We all know what immediately comes to mind when thinking of Chianti and all its trappings: wine. Delicious, full, leggy red wine from the Chianti Classico region outside of Florence, bathed in Tuscan sunlight and fed from the rivers diverted by the Romans over two thousand years ago in a show of power and wealth. Yes. How can I describe last Friday in any other context? On our mandatory post-orientation outing, Palazzo Rucellai staff dragged us out to the Chianti region for a wine tasting and traditional Tuscan luncheon. We were dragging our feet. I’m sure you can relate.
We met at the train station in Piazzo della Stazione around 9:30 AM, and people struggled in droves to get there on time. Some looked like they hadn’t slept at all. Eventually, once everyone arrived, we all piled onto the buses and headed out through the gorgeous countryside. If you’ve ever seen “Under the Tuscan Sun” or “Letters to Juliet,” that’s exactly what everything looks like. Picturesque was defined by Tuscany.
Once arriving at the vineyard and villa-hotel Vignamaggio (google that), we were taken on a tour of the winery facilities and given in-depth explanations about the wine processes, including the distillation and bottling of various wines. It’s all very scientific, and I suddenly understood why CalPoly dedicated an entire major to this artform. After all, these people have been making wine for hundreds of years, this particular vineyard the product of over six hundred years of work. People need preparation to go into this sort of profession.
Of course, the information was fascinating and the cellars equally mysterious, but we were really there for the food. And wine. But the food was more important in my opinion. I’m all for a glass every once in a while, but I’m finding that being in a country where it’s legal to drink, I’m not very interested in doing so. That’s not to say that I’m a wild child back home (I’m not) but I think there’s a sense of maturity here in regards to alcohol that eventually rubs off on you. Italians just don’t drink as Americans do. There’s a finesse to it, a sense of refinement and elegance from sharing an aperitif or bottle of Chianti between friends that’s absent back at home. I really like it. I want to bring it back with me.
Food: As you can see from the pictures, we benefitted from the hotel-villa’s hospitality in the form of a traditional Tuscan luncheon. Unfortunately we only had two courses, the aperitivo and primi piatti, but both were delicious and accompanied by two glasses sumptuous red wine cut from the same vines but aged differently. I wasn’t surprised to find the sweeter one more appetizing. Even as I’m writing this, I’m eyeing up the chocolate bar I just bought from the local supermarket. Mmm, sweets…
The aperitivo was incredibly like what my family and I would have in Spain for a snack after siesta. Various cuts of proscuitto and salami, some sort of cheese which I think was Pecorino, and toasted bread soaked in olive oil pressed from the olives on the vineyard groves. Primi piatti was a meatless lasagna with fresh rosemary and tomato sauce. Live vicariously through me in the following photos because that food was delicious.
Shortly after we were released to explore the grounds, a couple of us banded together to investigate the vineyards. The grapes looked just as I imagine a Roman lord might have found them on his silver dessert platter. It’s somewhat overwhelming to know that this land was once walked by the greats like Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, that they drank wine grown from the same hills. That’s serious history. We sampled a few bunches from the vine, both red/purple and green grapes, and it was the perfect ending to that day. We ate from the earth after tasting what man can do to the materials given to him. That’s pretty inspiring.