Greve in Chianti and Montefioralle

Greve in Chianti was our home base while in the Chianti region of Tuscany.  From here we travelled to Siena then to Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Arezzo and Montichiello. As I detailed in a previous blog we were delighted to stay at Villa Bordoni for our time after we left Venice and Florence. The countryside around Chianti is very fertile and a patchwork of vineyards, ancient olive groves, dark cypress trees and the miles of hay fields. You see many small and ancient villages, magnificent Renaissance palazzos and churches.

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Greve in Chianti is a medieval town not far from Florence in the heart of Chianti Classico territory and has developed around a central Piazza over the last 500 years. . Piazza Matteotti, a triangular shaped square is surrounded by shops and restaurants and is home to the Saturday market.  In the center of the Piazza is a statue of Giovanni da Verranzano.  If you have ever been to NYC then you know of the Verranzano bridge.  He is credited with discovering NY harbor. At the far end is the church of Santa Croce.

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Piazza Matteotti and Giovanni da Verranzano
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Church of Santa Croce
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Wild Boars roam the countryside in Tuscany

Sangiovese grapes are the very soul of Tuscany. In fact, their fruity, aromatic fragrance is present in almost all of Tuscany’s top wines.

– Classic: is reserved for wines produced in the region where a particular type of wine has been produced “traditionally”. For the Chianti Classico, this “traditional region” is defined by a decree from 1932.

– Riserva: may be used only for wines that have been aged at least two years longer than normal for a particular type of wine.

“Chianti Classico, produced in the provinces of Firenze and Siena is characterized from the exclusive and compulsive “Gallo Nero” label. Chianti Classico and Riserva is made with 80-100% of Sangiovese grapes, and a max 20% of Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. ……also the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (grapes must be grown by the winery itself and minimum aging requirement: 30 months, including 3 months of bottle aging).”

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The Rooster is the symbol of Chianti Classico

Since the 1970s, Tuscan wine producers have begun to experiment with foreign grape varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. By combining these with the Sangiovese grape, they have created the Super Tuscan wines (an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognized within the Italian wine classification system), which are high-quality wines that are popular in international markets. Some of the most famous names are: Tignanello and Sassicaia.

Montefioralle is a tiny hamlet set on a hilltop west of Greve in Chianti paved with stone houses and narrow cobblestone streets and is supposedly the ancestral home of Amerigo Vespucci, the mapmaker, navigator and explorer who named America. This town dates back to the 11th century and is exactly how you expect a Tuscan village to look with its medieval buildings still standing.  Widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and still enclosed by its original defensive walls. Charming!!!! It was absolutely magical and I felt transported back in time.

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We stopped by during the day when it was very quiet and then came back in the evening for a fabulous dinner including the infamous Bistecca Fiorentina!  Let me just say we had this steak everywhere! Steak is really not the right word to describe this thick slab of beef it is like a T-bone steak from a large oxen.  It is always seared on both sides and served rare.  As all the guide books suggest- don’t ask for it well done!

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Want to read more about Villa Bordoni? or Villa Vignamaggio in Greve? Here is a link also back to the beginning of this adventure which began in Venice.  From there you can continue with me or jump to Florence, Siena, Pienza…. well you get the idea! Stay tuned still to come are Montalcino and Montechiello.

Lucca- Walled Historic Center

Lucca is known for its Renaissance walls that encircle the historic center of this city lined with cobblestone streets and mostly closed to car traffic. This is the former home of Giacomo Puccini the famous opera composer. We loved this town and you can totally picture living here.  (Do you see a theme here? I think I said that in Ravello , then again in Positano, then again in Florence. My heart is in Italy no matter where I am.) We did not get to venture out of the historic walled center to the rest of the city however.  Next time!

Lucca is surrounded by high mountains and is a short drive from Pisa and located southwest of Florence. The walls were finished in the 17th century and remain intact. The city was built along the rectangular Roman grid formation seen elsewhere in Italy. Lucca became a Roman colony in 180 BC.

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Some of the fun sights are the Cathedral, the Guinigi Tower, the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, San Michele in Foro and of course walking, running, biking or just sitting and people watching on the wall. However, the best thing was just to wander the streets, get gelato, watch people and if you are lucky be here for the Lucca Music Festival. We missed Imagine Dragons by 3 days and at the end of the Festival the Rolling Stones! Bummer!

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The Cathedral di San Martino is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Martin is located in a secluded area of the old city center. The Cathedral is Gothic and Romanesque style with a marble facade like the one found in Pisa. The front facade has 3 arches where pilgrims on their destination route to Rome traded. The marble inlay floor is a mix of religious themes like the floor we saw in Siena dating back to 1233. Next to the Duomo is the crenellated bell-tower finished in the 13th century.  Inside you see the famous crucifix bearing an image of Christ wearing a long sleeved garment. The Cathedral is found when walking on the main street called Via Fillungo filled with shops and restaurants.

Cathedral di San Martino

Piazza San Michele which including a statue of Puccini and the Church of San Michele in Foro is a Roman Catholic church built over the ancient Roman forum. What a fancy exterior on this church. There is a winged Archangel Michael standing at the top and there are also busts of Italian patriots. Built between the 11th and 14th centuries with its twisted columns, each different and carved marble details.  It is a very extravagant example of the Pisan-Romanesque style. There is an obvious lack of Christian detailing except the larger figure of St. Michael.

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Church of San Michele in Foro

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Guinigi Tower (Torre Guinigi) a Romanesque Gothic structure built in the 1300’s and one of the few remaining towers within the city walls is unique for the holm oak trees planted at the top to symbolize rebirth and renewal. It is the only remaining tower of the original four. From here take in the magnificent view of the entire city!

Guinigi Tower

Santa Maria Bianca is a Romanesque-style Roman Catholic church.  Each church has its own unique personality.

Church of San Frediano is a Romanesque church that dominates one end of the Piazza San Frediano.  It has a stunning 13th century mosaic that glows brilliantly with gold, blue and pale pinks and pastels.  It was begun in the 6th century and originally dedicated to St.Vincent.  The mosaic is of The Ascension of Christ the Saviour.

Basilica di San Frediano

The Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro is now a public square in the walled center. The square is elliptical shaped with four gateways and reveals the old structure of the Roman amphitheatre. This Ampitheatre originally held 10,000 spectators and was created for gladiator games and other events. Today it is surrounded by open air restaurants and shops and is a real lively spot in the evenings.

Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro

Palazzo Pfanner goes back to 1660 originally commissioned by the Moriconi family who when forced into bankruptcy in 1680 sold the building to the Controni family of silk merchants. They were responsible for the building of the grand staircase and upgrading the gardens. The Pfanner family became involved in the middle of the 19th century. This was the site of the historic Pfanner Brewery until 1929. They are responsible for the restoration of this property that is now open to the public. The gardens have extraordinary 18th century statues depicting the deities of Greek Olympus and the Four Seasons.  The baroque garden is visible from the city walls and the grand staircase and is right near the Basilica di San Frediano.

Palazzo Pfanner

Even I managed to have my share of gelato here in Lucca! I highly suggest Gelateria Veneta!

Have you missed any of the other towns? Pienza was the last town we visited but you can search the blogs by town if you are looking for one in particular.

Pienza – Val d’ Orcia

Pienza is a small town located in the Val D’Orcia, (2004 UNESCO World Cultural Landscapes) in the southeastern area of Tuscany. Situated between Montepulciano and Montalcino and South of Siena it is an easy day trip if your home base is anywhere in Tuscany. In 1996, UNESCO made the center of Pienza a World Heritage Site. I recently learned exactly what this means: “considering that the site is of outstanding universal value as it represents the first application of the Renaissance Humanist concept of urban design, and as such occupies a seminal position in the development of the planned “ideal town” which was to play a significant role in subsequent urban development in Italy and beyond” (source: VisitTuscany.com) 

Pienza is one of the best examples of a Renaissance planned town that has survived relatively intact from ancient times. The streets have such romantic names like Via dell’ Amore (love street)!

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It was the home of Pope Pius II who was born here. Pienza means “the city of Pius”. Construction began approximately in 1459 on top of the ancient hamlet that existed and lasted about 4 years. Check out the old well in the Piazza Pio II main square named for Bernardo Rossellino, the architect who had previously worked with Alberti on the facade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

This town was the first to be constructed using urban planning techniques and was planned around the Piazza and all the town’s main monuments are located on this square; the cathedral and three other palaces: Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Borgia, and Palazzo Comunale.

Palazzo Piccolomini

The Roman Catholic Cathedral [Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta) built on the remains of a Romanesque church stands in the main square and includes many works of art including five altar paintings from the Sienese school. The facade is typical of Renaissance architecture. Supposedly the Pope wanted the cathedral to tower over the other buildings as a sign of faith. The Duomo is one of the first Renaissance cathedrals with stained glass windows and a classical interior.

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Palazzo Borgia is another important building on the square and now home to a museum.


Palazzo Comunale is the town hall and has a loggia and a facade decorated with a scratched plaster technique and a brick bell tower.

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This town is so beautiful as is the countryside surrounding it dotted with cypress trees, hayfields and winding roads.

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Pienza is the capital of pecorino cheese “sheep’s milk cheese” and has a distinctive sharp and salty taste acquired from a particularly aromatic milk courtesy of the sheep pastures in the Val D’Orcia region. You can be sure we brought some home!

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Be sure to walk around the views are amazing!

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Historical Sources: Wikipedia, Fodor’s and VisitTuscany.com

 

Did you miss Pisa?  Here is a link: Pisa

Montepulciano – Val d’Orcia

 

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Now we are seriously in the heart of wine country!  Montepulciano is reknown for 2 wines in this region: Rosso di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  These are some of the very best wines in the world. Sitting high on a hilltop with steep narrow streets it is like many of the other towns in the region with a main piazza. Did you know this town is built on a narrow limestone ridge about 600 meters above sea level!  The streets are lined with Renaissance-style palazzos and churches.

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The medieval town hall Palazzo Comunale was built between the end of the 1300’s and the middle of the 1400’s.  The original front design of the building in travertine resembles the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence which is not surprising since 500 years ago this town allied itself with Florence. The cornel on the left side of the main entrance bears a ‘griffin’ the symbol of the town of Montepulciano. Contucci Palace on the right.

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Climb to the top for amazing views
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Palazzo Ricci
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Duomo of Montepulciano

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On the top of the tower which you can climb that raises about 50 meters above the Renaissance Piazza grande provides amazing views of the countryside from Val D’Orcia to Val di Chiana.  To the west is Pienza and Montalcino. The tower was a keen lookout position although it was never meant to hide soldiers.

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The people’s spirit here is very independent and they show that with colorful rituals in the Piazza.

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Piazza Communale of Montepulciano and the Well which supports two lions – the Medici coat-of-arms

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Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

 

The Montepulciano area is famous for producing Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, a fine wine that is among the oldest in Italy and is from the Sangiovese vines. In 1980 it became the first Italian wine to display the neck-strip of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.). http://www.consorziovinonobile.it/main.php

The town is built on a honeycomb of wine cellars with gigantic barrels.  It takes about 3 years and the tanins must be just right.  They have been making wine here for 700 years.

Red meat is king at local osterias like Bistecca Fiorentina: T-bone seared over embers and always served rare! You can’t help but love this area of Italy.  The people are friendly, the wine is outstanding and the food is divine!

Do you love La Dolce Vita?  I have many blogs on various areas all over Italy.  You can search by area.  Enjoy and share! If you missed the last one on San Gimignano here is a link.

 

 

 

San Gimignano- the “Manhattan of Tuscany”

San Gimignano sits high on a hilltop about 24 miles northwest of Siena surrounded by soaring medieval towers. The walls are tall, the streets narrow and very typical of Tuscan hill towns. It was first settled in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans and the buildings and city plan were based around 2 major streets with 4 main piazzas. Today 14 towers still remain but there were more than 70 at one time. These towers were constructed partly for defensive purposes and like in other towns we have visited were used for pouring boiling oil on attacking enemies. Ouch! They were very convenient, of course, for spotting marauders and were virtually impregnable. However, ego most likely played a role to own the highest tower and were a symbol of a family’s economic power in the city. The towers are visible from great distances, thus the name “Manhattan of Tuscany”.

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The town is a very well preserved medieval town in close proximity to both Florence and Siena. Like Siena it was also devastated by the Black death of 1348 and then fell under Florentine control.  San Gimignano is a walled city and very touristry so expect lots of crowds.  The center is closed to traffic so you must park in an outer lot and walk in. Again a steep hilly town so wear comfy shoes!

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The town’s main 12th century church is not an official Duomo because there is no bishop there. The facade is Romanesque and is filled with important frescoes covering the interior by Bartolo di Fredi and Ghirlandaio as well as two famous wooden statues by Jacopo Della Quercia.

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Don’t miss the gelato at Gelateria Dondoli it is totally worth the wait!! They say the best in the world! You decide- we agreed! Enjoy your gelato in the piazza in the heart of San Gimignano.  There were several bands there on the evening we visited entertaining the crowds!

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The evening is lovely when it gets a little quieter and be sure to enjoy the local white wine called Venaccia di San Gimignano produced here since 1276 and was mentioned by Dante in his ‘Divine Comedy’. It has a distinctive dry and sharp taste. Vernaccia di San Gimignano, normal and riserva is made from 85%-100% of Vernaccia di San Gimignano grapes and traditionally produced in the territory surrounding San Gimignano in the countryside of Siena in the Val D’Orcia.
(Source: http://www.vernaccia.it/)

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For a lovely view walk up to Rocca di Montestaffoli  which was a 14th century fortress and is now a public garden with amazing views at the highest point of San Gimignano. From here you can see the towers and the entire countryside. In summer there is an outdoor cinema!

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Make sure to also follow the signs that say “Vista Panoramica” that loops around the city for spectacular views all around the Tuscan landscape.

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If you missed any of the other blogs on Tuscany here is a link to get you started: Siena

Villa Vignamaggio – Tuscany

Villa Vignamaggio sits on the Florence to Siena route with views across olive groves and cypress trees in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in Petriolo very close to Greve in Chianti and was a quick drive from our base at Villa Bordoni.

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The symbol of Villa Vignamaggio standing watch
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Olive groves and Vines as far as you can see

The House which has an ornate and formal garden is allegedly the birthplace of Mona Lisa Gherardini who later became Lisa del Giocondo and is reputed to have been the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa in 1503-1506. The church where supposedly he painted can be seen from the Villa. Villa Vignamaggio was also the setting for the 1993 adaption of “Much Ado about Nothing”. The garden was inspired by Italian Renaissance gardens and was intended to link the forest and the house via an avenue of Cypresses. The terra cotta statues represent the four seasons and are draped with roses.

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The Villa
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Who wouldn’t want to walk down the aisle for their wedding here!
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The church where Leonardo da Vinci painted his Mona Lisa

We enjoyed a lovely lunch and wine tasting and tour of the gardens, and wine cellars. Fabulous meal and wine!

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Wine tasting and lunch
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Wine cellars filled with Chianti Classico

I am going to let them tell you their story in their own words since I cannot say it better!


“A wine farm for over 600 years, Vignamaggio today offers first class accommodation in rooms and apartments, guided tours of its Italian Style gardens and the opportunity to taste the farm’s produce in its restaurant, Monna Lisa.

Half way between Florence and Siena, the estate extends for over 200 hectares in the hills of the Chianti Classico region.

Vignamaggio overlooks a countryside landscape, of forests, vineyards and ancient hamlets scattered about on the surrounding hills.

At the core of the farm is the Renaissance villa, surrounded by Italian style gardens, which fill the spaces between rows of cypresses, vines and olive trees.

On all sides, forest mingles with farmland, where for hundreds of years, farmhands have been working the land. At the edge of the forest or among the vineyards, one can glimpse ancient stone farmhouses, once the homes of the sharecroppers.

As the seasons change, the shapes and colours of Vignamaggio transform.

Tart forest fragrances permeate the fresh air of spring sunrises, sunsets warm the sky after summer storms, all merging with the distinctive pink of the villa. Winter slowly wraps the estate in a calm silence, as snow blankets the vineyards.

A working farm since 1404, Vignamaggio has been cultivating the vines and producing wine for over 600 years.

Open to the public since 1987, the historical dwelling offers first class accommodation with rooms, suites and apartments in the estate’s farmhouses.”

CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE “RISERVA DI MONNA LISA”

THE WINE IS A DEEP RUBY RED COLOUR. THE AROMA IS VERY INTENSE, PERSISTENT, DELICATE AND FULL-BODIED, WITH HINTS OF OAK AND BERRIES. A FULL, LONG, WARM MOUTH FEEL.

Vignamaggio is traditionally the birthplace of Monna Lisa Gherardini, the “Gioconda” painted by Leonardo da Vinci. This wine is dedicated to this noblewoman in his portrait.

THE WINE

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is only produced in the best vintage years, with grapes from the farm’s prime south west grape growing areas. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the first ten days of October, the grapes destined for this wine are carefully sorted, first in the vineyard and then on sorting belts in the cellar. The juice remains on the skins for 16-18 days after which racking takes place. Once malolactic fermentation has occurred, the wine is aged, first in small French oak barrels for 18-20 months and then in larger barrels. The minimum aging period is 30 months, at least 3 of which are in the bottle. 

 (Source: www.vignamggio.com)

Are you enjoying our tour through Italy? Love to hear your comments!  If you missed the Blogs on Venice, (2 part series) Florence, (5 part series) Amalfi Coast (5 part series plus Pompeii) or Puglia (5 part series on the cities in that region) you can always go back and read them. There are also blogs on Antinori Vineyards and Villa Bordoni in Chianti. All blogs are archived and can be sorted by subject. Next up how about Siena? See you soon!

Villa Bordoni – Greve in Chianti

In 2007 David and Catherine Gardner opened Villa Bordoni, Country House Hotel and Restaurant, a small luxury hotel immediately above the town of Greve right in the heart of Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.

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This 16th century villa has remarkable views of the Tuscan hills and is conveniently located to explore the entire region of Tuscany.  We travelled east to Arezzo, south to Montalcino, west to San Gimignano and then onto Pisa and Lucca. You will need a car to stay at Villa Bordoni as it sits high in the hills with amazing views of Montefioralle.

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Montefioralle

The hotel has 10 bedrooms and suites each named after a vineyard, Chianti peak or Castle it looks towards and individually decorated with attention to detail including stenciled walls and all the amenities.

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View from a room of vineyards and olive trees
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Views from the pool

The pool, exercise space, and restaurant are all just waiting for you to indulge yourself and relax! It is a magical place that I personally had on my bucket list for 10 years! I was not disappointed. The staff are friendly, knowledgable and always ready to accommodate your every need.

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Jasmine covered shower!
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A private suite

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Even I could bear the treadmill here!

The restaurant has 2 rooms but why would you sit inside when you can sit in the lovely gardens surrounded by boxwood hedges and flower beds in the walled garden for breakfast and dinner and revel in the scenery and just being in Tuscany! They serve gourmet food highlighting seasonal ingredients. Of course, if you are there in cooler or rainy weather dining by candlelight and a warm fireplace is just as romantic!

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“Villa Bordoni is a ‘Patrician Villa’ – the former country residence of the Bordoni’s, a family of wealthy merchants from the city of Florence.

“To understand the history of the Villa, one has to understand the history of the Greve Valley and beyond to the cluster of city-states that are known today as Italy.

Florence and Siena were separate countries in the Middle Ages – great rivals, frequently at war with one another. The valley of the river Greve, which gives its name to the nearest town, was of great strategic importance, and all too frequently the battleground of the Florentine and Sienese armies; hence the concentration of castles and fortified villages present in the area. The origins of Villa Bordoni date back to the 11th century … Over the centuries a network of fragile alliances brought relative peace to the region, and permitted the structure to evolve into a farmhouse, albeit a fortified one.

During the 17th century, this ‘casa colonica’ was purchased by a wealthy family from Florence, as a form of summer country residence and hunting lodge, and was slowly transformed into a Villa, with its stuccoed façade and Italian garden. During the 18th century, Giuseppe Bordoni made this Villa his permanent home and invested heavily in the vineyards, producing a renowned Chianti Classico …

After the Second World War, the heir to the dwindling family fortune tried her best to defend the family property, but over the years found herself having to sell off parcels of land and entire farmhouses in order to preserve the Villa and the core of the farm…”(Source: excerpted from Wikipedia)

If you long to visit Tuscany I highly suggest a stay at Villa Bordoni! Follow the blog as we continue exploring Tuscany one ancient town and vineyard at a time! Next stop is Villa Vignamaggio just outside Greve in Chianti and a short trip from Villa Bordoni for a fabulous wine tasting and lunch and tour of the cellars and vineyards.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE AMALFI COAST- let’s get started (5 part series)

Once a wealthy maritime power few regions of Italy are as gorgeous as the corner of Campania that is home to the hilly Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast.  This is also the home of Naples, and the Islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. Smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean the sea is the most alluring blue green color and if that doesn’t win your heart the warmth of the sun and the people certainly will. From the Sorrento Coast to Salerno the views don’t disappoint. They take you to Mount Vesuvius across the bay of Naples and then across the sea to the Island of Capri.  It is a world made up of stairs!  Thousand and thousands of them so bring your most comfortable walking shoes.  This is no time ladies for fancy high heels that will only get caught in the cobblestones!

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Cultural highlights are everywhere from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the ancient history in Sorrento and Naples with sights and adventures that take you back to Roman times. The Amalfi coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site which hopefully will help preserve its charm and history.  The landscape is dotted with alluring, charming towns and the most beautiful churches.

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Praiano

The food is “bellissima”! Make sure if you go to have the pizza! The pasta extruded using bronze dies creates a rough texture better supporting the sauce tastes nothing like ours here in the US and the mozzarella, gelato and limoncello are divinely delicious! The vine-ripened tomatoes beckon at every meal and the lemons and olives… well you get the idea! The hills are terraced with lemons, oranges, olives and grapes with Sorrento itself being known for its lemon production.  They all thrive in this volcanic soil. Did someone say “Limoncello”! Be prepared for lots of seafood, desserts and more desserts!

 

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Pizza with carciofi (artichokes)

All that walking though will let you eat and drink your way around.  Did I mention the wine!!!!! Divine!!! Hang out and relax and enjoy the wine and the sunsets. Savor the slow pace and forget all those “To Do” lists, if even just for a little while.

What would a coastline be without the hidden coves and beaches that will try to lure you away from your intentions. These are not the beaches of the Caribbean however! First and foremost, you must plan to see the coast from the water, especially on Capri!

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Of course, for those so inclined there are plenty of hiking adventures to be had.  (coming in an upcoming post)

For those more adventurous, the cliff hugging Amalfi coast road, one of the world’s most beautiful scenic roads, with its 1,001 hairpin turns and breath taking views will test even the most accomplished driver. If you love roller-coasters then this is for you. Luckily there are taxis, private cars and buses that make travel easy and convenient because of course, you don’t want to miss the scenery because you had to concentrate on the road!

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Amalfi Coast Road
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Oh yeah that’s the coast road thru Positano!

Sorrento is known as one of the world’s most charming and a old towns with it’s many cafes, shops and historic sites. (see upcoming blogs) Ravello is most famous for its extraordinary gardens and the Ravello Music Festival. Amalfi is the main coastal town and port. Positano is the jewel of the coastline with shops and houses cascading down the ravine to the sea. Don’t miss Capri or one of the other islands to the west of Sorrento in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tourism is the major industry on this coast.

I am debating on the best way to tackle this blog so you don’t miss a second of my trips to the Amalfi coast so I think I will cover a few towns in separate blogs as there is too much to be said. Are you ready to continue on to Part 2 in this series? “Positano Bites Deep”

If you want to travel to Italy I can highly recommend a fabulous planner Ashley Turney of L’Esperta.

See you next time! Ciao!

 

 

Sorrento and Capri (Part 5 of 5)

Sorrento is known as one of the world’s most charming and romantic old towns with it’s many cafes, shops and historic sites. It is located in southern Italy about an hour south of Naples, wedged on a ledge and separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno. This is a land of high hills and valleys and mountains surrounding the entire peninsula. The area is surrounded by smaller villages like Meta, Sant’ Agnello and the area known as Massa Lubrense.  Sorrento is a good home base for your Amalfi Coast excursions.

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Bay of Naples

Piazza Tasso is the central square in Sorrento and the hub for fancy hotels, artistic and cultural events. There are many side streets, almost alleyways I would call them lined with all manner of shopping from high end boutiques, gelato shops and cafes everywhere just to stop and relax and remember why you are here! The town is laid out on an East – West orientation to take advantage of the most sun and North – South to get the prevailing winds.  This was originally a Greek town plan. The 13th century palaces that dot the back streets have no balconies and this was for security.

 

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Sorrento

The limestone rocks here create a soil that is very suitable for various types of vegetation. The most popular and well known product from the region is of course lemons and that oh so famous liqueur: Limoncello!  Of course, we won’t forget to mention the olives, vineyards, vegetables, tomatoes and orange groves also.

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Limoncello
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Peppers, peppers and more peppers!

For our final stop on this Amalfi Coast tour: Capri

You definitely can’t miss Capri!  This island is romance on steroids!!!  The views are mind boggling dramatic and the ocean is a glorious turquoise color. Capri and Ischia are the islands to the west of Sorrento in the Tyrrhenian Sea.  You are hooked immediately upon your arrival to this busy marina and you are in love immediately.

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Marina Grande Capri

Villa Jovis, one of the most magnificent of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’ island palaces is located on Capri’s second highest peak and is a great spot for hikers.  He was the first “tourist” they say who fell in love with Capri looking for a refuge from the hustle and bustle in Rome.  The island is famous for hiking and if that is not for you take the chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro and gaze down upon the towns of Capri and Anacapri and the famous Faraglioni rock formations (see top photo).  Mount Solaro is the highest and most panoramic location on the Island of Capri. From this vantage point you can see all the way down to the center of the town of Capri and to the town of Anacapri and all the way to the Sorrentine peninsula and the Gulf of Naples.

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Anacapri from Monte Solaro chairlift

Of course you will find the most fashionable shopping square anywhere in southern Italy with high end boutiques just calling your name.

Be sure to explore the island both by land and sea.  The Grotta Azzura- The Blue Grotto is a true adventure.  Both times I have been the sea was too choppy for us to enter but it is supposedly absolutely breathtaking.  If it is anything like the other grottos I did see… well- you decide!  I have never seen water this color- anywhere!

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Are you convinced yet!

 

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View back towards Sorrento and Positano

 

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Enjoying JK Place Hotel

 

I have loved every minute of my time on the Amalfi Coast and frankly can’t wait to return again and again! Thanks for traveling with me!  Ciao for now until my next adventure!  If you missed parts 1-4 you can find them here on the blog and all the photos are on my Flickr album.  Hundreds to enjoy and way too many to put in this blog.

When you are on the Amalfi Coast hire a private driver or take a taxi.  Both are experts in the sights and history of the area and will make your journey that much more memorable. Again if you are interested in going to Italy considering working with either of the ladies below and tell them Robin Lensi sent you. I suggest you contact either:

Capritime Tours– Rebecca Brooks or

L’Esperta – Ashley Turney

 

 

 

 

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