Two women leaving soft footprints through city streets, country roads, and green mountain paths. Two friends with backgrounds in Fine Art Restoration and Art History who share an appreciation for simple pleasures and a passion for introducing others to Florence and beyond.

Angelica Turi - Tuscan, Licensed Environmental Guide. Elizabeth Namack - American, Licensed Tour Guide for Florence and Province

Come share the journey with us! Reflections and Wanderings through Tuscany and Italy!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Prestigious Tuscan Wine Cellars

The Etruscan origins of Tuscany celebrated wine in many different ways with the cult of Dionysus.

And wine can still be considered one of the most important resources in the region and in the country.

There have been some major investments in this sector in the last few decades, and we mean not just improvements to agricultural technology. Some interesting building commissions of very high-tech wineries, with world re-known architects, have been built. These can be considered modern day "temples", honoring the juice of Bacchus!

Here are some wineries you may want to consider visiting when crafting a winery excursion in Tuscany.
Full Day in Chianti   1hrs drive away rom Florence
In takes less than a 1hr drive south of Florence to reach the Chianti Hills, and all of the sudden you step into another world.
In a day, in this area you may choose to visit to one or two wine producers, including lunch at one of the quaint villages ( San Donato, Castellina, Panzano, Greve ), with a brief walk through the vineyards. Choices of wineries could be:
Castello di Fonterutoli in Castellina in Chianti
Cantina le Masse in Panzano
Antinori at Bargino
Tenuta di Coltibuono (Gaiole In Chianti)
Full Day in Montalcino or Montepulciano  2 hrs drive from Florence
In the Orcia Valley, a protected UNESCO site, you can see the most beautiful and unspoiled area of Tuscany.
The famous Brunello and the Vin Nobile di Montepulciano are produced in this territory. Choices of wineries could be:
Cantina di Montalcino (Montalcino)
Tenuta di Castelgiocondo (Montalcino)
Salcheto (Montepulciano)
Icario (Montepulciano)
Cantina Triacca (Montepulciano)

Full Day in Maremma 2 hrs drive away rom Florence
The wild west of Tuscany is now producing excellent wines.
Pieve Vecchia
Choices of wineries could be:
Pieve Vecchia (Campagnatico)
Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia (Magliano In Toscana)
Rocca di Frassinello
Rocca di Frassinello (Grosseto, built by the studio of the Arch. Renzo Piano)
Among the previous projects of Renzo Piano studios: the Nemo, (Science Museum) in Amsterdam; the NY Times Tower California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Airport of Kasai in Tokyo; Centre Pompidou in Paris, and so many more others

Le Mortelle (Castiglion della Pescaia)
Petra (Suvereto)
Rubbia al Colle (Suvereto)
Caiarossa (Riparbella)
Colle Massari (Cinigiano)

We know, it is hard to choose which winery to visit! So if you can't visit them all, at least begin by tasting a glass of wine from them all- that might help you decide where to eventually go!

- Post by Angelica, photos Internet

Monday, May 11, 2015

A day excursion between Siena and Florence- San Gimignano and the Via Francigena

The best way to enjoy Italy is by foot....  and we offer a Full Day Excursion into the Countryside between Florence and Siena- which includes walking a portion of the Via Francigena and visiting the Medieval town of towers, San Gimignano.

Enjoy some photos which I recently took and next time see it in real life. Yes... it really is too good to be true, especially on a sunny day!

In the morning enjoy a 5-6 mile, easy to moderate walk, which takes you through woodlands, wheat fields, olive groves and vineyards to the old Sienese fort of Monteriggioni. After lunch (with some great suggestions), a short car ride takes us to the Medieval town of San Gimignano, famous for its 13th century towers. Walk the ancient alleys, and gaze over the countryside from the 16th century Medici fort, now used as a public garden!

Bask in the late afternoon light, which turns the ancient travertine stones of this town a magical honey color. And to finish the day in style, we will try award wining gelato from Sergio Dondoli. This gelato,  if we dare say, is truly the best in Italy!

We start our walk at Castel Petraia, a fortified manor house at the foot of Monte Maggio, whose wooded slopes separate the valley of the river Elsa from Siena and its plain. It is an area of geological interest due to limestone with a preponderance of holes and bubbles, producing many deep natural caves. Here a peaceful walk loops around the foot of the mountain through Mediterranean shrub land, low lying macchia and fields of iron-rich red soil. 

We pass the Abbey a Isola, a 12th century monastic complex which was at one time home to Cluniac Benedictines and which became an important stop for pilgrims on the Via Francigena. It is hard to imagine that there was once a lake in this area!

Our walk continues through a field and into a wooded area, where remains from the ancient Etruscan civilization have been found. We walk through olive groves and by ancient farmhouses to arrive at the Castle of Monteriggioni.

This imposing circular fortresss was built by the Sienese to guard the border with Florence. Dante mentions it in his famed book The Divine Comedy. Time to soak in this quaint atmosphere, perhaps browsing the village shops or enjoy a cappuccino in the main square.

In San Gimignano, walk the hidden alley where the venerated Saint Fina once lived. Perhaps see the special frescoed chapel by Domenico Ghirlandaio dedicated to Fina, within the main Collegiate Church.

In the late afternoon, we return to Florence, with memories to last a lifetime!

Interested? Contact us for a specific quote depending on the number of people in your group!

- Post and Photos by Elizabeth

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sicily Anyone? Join A Taste of Sicily in September 2015

A TASTE OF SICILY- with Chef Gaetano
August 31 - September 9 2015
Private Small Group Tour 
(10 days - 9 nights) 

You think Tuscany charms? Wait till you visit Sicily...! A place for all the senses.

Day 1: Mon, Aug 31-  Taormina
Upon arrival to Catania Airport you are met by our local representative and transferred to your hotel in Taormina. The remainder of the day is at leisure. In the evening enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel and overnight. 

Day 2: Tue, Sep 1- Taormina
After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a morning tour of the historic center of Taormina and its famous public gardens. Visit the Greek Temple. Enjoy free time for lunch on your own, and retum to your hotel in the early afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Consider an optional afternoon boat ride. Overnight at your hotel in Taormina. E

Day 3: Wed, Sep 2 - Taormina - Piazza Armerina - Palermo
After breakfast at your hotel, depart Taormina for Palermo. En route, visit the Villa Romana Casale in Piazza Armerina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world. Continue to Palermo for an overnight stay. 

Day 4: Thu, Sep 3 - 
Palermo  - Marsala - Palermo
Breakfast at your hotel. Enjoy a morning walking tour of Palermo and
 visit to the Arab Market, enjoying the local street food with a glass of wine. In the afternoon, enjoy a special lunch along the coast of Trapani, and then visit a wine cellar in Marsala to sample its famous sweet wine. Return to your hotel in Palermo in the evening and overnight.

Day 5: Fri, Sep 4 - Palermo - Agrigento
After breakfast at your hotel, depart Palermo for Agrigento. Visit a local farmhouse for a demonstration of traditional Sicilian cooking, pasta making and olive oil production, and enjoy lunch of the prepared dishes. Continue to your hotel in Agrigento for an overnight stay.

Day 6: Sat, Sep 5 - 
Agrigento - Valley of the Temples
Breakfast at your hotel. Visit the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk around the temples of Juno, Concordia, Hercules and Jupiter and take part in a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum. Visit a Sicilian Baron and his family at their 18th-century home and sample their wines. Return to Agrigento for an overnight stay. 

Day 7: Sun, Sep 6 - Agrigento - Enna - Catania
After breakfast depart Agrigento for Catania. En route, stop in the town of Enna, known for its panoramic views as the "navel of Sicily". Participate in a cooking class with your chef at a local restaurant. Continue to Catania for an overnight stay.

Day 8: Mon, Sep 7 - 
Catania - Mt. Etna - Catania
After breakfast at your hotel, visit Catania including the cathedral. Witness the art of bartering for fresh fish and produce while you visit the local market, and enjoy some free time in Catania's elegant center. Then, depart for Mt. Etna, Visit a local winery for lunch and a tasting of wine and chocolate. Ascend by cable car to an elevation of 2500 meters, from where you have the option of continuing further by off-road vehicle. Return to Catania for an overnight stay.

Day 9: Tue, Sep 8.
 Catania  - Bronte - Catania
After breakfast at your hotel, visit the town of Bronte and Castello Nelson. Enjoy free time for lunch on your own. The countryside around Bronte is known for pistachio farming, and you will visit one of these farms to leam about the harvesting and production of this important agricultural product. Sample local confections made with pistachios. Return to to Catania in the late afternoon. In the evening, you are transferred to a local restaurant for a special farewell dinner.

Day 10: Wed, Sep 9 - Catania - Departure

After breakfast at your hotel, you are transferred at the appropriate time to Catania airport to board your return flight home.

Price Per person In a Double Room- US$ 4574
Single room supplement US$ 545 

Price Includes: Group arrival and departures, 9 nights accommodation at First Class Hotels, Meals as indicated in Itinerary, Ground Transportation by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach, Sightseeing as described in the itinerary, Entrance fees, Luggage handling, Hotel service charges and taxes.

Interested in more info? 
Please don’t hesitate to contact Elizabeth:
in collaboration with Silvestri Travel

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fitzgerarld - the Tuscan origins of an American Dynasty

Yesterday the mayor of the little village in Chianti, Barberino Val d 'Elsa,  met some heirs of the Florentine Gherardini family to honor their ancestor, Gherarduccio Gherardini, who is buried in the church of San Appiano since 1331.

Gherarduccio and his brother Vanni, were military soldiers and defended their estate, the village of Linari, from the invasion of the king of England, Henry VII. They also dealt in trade and finances.

Some members of the family (belonging to the Guelph white party) Tommaso, Maurizio and Gherardo were exiled in 1190, along with Dante Alighieri, from the city of Florence. They made their way to Ireland, where they settled and took part to the military campaign led by William the Conqueror for the possession of England. Some members of the family had high political positions, and were Viceroys of Ireland.  From that moment on they changed their name into Fitzgerald, which means in Gaelic the children of Gherardo. A family branch emigrated to the United States in 1700 and originated one of the most powerful American families, the Kennedy.

It is curious that a distant ancestor of the family, Ottorigo Gherardini, in 1304, had a similar destiny to that of John Kennedy. He was killed by a crossbow hit in Piazza Signoria in Firenze. You can visit his tomb in the church of Santo Stefano al Ponte, close to Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Another ancient member of the family was Cece Gherardini. He, instead, participated in the battle of Montaperti against Siena, as captain of Florence. He lost his life in the battle of 1260 and now rests in Val d'Elsa.

So there you have it, who would have thought??

- Post by Angelica, Photo from the internet