Yesterday was FDOC here in Italia. (Aka first day of classes) Since we only have four weeks here in Florence, our classes are essentially a crash course of the material. In the morning I have Introduction to Italian Philosophy from 9-11:30 and then an Italian language class from 1:15-3:45. Being in class for five hours a day is definitely an adjustment, but no big deal! I think my philosophy class will be very interesting and I’m excited because three times throughout the course we will go to different museums and exhibits that are related to our class discussions. If you know me, you will be aware that foreign languages aren’t my forte, but I’m confident I’ll be fine in my language class. Our class is only four students including myself, which will force me to practice more and become more confident with the language. Also our apartment location is fantastic so the walk to my philosophy class is about ten minutes and my language class is literally next door.
After lunch I said good bye to Grace which was sad but I’m excited for the rest of her travels this summer. So thankful to have a wonderful friend like her that inspires me to travel and to live an extraordinary life! I’m positive we have many, many more trips ahead of us.
Reyanne and I spent the evening taking care of things for school and working on homework for our classes. Since we don’t have meal plans through our university here, our goal is to cook some of our meals in order to save money. However, our apartment doesn’t have an oven which we were banking on using. So if anyone has some easy recipes, they would be much appreciated! We haven’t mastered the whole Italian grocery store scene yet, but I’m sure we’ll catch on. After dinner we went out to try another gelato place (surprise!!) I think we’re up to six places now, it seriously is all delicious. It was a great way to end our FDOC here in Florence!
We didn’t have classes today because it is a huge national holiday in Italy. Festa della Repubblica celebrates the day that Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in 1946 in order for Italy to become a republic. To celebrate the holiday in proper form we went on a Tuscan wine tour. Another day trip through bus2alps and it was fantastic! Reyanne and I literally know nothing about wine so we were both pretty excited to learn about how it was made and the different tastes, etc. We knew quite a few girls also going on the tour, our other roomies went and some people we’ve met in the last week.
Our first stop was at the Verrazzano estate. Okay first of all, the estate was absolutely beautiful. The main building was a castle and the surrounding land was all lush and rolling hills. The vineyard was at the highest point so the panoramic views were perfect. I’ve decided that there is no ugly region of Italy.
We had a fabulous tour guide who taught us about the history of the vineyard, explained the production of the wine and led our tasting. The vineyard dates back to 700, and the castle on the estate is 1,000 years old. It is the only estate in the region that still retains all of their original property, which is 500 acres. It is part of the famous Chianti Wine Region in Central Tuscany. She told us about how all of their products are organic and there are laws in place to ensure they don’t add sugar to the wine or alter them in any way. These are all part of the Chianti DOCG wine standards. They also aren’t allowed to use any irrigation, so it truly is like how they used to make the wine hundreds of years ago! We got to go in the different parts of the vineyard, first an attic where they hang grapes for two to three years which make a sweet dessert wine. Then into the cellar where HUGE barrels of wine were being stored. On average the vineyard produces 280,000 bottles a year. She explained that in order to ensure there is never any air in the barrels, at the top is a glass bottle where the wine overflows into. When it gets too low, they go back in and fill them up.
Next was the moment of truth, the actual tasting of the vino! We sampled a rosé, a classic red and a reserve red. They explained to us how the different shapes of glasses affect the taste of the wine. We also were instructed to smell the wine, then to swirl it around and smell it again. Each time it had a different smell! We sampled the drinks with bread, salami and cheese which was all wonderful. Sitting outside on the terrace of a castle sampling wine wasn’t too bad of an afternoon.
Next stop was Tenuta Torciano Vineyard, located in San Gimignano. While this farm wasn’t in a castle or overlooking miles of scenery, it was still very charming and had a beautiful outdoor patio. We all got settled in at our tables, while our extremely entertaining Italian wine expert lectured us on the importance of holding our wine glasses from the very bottom and how wine should also be paired with food. I have no idea how this place is turning a profit because they gave us each huge glasses of wine, and I’m not talking one or two…at the end of lunch we had sampled eight different types, EIGHT!
Thankfully there was a bucket on the table to pour out excess wine in before they came around with a new type. Clearly Italians take their wine extremely serious or they have high tolerances, maybe both. I enjoyed most of the wines, but I have to say the food was the best part.
The whole vineyard was family owned and operated so the grandmother of our wine expert cooked our lunch. The first course was bread (of course) salami and a salad. The second was lasagna, after we all were served our pieces they came around and doused the pasta in their homemade truffle oil…amazing. I couldn’t believe how much the oil enhanced the taste of the pasta.
We also got to sample a balsamic vinegar that had been aged for 30 years, also fabulous. Dessert was a hard almond biscotti, also great. The only wine I really disliked was the dessert wine, or halo wine as they call it. It was way too sweet and I wasn’t a fan at all.
Our final stop was to the town of San Gimignano. It’s a small, medieval town with cute shops, gelato and awesome views of Tuscany. The coolest thing about the city is the medieval architecture. There are still about a dozen of the towers standing and the city center is pretty awesome, making you feel like you stepped in a time capsule.
We spent the rest of our time wandering around the city, checking out little shops and winding side streets. It was amazing to go down one street from the main square and be greeted with complete silence or just a few locals walking around. The views were stunning and I loved the peacefulness of the countryside.
After we got back to Florence I spent the rest of the night catching up on homework and checking in with family. For dinner I tried Gusta Pizza which is a place everyone raves about in Florence. I can see why now! I went with Meredith and Juliana and we heard the restaurant before we could see it. The line was wrapped out the door and filled with locals and tourists, a sure sign it was going to be great. After ordering we waited inside, packed around people eating, watching them make our pizza right there. We grabbed them to-go and enjoyed them at our apartment. All in all, definitely a successful day off of school!