Tuscany, part 1 of 3. The vineyards

Shocking fact about me – I wasn’t a fan of Italy (at all) before I visited Tuscany last year. I hear you say “That is because you haven’t seen it!” but I did: Palermo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Milan, Venice – and, honestly, wasn’t looking forward to explore more. Then my girlfriends literally dragged me to Tuscany over a long weekend – and, WOW, it really left a strong impression on me.

One post won’t summon it all so let’s start with the obvious: vineyards. Not sure how, but the fact that, apart from the obvious of drinking and buying wine, you can stay in a vineyard, eat in a vineyard, even visit an art gallery in vineyard – totally passed me by.

My 3 girlfriends and I stayed in a vineyard with this view in a Chianti region. Tourist season has just ended, so the restaurant there wasn’t serving breakfast. Keep in mind if you want everything and a little bit more to be open, mid-April to end of September is the time to go then.

Happy workaholic recipe: sun, friends, green scenery around

However, for our group of toddler Mums and workhaholics, coming in mid October was the best decision ever. No crowd, only birds and nature in perfect 20C-ish temperature. To wake up, drive up to buy fresh bread and then sit half a day having breakfast (yes, even if it stretches until 2 pm) and gazing over vineyards – awwww, I can be calmer simply by thinking about those mornings.

The light in the apartment and the view made it very hard to leave the place every morning

After our extensive breakfasts, we normally had a plan what to visit: yes, you are thinking write, mostly vineyards! To recommend a vineyard in Tuscany seems an impossible task – anywhere you look there are vines of 50 shades of green. Where there are vines, there are olive trees as well!

50 shades of a vineyard
Vines and olive trees go well together

During the weekend we ended up visiting (only) two wineries. Let me start with with first one one – Castello di Ama. It had amazing art exhibition. To be fare, I wouldn’t call what they offer “a wine tasting”, rather “an extensive art walk that leads to a room with wines”. The owner has a passion both for wines and art that makes this very special place, below are some impressive pieces there. Suggestion for improvement: to give guests a generous glass of wine before the art walk.

Can you read backwards? Kendell Geers – Revolution/Love
Sad but very powerful art installation of the world build of different walls. Carlos Garaicoa – Yo No Quiero Ver Mas A Mis Vecinos
Daniel Buren – Sulle Vigne: Punti di Vista. Mirror wall 25 m long and 2 m high fronting the main building has openings through which you can see the vines – amazing trick for opening up and bringing volume into the backyard
The well deserved wine tasting after a long art tour…

Second winery that we visited was more in my taste – cool modern architecture with picturesque surroundings – Antinori nel Chianti Classico. The building was constructed solely with local materials with the focus for sustainability and low environmental footprint. Though it looks futuristic once you get to the entrance – you barely see it from the highway, everything was done not to destroy the beauty of the vines surrounding the main building.

Absolutely stunning architecture and the view over Antinori nel Chianti Classico
No words needs – perfection of the modern architecture and the best what the nature has to offer
Top level of the the Antinori nel Chianti Classico

Restaurant in the vineyard is absolutely stunning – if you are not in the mood or have very little time for a whole tour and a wine tasting, head out to the restaurant on the top floor instead. They do magical classical Italian dishes to perfection plus you all the wines that the vineyard is known for overlooking the scenery and surrounded by the vines.

Restaurant with both al fresco and indoors seeating
It can’t get better than this…

Are you already checking tickets? Stay tunes – more narration to come.

Links and comments:

  • Fattoria Pratale: very cozy and rustic apartments right in the heart of a vineyard. If you come during the touristic season, wine tastings and cooking classes are available as well.
  • Castello di Ama: mostly art with wine type of a vineyard. Personally, won’t go there one more time for the wine experience. Art lovers, however, would really enjoy it.
  • Antinori nel Chianti Classico: if you love impressive modern architecture framed with the beautiful nature and topped with great wine selection, this vineyard is a must-visit.
  • Get there by air: flight to Pisa (Vespucci airport) or Florence (Galileo Galilei) depending which part of Tuscany
  • Transportation: I would say that you must have a car when in Tuscany – otherwise, it is very expensive and quite a pain to take cabs. There are public buses between bigger towns but that definitely take away whole experience. Alcohol limit is 0,05% (as per writing this post) – so even the driver can enjoy a glass of wine.

COVID-19 blues

It has been 8+ months or 249 days since I haven’t taken a flight. The closest to air-traveling during this period of time was giving a ride to an airport for a friend’s mother. I was lucky to go for 2 boat trips and 1 road trip during the summer – of course, keeping it inside Sweden.

For a person who flew on average 60 flights a year it is a pretty daunting statistics. Don’t even get me started how I had time off during March and April that I have spent re-watching Friends and doing 10k walks in the neighborhood instead of cruising streets of Tokyo, Perth, Seattle and New York (yes, I am still talking to the agencies to get the money back).

At the same time, this made me so humble. My family, friends and colleagues across the globe were sitting in a forced quarantine whilst I was living my “normal” life in Sweden minus air travel. Deducting air travel from my life was like taking away morning coffee from most of you. However it was still a drop in a sea comparing that my friends in Spain were getting 600 euro penalty fee for throwing away trashes 100 m further than their usual trash bin.

COVID-19 made me remember every single moment of the trips that I have done in the past and cherish them. It made it possible to spend the precious time (otherwise spent in taxis, airport lounges, flights and hotels) with the nearest and dearest and come closer to each other (I am sorry that this might not be the case for everybody, so again very humble on this). It made me more focused on my job – because, hey, I haven’t been stuck in a traffic 2 hours a day as well as taking coffee breaks with “random” colleagues (as a newly employed person in a big American corporation, it might actually have been a drawback – time will tell) – instead, I have spent time taking walks during morning Team Check-ins, cooking healthy lunches and digitally interacting with people that I know bring me energy and professional insight.

As you can read between the lines, I have lots of free “free” time over these days. I have decided that until travel situation will remain as it is in Sweden – restrict non-essential travels from Sweden to any other country even if it allows visitors – I will post memories from the past unpublished trips.

*Photo is taken exactly one year ago in an elevator of Arlanda parking (ARN), Terminal 4 on the way home from the day trip to Gothenburg.

Dream destination?

Since I can remember I was always fascinated by Australia. As a kid I mostly thought of it as a massive rainforest surrounded by the ocean with kangaroos jumping around with mini-kangaroos in their pocket and colibri flying from one unimaginable flower to another. As I grew older, Australia became for me a dream destination for so much more – idyllic beaches with best surfing, amazing outdoors swimming pools, fantastic food culture with everything fresh from around the corner (thank you My Kitchen Rules for showing so much of the local side of living!) and, of course, crazy mix of cultures. Sadly, I did also realize that there is mainly a desert landscape and many dangerous species out there – but that is another story.

Dreams should come true, huh? Most often it happens when least waited. Even for two months ago I wouldn’t imagine sitting in a plane to Brisbane. And here I am – have been awake for more than 48 hours, had 3 stops (one of which wasn’t in the itinerary – THAI airways don’t think that passengers need to know ahead that they “pit-stop” at Phuket on the way from Stockholm to Bangkok) but can’t sit straight from all the excitement seeing the country that has been my only big travel dream ever.

All of this means only one thing for this blog – during coming 3,5 weeks I will share my travel notes and photos from the East Australia: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and everything in between.

Australia, here I come.

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