Some travelers want to spend hours on the beach. Others may find their solace on trails in the mountains. Or, perhaps the constant buzz of city life as you whiz from one place to the next. There is a famous quote, “vacation to find yourself.” If you need me, I’ll be in Tuscany.
Italy has become my travel onion. Every time I peel back a layer the experience continues to surprise me. There is something about Tuscany that inspires the imagination, and it will only take one visit for you to see why. Our decision to visit Tuscany came from a night of casual scrolling through Netflix. I had finished watching a romcom and the “you may like” popped up with “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the 1993 romance with the stunning Ashley Judd. Full disclosure, I still have not seen the movie but the title tugged at my wanderlust, and I was suddenly transported to visions of white sundresses and bike rides through the vineyards. We were in the planning stages of a spring European adventure when I suggested extending our time in Italy to experience Tuscany. The original plan was Venice to Cinque Terre and end in Milan, but the Tuscan Sun was calling.
After four glorious days in Venice (read more here), we hopped on a train to Florence where our rental car awaited to sweep us away to the Chianti valley. A quick two-hour drive and we were soon twisting and twirling through the rolling hills of Tuscany. The lush green vineyards seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see, and between each small brick laid town, signs pointing to tasting rooms dotted any available power and lamp post. We soon came upon a bright blue sign for Volpaia, the location of our hotel “La Locanda.” Volpaia is a medieval fortified city that can trace its roots back to before 1172. If you blink, you will have missed the entire town which is home to a population of less than 100. We drove through the one-road village in less than two minutes before the road ended and turned into a gravel path jostling us towards our destination. Our rental car continued to climb up, up, up, and I was genuinely worried that the hotel did not exist. Finally, a small sign reading “La Laconda Country Hotel” appeared and a beautiful brick oasis came into view. As soon as we parked the car we were immediately greeted by Guido, the owner, who told us to leave the bags and take a tour of the place. It only took one turn of a corner to fall in love. The farmhouse hotel is perched on top of a plateau 600 meters above sea level overlooking the entire Chianti valley. This tranquil escape was Guido’s passion project and you can tell that he takes pride in every detail. The sweeping views had Volpaia sitting at the base of the hill transporting you back in time, with the city of Radda hovering off in the distance. There was not a sound to be heard except for the distant rumble of a tractor and chirping birds in the trees. Guido helped us get settled into our room and pointed out a trail leading from the house straight down into Volpaia (which took about 15 minutes). We decided to take a nature walk in search of dinner.
The first night we ate at La Bottega, a family-owned restaurant. The terrace seats 80 people, and you will need a reservation if you want to enjoy the views. The menu is simple, consisting of Tuscan delicacies including handmade pasta and boar. The wine, no surprise, is all from the Chianti valley. In fact, Volpaia is number 3 on wine spectator list top 100 of 2018.
The next morning, after taking breakfast on the terrace of La Locanda, we ventured out into the vines to wine taste. Our first stop was Casalvento, which happened to be my favorite winery of the day. The Rose was dry with a hint of sweetness that is perfect for a hot summer day. I should have bought many more bottles. This winery had a simple tasting counter that made for a quick experience, but the wines were enjoyable none the less. Our next stop, Il Borgo di Vescine, was much more leisurely as the property has a beautiful garden area to enjoy a glass of wine, (and is also a hotel).
After two wine tastings, we were ready for some lunch and decided to drive about 20 minutes outside Radda to Badia a Coltibuono, a monastery dating back to 1051. We discovered upon our arrival that the wine tastings only happen in the afternoons, and you need reservations in advance. However, the property has a beautiful restaurant on-site with an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy the wine without the tour.
After lunch, we were ready for a nap, but how could we not visit a few more wineries on the way back to La Locanda. Our next stop was a small vineyard, Fattoria Vignavecchia, that has a rare bottles section covered in dust and cobwebs with vintages that date from 1876 to 1931.
Our last stop was Castello di Radda which sat on a sprawling estate. They also had a fantastic Rose that later ended up rolling out of the trunk and shattering on the ground. Aside from the one broken bottle of Rose, the day of wine tasting was a great success as we arrived back at the B&B with more wine than we would legally be able to fly with.
Our last day in tranquil Tuscany was spent walking through Volpaia to buy bread, cheese, and meats to accompany our surplus of wine, and that evening we sat on the terrace of our room enjoying the sights, tastes, and sounds of early summer in Chianti.
If your next adventure calls for relaxation — start researching Tuscany now.