September 17, 2011

The Check-In/Check-Out Diaries: Tuscany


Out driver is late. We are waiting in front of the Best Western pondering whether our driver, Michele, is male or female and also realizing the large number of Silver Mercedes vans that are in the area. Michele (male) shows up and begins driving fast, leaving the city of Florence. On the way he discusses Chianti wine and then drives even faster (unsure if there is a link between discussing Chianti and Italian driver arousal – hoping we don’t find out). The valleys are vast with rolling hills, olive trees, and grapes. If the car is moving too fast and you miss the view, it’s okay, just look again and you will see another picturesque image. After 40 minutes the Castello di Verrazzano vineyard comes into focus. It looks like a distant castle, surrounded by miles of grapes. To make sure we don’t miss the start of the tour, Michele pushes down on the gas, flying around 90 degree turns with cliff like sides until we eventually navigate the winding roads into the winery area. We run (Michele may have picked a gate lock) and catch up with the tour that has just started.

The first room showcases wine they manufacture for chapels and the Vatican, Pope wine. We walk through the fermenting rooms and more cave-like areas full of barrels of mostly Chianti wine. When asked why the older barrels are more round versus the new ones more oval the answer is simply: “Because they fit through the door!” Life is simple on the vineyard. In addition to wine they make olive oil and lead us into rooms containing vintage olive oil and wine collections that have dust that appears to date back 100 years. The tour is highlighted by the Chianti tasting that includes Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Reserve, and Super Tuscan wines. It’s before noon when we leave and are nicely buzzed already thanks to the ample tasting.

For the next 45 minutes Michele is driving fast around sharp turns while occasionally taking calls on his cell phone and checking email. The endless hills and greenery and postcard like shots appear to only change slightly each time you grab an eyeful. The second stop is Castello di Fonterutoli for more Chianti and then we are back on the road headed to San Gimigano, a medieval town that is known as medieval Manhattan because of its concrete towers. There is a quick diversion to see the Castle of Monteriggioni another small medieval area where 50 people still live today. Given the small quarters and lack of things to do it seems implausible that anyone would live there, then again, I look out into the Tuscan country and find it implausible that anyone would NOT want to live there. So I’m pretty confused. One thing we didn’t count on was that drinking Chianti and then driving for long periods of time makes a person VERY tired. By the time we hit San Gimigano we are both beat as we navigate the small alley like walk ways and take pictures with the towers and sprawling Chianti region to our backs. By the time we get back to the car we are running late and Michele once again begins driving very fast, only slowing down to grab his cell phone or talk about Siena where he lives. It was no secret that our tour guide was disappointed that Siena was not on our list as well as the fact that we were trying to squeeze so much into one day. When we asked him to take us to the train station so we could catch a train to Pisa, his response? “Why not!”

About the Author:
David S. Grant is the author of several books including Rock Stars (Oak Tree Press), Corporate Porn (Silverthought Press), The Last Breakfast (Brown Paper Publishing), and Happy Hour (SynergEbooks). His new novel, BLOOD: The New Red will be available in the fall. David lives and works in New York City. For more information go to and follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant.