wrong turn on the way to our next and final tasting. I called the phone number on our confirmation email apologizing and asking if we could still come because we would be 20 minutes late. They acted like it was no big deal, which we were so confused by since most wineries were extremely strict about arriving on time.
Whenever I booked Ruffino, just like the others, I assumed it would be another group experience. We walked into the estate asking where to go and a man named Alessandro came out to introduce himself as our guide. He casually asked if we’d like any coffee (I never turn down coffee). A couple minutes later Alessandro returned holding a beautiful tray of espressos and invited us to have a seat on the front porch of the Poggio Estate. Jeremy and I were both looking at each other waiting for the other person to say something. We finally asked, “where is the rest of our group? Are we missing a lot? Where will we catch up with them?” Alessandro looked at us like were lost and explained that Ruffino does things a little bit differently and prefers private tours. Jeremy straight up asked me when he wasn’t looking if I told them we were there to pick out a barrel because our tour was so private and exclusive.
We started in the vineyards to learn about the wine making process. He explained where which grape varietals were grown and why. Next, we toured the grounds, saw the production room, and went underground into the cellars. While we were in the cellars, we had the opportunity to taste wine straight out of the barrel. Last, Alessandro asked us to take some time exploring the gardens while he prepared our tasting. We had an extensive spread of meats, cheeses, and breads. There were four different wines and an olive oil as a part of the tasting. We loved their Brunello so much that we shipped a case back to our house to drink for special occasions!
After wrapping up our tasting, we headed to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. Chef’s Table is one of my favorite TV shows on Netflix and when I was planning dinner reservations for the trip, I thought I might find a restaurant in Rome or Florence to visit. Come to find out, we were staying just a couple of minutes away from Dario Cecchini’s place in Panzano. If you haven’t seen his episode of Chef’s Table, I highly recommend it – especially if you are a major carnivore. It’s basically an entire meal of meat at Officina della Bistecca and it’s incredible. We tried so many different cuts of steak – even some sort of raw ground beef dish! Everyone is seated at one long dining table and food is served family-style. Jeremy made friends with the Swedish and Brazilian couples sitting next to us. They all spoke English fairly well and we got to have really wonderful conversations about our cultures. As is turns out, we were all staying at the same hotel nearby. We drank lots of Chianti wine (a common theme here) and finished the meal with olive oil cake and grappa. After dinner, we packed up at the hotel because we had an early start planned the next morning. It was time to head to Rome!
STAY TUNED FOR PART 3…