Spring is one of my favorite seasons to tour.
Last week I had a private group for my Chianti Classico Tour
We were blessed by the weather god and had no rain.
One of the wineries we visited is Casa Emma, located just off the highway and easy to find. It is open for free tastings, but if you like, they also accept groups for a tour and tasting with a light meal. Fabrizio and Paolo do a fabulous job and are very knowledgable and fun... not to mention incredibly good wine and food.
The hills turn a lush green with the rain and the warm days encourage the hills to fill with flowers.
The vines are filling with leaves and the first tiny bunches of grapes are just flowers with pollen now.
Lilacs and iris show Florence's love for lavender ( purple is the color for the city's soccer team) and my antique rose is in full bloon already.
As in France, roses are often planted at the end of the vineyard rows.
My friend Isabella has made an incredible Rose Syrup that was picked by Saveur magazine as one of the top food products of 2005. She makes it at her farm near me,using the Gallica Roses, a lovely pink antique rose which I also have growing in my garden. Her mother is from Liguria where the recipe for the Rose Syrup comes from. Isabella is also the advisor for Casa Emma, where it is possible to visit their Botanical Gardens.
As part of our tasting menu, Fabrizio served the Rose Syrup on a fresh pecorino cheese ricotta, spring in a bottle.
We first visited San Gimignano on market day, really a little too crowded to enjoy the city, but we found some great treasures to take home as gifts. San Gimignano is filled with artisans, not just tourists shops and is a real living city. To see it at it's best, avoid going on Thursday, which is market day, and if you can, go in the afternoon after most of the tour bus craziness is done.
I enjoy San Gimignano in the evening and love having dinner here and walking around the city, abbandoned by tourists and lit up showing off the beautful towers.
One day of our tour was also the Festival of the Buona Stagione held every year in Panzano.
I always love a party!
Part of the festival is an artisan show in the piazza in lower Panzano, this is one of the locals, Giocondo and his wife with his hand-woven baskets. He also plays in the local band.
We then headed up to the upper village for the parade, reenactment of a hanging and a spectacular flag throwing exhibition by the team from Castiglione Fiorentino, near Arezzo.
What's not to love about living in Paradise?