Category Archives: Wine & Food Travel Italy

Ultimate Tuscany: Top 10 Wineries

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Filippo Bartolotta give us his insight into his top 10 Tuscan Wineries.

Tuscany is in the heart of Italy and is the epitome of perfect wine country.
The gentle rolling hills are planted with hectars of vineyards, as you drive through the region you pass medieval castles, wild forests, pilgrim trails and ruins of ancient churches. On the coast streets lined with 400 year old cyprus trees lead you to medieval hamlets.

In Tuscany wine making is an age-old tradition and the wineries are mainly family run with passion for their history and tradition blending in with a new generation of innovation and ingenuity.

First on Filippo’s list of top 10 Tuscan Wineries to visit is Antinori Chianti Classico.

Just 20 kilometers from Florence is the newest addition to the Antinori Brand.  Opened in 2012 after 7 years of construction, built out of all locally sourced material, the winery is state of the art.  It is a working winery which also hosts a wine museum, book shop, art collection and wine bar with tasting rooms.

Next on his list is Castello di Ama the hamlet and it’s vineyards and olive groves and 12th century castle have been lovingly restored and renovated by Lorenza Sebasi and Marco Pallanti.  The owners of Castello di Ama ‘the castle of love’ who are passionate not only about wine and extra virgin olive oil, but also contemprary art. Since 1990 they have been commissioning artists to create personal artworks for Castello di Ama, with permanent contemporary art installations by Anish Kapoor, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Kendell Geers, Daniel Buren and many  more.

Next up is Castello di Nipozzano, the most celebrated and historic property of the Frescobaldi family.  The wine estate dates back to 1855 when the cultivation of varieties previously unknown to Tuscany such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlo and Cabernet Franc were planted.  Nipozzano is the real thing: a true working farm, and a big one at that with more than 600ha, including olive trees and an on-site olive press. Chianina and Angus cows can be seen roaming free in the fields.

Cappezzana is next on Filippo’s list – just a few miles from Florence towards Prato.  Capezzana is one of the oldest wine estates in Tuscany producing wine in Carmignano since 804 A.D. Since 1920 the estate has been run by the Contini Bonacossi family.  The newest addition being the wine bar ‘La Vinsantaia’ where guests can enjoy informal wine tasting as well as food.  In summer you can see Florence’s Duomo from the tasting terrace!

In 2011 Salcheto became the first self sufficient winery in Europe.  Most of it’s energy comes from renewable sources and recycled winery materials.  Salcheto is also a certified organic winery. Their motto is Salcheto is… Sangiovese, Quality and Sustainability.  Overlooking the own of Montepulciano it is one of Tuscany’s most beautiful wineries.

Tours include an insight into the incredible technology in place and a tasting is likely to make you a firm believer in both high-tech and green principles.

Badia a Coltibuono is an old montestary from the 11th century in perfect condition.  The old crypt where the monks once had their cellar is now where the Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico is aged in big oak casks.  With guided tours of the abbey, which include the Italian style garden, the frescoed hall, the ageing cellars, and wine tastings their organic wines a visit to Badia a Coltibuono is guaranteed to be a pleasurable one.

Sassicaia – Tenuta San Guido

Tenuta San Guido is located on the Tuscan coast in the area of Maremma.  It was here that Italy’s first vine cuttings of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta in 1944.  He originally intended to make wine only for his own personal use.  The first vintage to be commercialised was the 1968 vintage.  Sassicaia is the first Super Tuscan wine and has it’s own appellation, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC which started with the 1994 vintage.

Livernano and Casalvento

Bob and Gudrun Cuillo run the Livernano and Casalvento estates with passion and

In 1997 Bob Cuillo (a serial entrepreneur born in the Bronx, New York has a knack of turning everything he touches to gold) bought Casalvento a property in the heart of Chianti Classico and soon afterwards the neighbouring estate of Livernano which he and his wife Gudrun lovingly  restored  along with the Liverano village turning it into a country resort with restaurant.  Along with award winning wines they also produce olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Biondi Santi – Tenuta il Greppo

Tenuta Greppo, is nestled in the hillside of Montalcino in Val D’Orcia, the estate is more than a century old and being run by the fifth generation of the Biondi Santi family. The first Brunello di Montalcino was bottled here in 1888.  Visiting this estate is like taking a step into Brunello history, where a cellar tour will include seeing the barrel used to store the world’s first Brunello.

Castiglion del Bosco

The hamlet of Castiglione del Bosco was built in 1100 in the heart of the Orcia Valley, which in 1972 became a UNESCO World Heitage site. Castiglion del Bosco is one of the founding members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and organisation created as a voluntary association of producers who regulate and control the quality of Brunello production, it is also among the first Italian wines to be granted DOC and DOCG status. A new cellar was built in 2004 with a capacity of 3,000 hectolitres. Castiglion del Bosco also boasts a beautiful 18 hole golf course designed by the legendary winner of the British Open, Tom Weiskopf

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Visit the enchanting Amalfi Coast

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The Amalfi Coast is a situated on the west coast of Italy, south of Naples.  The Amalfi Coast road winds it’s way from Sorrento to the village of Amalfi via a 50 kilometer stretch of road which curves and weaves it’s way along the coast hugging the cliff face.  Passing through quaint seaside villages with breathtaking views. It is Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline.

The best time to visit is in Spring or Fall in order to enjoy the warm but not too hot weather and fewer crowds who flock here during July and August.

The Amalfi Coast hosts a vast number of hotels ranging from Five Star Luxury to Romantic Boutique hotels.

What to do on the Amalfi Coast?

Tour the Amalfi Coast with a private driver for a Gourmet Food Tour and indulge your tastebuds in all the best Italian foods the Amalfi Coast has to offer. Mozzarella, limoncello, gelato, pizza, olive oil!

Start your day in the countryside above Sorrento and have a wonderful tour of an extra-virgin olive oil factory overlooking the Amalfi Coast.  Experience breathtaking views over Sorrento as you stroll through olive groves, and citrus trees. After a brief explanation of the delicious olive oil produced locally in Sorrento and the history of limoncello-making, it’s then time to taste the delicious oil over freshly baked bread.

Your next visit on the Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour will be to a cheese farm specializing for over 50 years in making exceptional mozzarella and other cheeses typical of the Amalfi Coast.

No Italian food gourmet day in the Neopolitan area would be complete without an authentic, pizza-making experience.  In a charming pizzeria on the Amalfi Coast

you will create your own pizza, using only the freshest ingredients. Enjoy a fantastic lunch of your personalized pizza.  After lunch taste the famous limoncello liquor which is made from large, bright local Sorrentine lemons.

Your Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour couldn’t be complete without dessert, and no better dolce exists on the planet than fresh Italian gelato.  Visit a local gelateria where you will learn the secrets of how this age-old delicacy is made and enjoy a gelato tasting to finish off you Amalfi Gourmet Tour.

What better way to enjoy a day on the Amalfi Coast than to treat all of your senses with the unforgettable flavours and fragrances while taking in the breathtaking, spectacular views of this unforgettable coastline.

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3 great reasons to visit The Langhe region of Piedmont.

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The Langhe Hills are only a short drive south-east from Turin, and are easy to reach for a long weekend break or indulgent weeks vacation.  The area is surrounded by the Alps mountain range and the Po valley which is renowned for it’s rice growing plains.

The rolling hills are dotted with villages, hamlets and castles that date back to medieval times and conjure up images of nobility and splendour.

1. The Wine

The hills of the Langhe are the lands of noble vineyards producing wines of great quality and diversity.  The Nebbiolo grape being the protagonist in Barolo and Barberesco wines.  Alongside Barbera and Dolcetto d’Alba, Le Langhe boasts a vast number of wineries which are for the most part vineyards that have been family run for many generations.  The winemakers of this region take great pride in their land and the yields that are harvested each year.

2. Truffles

As the summer temperatures start to cool and the leaves start turning all shades of yellow, burnt orange and brown you can be sure that autumn is here and the highly awaited Alba International White Truffle fair is drawing near.  October through mid – November is white truffle season. When truffle hunters gather with their dogs on the hunt for the costly tuber that will be sold at a price that is determined daily at the International Truffle Fair.  Taste this lavish delight at a local trattoria or restaurant where it is served in thin shavings over pasta, eggs or risotto.

3. Food

Truffles aside, Le Langhe is foodie heaven, with a culture of cuisine this region boasts a number of luxury Michelin rated restaurants as well as family run trattorias that pride themselves in traditional seasonal recipes using local produce such as cow and goats cheese, beef braised in wine and a variety desserts made with it’s prestigious hazelnuts.

There is no better place to go for a bit of relaxation accompanied by excellent food and wine than Le Langhe.

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Carnival in Venice – 23 Jan – 9 February

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Recently ranked at number 7 on Conde Nast’s most beautiful places in the world Venice is indeed a unique city.  Venice is a collection of 118 islands connected by bridges and separated by canals, running through the heart of it is the Grand Canal, on which the Venetian noble families spent fortunes building impressive Palaces to show off their wealth.

Carnival in Venice is a two week long annual festival which ends 40 days before Easter at the start of Lent. Venice’s piazzas and canals become awash with cloaked figures wearing colourful and exotic masks.  The city is filled with street performances, parades and banquets, not to mention the famous Masked Carnival Balls which are held in the most historic palaces.

This years theme is Creatum: Introducing Art and Tradition, with the aim of a rebirth of Venices ancient origins, where arts and trades are the protagonists.  With a focus of attention on mask makers, weavers, tailors and glass-makers. Another highlight is the open air theatre in St. Mark’s square which will host live musical and theatrical performances.

Embrace the spirit of Carnival with a tour of the Grand Canal Boat Tour. Seeing Venice from the water is the best way to experience it’s charms and feel its magic.  Your tour will be aboard a luxurious Ventetian motorboat with professional captain. You will cruise down the Grand Canal sipping prosecco as your expert guide explains the history of the city and the majestic palaces.

Or why not spend a day in the Prosecco region on a Prosecco Wine Tour, learning about how Prosecco is made and tasting the sparkling white wine that is outselling Champagne in the Britain.  Start you day driving through the lush hills of the Valdobbiadene area to your first winery where your Prosecco Wine Tour starts with a visit to a small family-run estate where you will taste the results of their lovingly tended 100 year old vineyards.

From there you will visit the small medieval hamlet of Follina, with it’s beautiful Cistercian Abbey dating back to the 12th century.  Enjoy a delicious lunch of local specialities at a local restaurant before visitng a second larger state-of-the-art winery for your second Prosecco tasting, where you will begin to understand the many variations and styles of Prosecco production.

Carnival and Prosecco – pure decadence.

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