If it’s your first trip to Tuscany – or even if you have been before – there is this pulsating feeling that comes with being there, it lets you know you’re in a very special place, a place that you’ll never, ever forget, and it takes hold almost immediately. With each passing moment, each view from the car, or glance out the window of your room, that feeling soaks in, deeper and deeper until it fills your heart and mind with dreams of the past, present and future. To be clear, these are some of the best dreams you’ve ever had; which speaks to the future part – you’ve only just arrived here, and yet you’re already planning your return.
From the standpoint of wine enjoyment, the wines of Tuscany (and there are many, it’s not just Chianti and Brunello) are among some of the easiest and the hardest to understand. Gentle, inviting and fully approachable whites are very easy to learn -it’s all right there in front of you – some lemons, minerals, a touch of soil, perhaps some round orchard or stone fruits, and there you have it. On the other hand, tasting a newly released Brunello di Montalcino from a very good vintage, side-by-side with one from say 1975 or 1983 – is a lesson not only in contrasts, it’s a lesson in what is possible, and that’s a lesson that really tugs at the mind, one that really stays with a person – they simply must know more about such things!
Tuscany has seen a lot of change recently (i.e. past 40 years), a lot of progress. That said, I feel it’s only just beginning – this region(e) is one of the most diverse, aesthetically rewarding and culturally developed that I’ve ever been to; certainly in the top five of my life, but these things can be very personal preferences, I understand.
There are too many (great) things to do in Tuscany. And for that reason, most people that have 7 or 10 days of holiday here plan this and that and everything in between. My advice is to travel to one spot, stay there, and take the occasional side trip, or two, if you’re so inclined. You can’t see all of Tuscany in one trip, just like you can’t see all of Italy in one trip, so please, don’t even try. The rewards that come with living in an area/town/village far outweigh the benefits of picking up and moving every 24-48 hours.
In Tuscany, some of my favorite things to do/places to see (with the very little time I ever have for any tourism, maybe 2 days in a month, never more) are: Lucca, Montalcino, Greve, Panzano, Maremma, Bolgheri and just about all the places in between; maybe especially those places, as that’s how one comes to truly understand the raw beauty that rests upon centuries of important and colorful history.
Notice I didn’t include Florence, or Siena; as I’ve might have already said, or suggested, I’m really not into tourism, I’m not one for tour buses, long lines, crowds, or selfies.
One day, I think it was a Saturday, with nothing planned, I hopped in the car and decided to take a drive. I set out from the Colle di Val d’Elsa, where I was based, and headed west, that’s it, just west; I had no real idea where I was going or what I was going to do once I got there. As I drove west, the land/topography profoundly transformed yet again until I found that I’d come upon Volterra. It’s something I can’t adequately describe, so I’ll leave it to the poets. Let’s just say the whole experience (and I ended up going to Bibbona and Bolgheri that day, as well) was like taking your first breath, and becoming…alive. What a feeling!
(header photo: taken while driving from one appointment to another, in the heart of Chianti Classico)