Yes, I’ll use the cliché, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’…
Wednesday, April 27th 2011: Florence
Mornings by now had their routine – wake-up call, get ready/pack, breakfast, bus and day song. Today we spent most of the morning driving, with two AutoGrill stops along the way – once to stretch and then again for lunch. The restaurant upstairs was nicer than you would expect for a roadside service stop and the risotto and bowl of strawberries I had was actually not that bad.
La Bottega Del Palagio, the old castle turned winery, was next for our wine tasting. The Tuscan region lives up to every cliché and every stereotype it makes you think of. There were unending hills of green vineyards (each with rows of vines perfectly planted in straight lines) and fields of silver olive trees; old farmhouses, small cottages and the occasional flock of sheep. It is almost exactly as I had pictured it in my head.
We toured the property, got a quick 101 on the olive oil making process and then headed down to see the wine cellar (that was previously a prison during the war). The wine tasting followed and, in this case, the pictures tell the story all on their own:
Four glasses of wine (plus my little dessert wine) later, I was ready to order bottles of everything we sampled to be shipped. It could have been their plan all along – get them intoxicated and give them order forms – but everything was genuinely good enough to want to order. I doubt that I was the only one who was reluctant to leave.
Florence was noticeably busier than Sorrento. There were many narrow streets that v-shaped upwards with tall buildings that had tiers of the flowerpot-lined balconies that I like so much. The rest of the evening into the night was spent settling into the hotel and at dinner. The restaurant was brightly couloured, and had an interesting choice of paintings near the ceiling of somewhat abstract naked women. Dinner was good: bruschetta, salad, garlic bread and spaghetti bolognese, with a custard-like dessert and limoncello.
The group walked to ‘The Red Garter’ later for a little karaoke, and after some covers of Abba, Spice Girls, Grease and The Proclaimers, Lizzie, Shannon and I headed back to the hotel where our plans to chat over some wine fizzled out once we couldn’t find a corkscrew to open our bottle. Fail.