After a few days in Florence, we rented a car and drove through rural Tuscanny past fields of sunflowers and hills and vineyards to the small old town Montepulciano. If you are visualizing scenes from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” then you’d be right. It’s a town atop a hill, and the inner city is still surrounded by stone walls dating back to the 1400s.
Montepulciano is known world-wide for it’s wine so we checked out a wine cellar and a wine tasting.
Here’s the thing, I have a really bad tourist habit of ‘playing it cool’. I don’t ask questions, and I don’t bring attention to myself. I generally just try to blend and learn by observing. When we went for the wine tasting, I was fully prepared to just slowly take sips while having a ponderous look on my face. Mauricio is a great tourist partner because he asks questions about everything. As it turns out, wine tasting is a very legitimate thing that even people with an unsophisticated palate can experience!
Here’s a list of things we learned about wine tasting:
1. tilt your wine glass and behind it hold a white piece of paper. Then look at the wine, the centermost part of the wine will be a different tone, than the outer part touching the glass. It could be a dark burgundy or even purplish. This means something….
2. slosh the wine around the glass a little bit. The speed of the the drops sliding down the walls of the glass is an indicator to the quality of the wine. These drops in English are referred to as ‘legs’, in Italian and Spanish they are referred to as tears. The faster the legs/tears slide, the lower the quality.
3. Really taste the wine before swallowing. Slosh it around in your mouth for a bit. Wines are preserved in barrels for varying lengths of time, again depending on quality. The best wine that we tasted, I could actually taste the oak of the barrel. (yes realize some of you are thinking, ‘yay I’ve always wanted to taste an oak barrel…’)
How many times have you had a glass of wine and really paid any attention to it? Or better yet, how many times have you compared two different wines?
Next stop, Elba Island! This is the island that the great Napoleon was exiled to and really he had it pretty good. Elba is wildly beautiful and it’s coastline beaches are so diverse, you can match them up with your moods or make a Dr Seuss rhyming travel book about it. Elba has rock beaches, sand beaches, half rock and half sand beaches, half sand and half rock beaches. It has white beaches, black beaches, brown beaches and red beaches! (hear the Dr Seuss-ish rhythm? I should give this book idea a go…)
Have you ever seen a black beach? It is amazing. The black sand actually sparkles! Maybe this is where the creator of glitter got his/her inspiration.
In spite of the rain, we explored windy roads and rock climbed to secluded beaches, and snorkeled in the crystal clear water. We also learned that just because you’re on an island in the Mediterranean, not every restaurant has good seafood. I don’t know how they mess it up, but apparently it’s possible.
Next and last for our non-honeymoon was Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is National Park forrest area and a string of 5 old fishing villages dating back to the 11th century along Italy’s coastline. The villages are only accessible by boat, train, or hiking. The trail connecting the towns is called the ‘sentiero azzurro’ which means blue path. Unfortunately, the towns were literally packed with tourists and the trains full as clown cars. So we spent our days hiking between towns and/or snorkeling! Here’s a few photos:
Here’s something I didn’t know until moving to Germany: Champagne is to sparkling wine, like Rolex is to watches or Corvette is to cars. Champagne is a sparkling wine from a specific region in France. Friends of ours a while back gave us a bottle as a gift and we’d been carrying it around waiting for a special place and time. Our final night of our non-honeymoon we sat on the rocks, watched the sunset, and drank our very first taste of real genuine champagne.
And now I leave you with Dean Martin singing my Italian theme song!