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, January 26, 2015

Lets have a glass of Tuscan wine!

The famous Chianti fiasco wine cart in Rufina
Italy boasts a wealth of local vine varieties, among the most numerous in the world, which characterize so many different wines.

International vine varieties- like Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, etc, have been introduced recently in the last 40 years. For example, on the Tuscan coast near Bolgheri, the most popular wine is made of this type. I am talking about Sassicaia, which did not fall in any disciplinary category, and was thus called a Super Tuscan.
In the vineyard

In recent years Chianti also admits a small percentage of international varietals in its blend.

Let's see the wines that characterize Tuscany. The Prince of the land is the Sangiovese, with two clones:
Sangiovese big: Brunello, Blackthorn kind
Sangiovese big: Lamole
Sangiovese small: Morellino
Traditionally from a tannic wine to mitigate its acidity, Sangiovese was cut with Canaiolo, Black, Bashful etc. Today, it is often blended with Merlot.

The Region of Tuscany boasts 11 DOCG and 36 DOC.

The DOCG are: Brunello, Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti and Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Morellino di Scansano, Suvereto, Cornia Valley Red, Elba Aleatico Passito, Montecucco Sangiovese, Carmignano.

Frassina winery, Brunello!
The DOC: Montecarlo (famous for white), Cortona (famous for Syrah), White Pitigliano (known for kosher wines), Montescudaio (very mineral based wines) and many many more other wines...

Among the historical curiosities which I would like to mention is the case of Carmignano, a fantastic red made a few miles west of Florence, in an area populated originally by the Etruscans. Since the 17th century Carmignano produces a blend of Sangiovese with French varietals Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon!

Even, Montecarlo,  near Lucca,  produces a great DOC white (beside the red) and since the 19th century admits international varieties, like Sauvignon, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon that have been used in their blends.

In the area South of Siena well-known wines are to be found: Brunello and Nobile di Montepulciano.

Brunello di Montalcino - One of the first great Italian reds in Italy. In 1966, Brunello took the certification DOC and then in 1980 DOCG.
100% Sangiovese from which derives the name Brunello, for its intense color dark, (other synonyms: san giovese big, blackthorn). This full bodied wine refines two years in oak barrels and then three years in the bottle.
Ancient estate: Biondi Santi, Production leader: Banfi.

Frassino winery in Montalcino

Rosso di Montalcino - is more fine and fruity and similar to Pinot Noir from Burgundy.

Nobile di Montepulciano - is made from Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) for a minimum of 70% and a maximum 20% of Canaiolo. It ages two years in the barrel. The reserve is made only in the best years. This is a wine known since the Renaissance for its elegance, and was loved by Popes and sung by the poet Poliziano. For this reason the name "noble" and also probably because it was produced by noble families.
Brunello anyone?

Chianti - In the hilly area between Florence and Siena wine has been produced since ancient times.
There are two DOCG: Chianti Classico (the historic area of production) and the Chianti.
Summarizing, we can say that Lamole represents Burgundy of Italy (the most important French red) and Radda in Chianti the cru (land more suited) of Chianti Classico.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano Docg - One of the first whites to be given the Docg rating. Found only around the town of San Gimignano. For Vernaccia, other cultivars are not admitted.  

Vin Santo - It is a blend of grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia, St. Columban and Grechetto. It is a raisin wine, traditionally used at the celebration of the Mass and was aged seven years in the olden days. Now only eleven months. It reminds me of sherry. Today Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice is also produced with Sangiovese grape. A great Vin Santo comes from Montepulciano.

Elba Aleatico Passito - sweet and aromatic.

Morellino di Scansano - 85% Sangiovese. This wine has recently become more and more popular. It is a wine to be drunk young and it not suitable for aging, as it can be a bit acid.

Montecucco Sangiovese - This is an interesting wine. A smooth wine of high quality. 

Val di Cornia - This is a young wine area. Emblematic and beautiful the winery of Petra designed by Mario Botta

Suvereto - The most interesting wines of the Val di Cornia come from this area.

Historic Cusona winery near San Gimignano

There are so many other wines to learn about, taste, and enjoy!

Contact us and we will happily help you arrange your own winery experience- whether a one day tour or a week long adventure!

Post by Angelica
Photos by Elizabeth

Monday, January 5, 2015


Andrea Mantegna, Adoration of the Magi, 1462, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery
The 6th of January is another holiday in Italy.

The Epiphany.
Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery

This day is the celebration of the Son of God, seen in Jesus Christ.The Epiphany is represented traditionally by the Magi (The Three Kings) who came to honor and give gifts to Baby Jesus.

Filippino Lippi, Adoration of the Magi, 1496, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery
(This altarpiece was placed in the church of San Donato a Scopeto in substitution of Leonardo da Vinci’s work of the same name, which never got completed (see below)!)

Before the advent of “Babbo Natale” in Italy, this day was also the traditional gift exchange day. The good witch “Befana” arrives in the night on the eve of the 6th, giving a stocking full of goodies to the good children (and a little bit of coal to those who are not). We have written about the Befana before here.

Lorenzo Monaco, Adoration of the Magi, 1420–1422, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery
The Adoration of the Magi is a subject especially loved by Renaissance Merchants, Bankers and Artists.  The subject matter is the Birth of Jesus. The three Magi visit Jesus after following a star in the sky. They bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew writes about it in the Bible (2.11). The Adoration of the Magi was a great excuse for artists to show off their technical skill-depicting a complicated scene with a long procession of people and animals, wearing exquisite clothing. Artists loved to include exotic animals such as monkeys, leopards and lynx. It was also a great excuse for rich merchants to include themselves in the paintings- to flaunt and show off a bit too, since they often felt they were like real kings!

Sandro Botticelli, Adoration of the Magi, c. 1475–1476, Tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery
Members of the Great Medici Family and Botticelli are included in this painting!

Elaborate clothing Detail of Gentile da Fabriano's Kings

So were there really three kings and where did they come from?

The original Greek calls them magi, the source of the word Magician. In fact these men originally were more like astrologers and came from the Persian court. There is no direct evidence that they were Kings and that there were only three, although from Medieval times the legend was spun as such.

Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, 1481, Oil on wood, Uffizi Gallery
(Never finished, Notice the new triangular composition)

(At the moment, January 2015, not on display in Gallery, under restoration) 

Their legendary names are Balthasar, Melchior, and Caspar, and they came from the three known continents of the time- Asia, Africa and Europe. This is the reason one king is often shown dark skinned.  The gifts they present are of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (the latter herb was used to anoint Jesus’ dead body for burial).

Albrecht Dürer, Adoration of the Magi, 1504, Oil on wood, Uffizi Gallery
Join us for a tour of the magnificent Uffizi gallery and you can personally see these fantastic paintings depicting the Adoration of the Magi.

In today’s post I show seven paintings that can be found in the galleries. Be on the lookout, though, when going to the gallery, there are more!!

- Post by Elizabeth, Images Internet

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Renaissance of Bilbao

The River and the Guggenheim Museum

This week our meanderings take us a bit farther afield. Angelica recently had the chance to visit Bilbao!
Bilbao, in the Spanish Basque country, was such a charming surprise for me...! Bilbao was able to rejuvenate itself, after the crisis of the steel industry. Half of the city, along the river, was almost totally abandoned in the 80's for decades. Instead, it is now a vibrant, thriving, modern city! Things are certainly different nowadays.

The spider
The Bridge and the Museum

The Flower Dog 

As soon as I got my high school diploma, in the early 90's, my family rewarded me with a one month trip to Spain. From Florence, with two friends, we drove through France, reached Pamplona and crossed over to Bilbao. At the time I remember the place had a strange feeling. So much so, we decided not stop. It looked so sad at that time...

Jeff Koons Flowers

Inside the Museum

Inside the Museum

Inside the Museum

Well things have certainly changed. Thanks to a Country Walkers guide meeting this year, I had the opportunity to go back to this town after so many years... and see one of the biggest urban changes of  a city in my life and probably of my generation. Conceptually speaking, it was amazing to see the reconstruction a long forgotten area of the city, which integrated itself so well with the old town. It must have been the same feeling the previous generations had when assisting in the 19th century construction areas outside of the medieval cities!

I can call Bilbao "a successful contemporary Renaissance", made by international archistars. The re-birth of the old city is redesigned and integrated with the ancient city and its river - through shape and choice of material (titanium) - the Museum of Guggenheim created by the architect Ghery; the bridge and Calatravas' airport ; ancient buildings reinterpreted by Philippe Starck. All of these places have become the major attractions of the town!
A public building restored by Philippe Starck

Inside the public building. The roof is the bottom of a swimming pool

The pillars. Philippe Starck

Bilbao, can be taken as a milestone. "Rebirth" is possible nowadays if visionaries have the possibility to create. Moreover, a city can be given a re-birth. Humans, if they can, express themselves at the time they are living, their historical time, they participate in creating a little piece of cosmic beauty...

This is my personal concept of Bilbao!!

- Post by Angelica

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8th- FESTA

Piero di Cosimo, Immacolata Concezione con i Santi

Just a quick post today, as the 8th of December is a Holiday in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It has been a bank-holiday weekend, Italian style, so that means many long meals with friends!

Luca Signorelli, Immacolata Concezione

This day celebrates the solemn belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

In other words, this is the condition of the Virgin Mary. She was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb by her mother Saint Anne. Artists from centuries ago LOVED to paint this scene. Look for it the next time you are in a museum or in a religious space.

- Post by Elizabeth, photos garnered on internet