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Report 679: A Student in Florence

By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004

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Page 6 of 16: An Excursion to Greve and a Winery Tour and Tasting

photo by Colleen K

Macelleria in Greve

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Labor Day and an important National Holiday in Italy. This means most businesses and museums are closed. Knowing that would be the case, I opted to take advantage of a wine tasting excursion and lunch that the Koine School offered. A private van with 2 students from the Koine school in Lucca picked us up and we were driven through the beautiful Chianti countryside to Greve. A total of 8 students took part in this adventure led by the lively and informative Francesca, a language and cooking teacher for Koineís Pane and Vino program as well as a wine expert. She had spent many of her formative years in New Zealand before moving back to Florence 5 years ago, so could put on a wonderful New Zealand/Australian accent and swagger when called upon to do so. We were an eclectic group of 4 Americans, 2 Japanese, 1 Australian and 1 gentleman from Lichtenstein. We chatted happily away in English and Italian with Francesca trying to lecture mostly in Italian.

Luckily, it was a mostly sunny day to further illuminate the emerald green rolling hills, brilliant poppies and young grape vines. Our first stop was in Greveís lovely main piazza, which resembled a ghost town with most of the stores closed. It was still beautiful but I was disappointed not to be able to revisit one of my favorite watercolor artists whose work I had bought on a previous trip. His name is Khosrow Salehi and his shop is Galleria Civetta, Piazza Matteotti 42. Just another excuse to return! The famous butcher shop Antica Macelleria Falorni was open however and we feasted our eyes and other senses on the fabulous display of hanging meats and cheeses. I wished I could have bought a sample of everything but it would not have been practical to carry them around all day.

After we had our fill of Greveís Centro, we were off to Villa S. Andrea in Montefiridolfi, which is only 16km from Florence and 15 km from Greve. Because of the holiday, this was one of the few wineries that was able to accommodate us. This was perhaps because they also run an agriturismo on this estate and had to be open for guests.

A young woman guided us through the cellars and the wine tasting in Italian (this was a school excursion) but was happy to answer questions in English as well. I have been on much better wine tours, she was not all that informative and in fact seemed a bit in a hurry because our group was running late. We did taste 3 different wines, a Rosso di Toscana, a Chianti Classico and a Chianti Classico Riserva (which was the best). Although pleasant enough, they were not outstanding. She said the Riserva would go for 60E in the States which I found hard to believe as you can get a nice Brunello for that, but I think it had more to do with importers and taxes than the quality of the wine. At any rate, I bought a bottle of the Riserva for 16E, which I would later give away to my cousin (more on that later) and a bottle of wonderful tasting olive oil for 10E. Although Francesca thought these wines were good, she usually takes groups to other wineries where she is given the keys and can do the tour in more detail on her own. However, it was a fun experience in a beautiful setting and I was glad that I had signed on for the trip.

Next, off to a fabulous lunch in the countryside outside of Greve. Iím not sure which was more spectacular, the setting or the food. La Cantinetta di Rignana was filled with Italian families for Saturday pranzo. Our menu was a pre-arranged typical Tuscan lunch, which was delicious, but I found myself watching the Italian families eating some wonderful looking food and thought that I would like to return someday to choose my own courses off their extensive menu. Our typical Tuscan meal consisted of: antipasti Toscana of cured meats, sun dried tomatoes, agrula, olives, and onions preserved in red wine and vinegar. A delicious Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), Tagliolini alle Noci (this was fabulous and my favorite part of the meal) and a Peposo alla Fornacina (a traditional peppery beef stew). Complimented by a house rosso vino and espresso, it was a most enjoyable meal in a truly beautiful setting. Cost was 30E per person, which was included in our 80E fee for the day.

After this lovely repast, we then visited a nearby abbey (I canít recall the name) and a one street medieval town, whose name also escapes me. We stopped in several scenic spots for viewing young grape vines, flowers and the incredibly beautiful countryside.

By the time we arrived back in Florence. It was almost dinner time so I joined 2 of my classmates for dinner at Il Profeta, Via Borgognissanti, 93R 055.2122265, a restaurant that one of Camillaís friends had highly recommended. Perhaps because of its proximity to hotels that cater to Americans such as the Excelsior, it was filled with Americans. That doesnít make it a bad restaurant; I just prefer to see locals. The owners/waiters were very friendly and accommodating in explaining the menu and making suggestions. The 4 American couples seated next to us, followed the recommendations and had an extravagant tasting menu type of meal that looked quite good. Because of our large lunch, we werenít that hungry, so we had a more modest meal. The insalata mista was dressed with the most wonderful olive oil, so good in fact I asked if I could buy a bottle and did for 12E. It is called Galardi Olio, extra virgin oil made at Fattoria di Poggiopiano in Fiesole. If you ever see it, buy some as it is truly outstanding! I canít remember what kind of pasta I had but it was good if not memorable. The tiramisu however I do remember as being excellent.

One of our classmates from Japan was leaving for Paris the next morning, so she insisted on celebrating by treating us to Sangria at a Tapas bar down the street, La Habitacion liquida, mainly because she thought the il cameriere was so cute! Not sure how I made it home after all that vino and sangria but I did. Not once did I feel unsafe as a solo female traveler in Florence. Off to bed before another early morning excursion to Arezzo.

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