Travel tips about Tuscany, Italy including food, wine and lifestyle
Travel tips about Tuscany, Italy including food, wine and lifestyle
Episode 67: Cool Tours With Anna Madaffari
It was a bright sunny morning mid-December in Florence. My wife and I waited outside our hotel in Florence, about 400 yards from the Dumo. We were meeting our friend Anna Madaffari who operates Cool Tours.
Our plan for the morning was simple. We would walk to Caffe Gilli, have a cappuccino and a pastry, catch up with Anna whom we hadn't seen in a year. In the large crowds walking to and from the most famous landmark in Florence, emerged the spunky Italian with a smile a mile wide dressed in her traditional black. She was bundled up more than we were as the temperatures were cooler for her, but mild for us considering we were coming from winter in the Midwest.
"Buongiorno!" Anna lets out, followed by a peck on each cheek; she repeated the greeting for my wife.
"I am parked around the corner, let's get in the van," Anna said.
"But what about our morning plans?" I said.
"Oh, we will stop and get a coffee, but it's too nice of a day not to go for a drive and see something new," she said.
It seems like Anna is always working. If you follow her on social media, you know she is doing tours almost daily. Her silver Mercedes van that seats eight is perfect for a trip to the Tuscany countryside. After our quick hits of caffeine, we were off on a new adventure.
Our first stop, a place we have never visited before, a small hilltop town in Chianti, Barberino Val d'Elsa. For the most part, everything was closed, and the streets empty. I don't want to paint a gloomy picture; it was quite peaceful. We were able to roam at our own pace taking in the historic structures and spectacular views of the countryside from the city wall.
After about an hour's stroll, it was time to climb back in the van. It was nearing lunchtime, and we were getting excited about our next stop - even though we didn't know where we were going.
Winding through the switchbacks of the Chianti hills, the Cool Tour's van ascended a steep incline. Once at the top, there was a gated villa on our left. A small wooden sign hung on the gate that was hard to read unless you were three feet from it. It read, I Balzini. I can try and describe the estate, but I wouldn't do it justice; their website captures it perfectly.
I Balzini is a classic example of a Tuscan working farm that has grown from the former country farmhouse around which vineyards and olive groves were cultivated. The central block of vineyards is located directly in front of the house, which serves as the owners’ residence as well, while a second vineyard parcel is just a short distance away. A wood and a small lake complete the property, giving it a harmonious and cozy air, one gathered in upon itself, and from which one looks out over some of Tuscany’s most celebrated villages. The long sunsets over the vineyards are perhaps some of the loveliest images to be admired at I Balzini and are the result of the extremely felicitous exposure of the property, which enjoys a special luminosity.
The name “Balzini” comes from the Tuscan word for small terraces, the exact site on which the vineyards were planted.
Anna introduced us to Nicola, who helps manage the estate and the three large but friendly dogs whom Nicola tries desperately to keep from escaping. While Anna made a couple of phone calls, Nicola took the time to give us a tour of the organic farm. The small cellar that houses what we are about to find out are some amazingly great tasting wines. Next, it was off to the tasting room for lunch and food. On the table were red, green, white, and black label wines. Each with its own unique taste that paired perfectly with our appetizers, pasta, and chocolate lava cake for dessert. My wife and I were seduced by the atmosphere, the smells, the tastes and purchased six bottles, two red labels, two white labels, and two black labeled bottles. They arrived at our home in Nebraska about three weeks later.
After about t
Episode 66: Holiday Wine Shopping and Harvest 2019 Review
Happy Holidays! Stop looking for the perfect gift, do all your Christmas wins shopping at CSIWines.com! Our good buddy Anthony Frevelletti is back with us, and he tells us you can have some incredible wine from Tuscany under your tree by Christmas day!
Also, Anthony is super excited to share his thoughts on what he thinks was an incredible harvest for 2019, and what makes it unique, especially for the smaller producers in the Tuscany. If you have heard Anthony on our podcast before you know that he is uber passionate bout wine and he does not disappoint in this episode.
Episode 65: Naked In Italy
I sat at the kitchen table between my Italian boyfriend, Francesco, and his mom near the sink, trapped in an awkward place where her insults had to pass through me to get to him. All of the blood in her body had rushed into her face as she listed off the many reasons American women make terrible mothers. She lifted a saucepan in the air like she was about to bludgeon me with it, then turned and chucked it into the soapy water, sending a tidal wave of suds crashing onto the counter. When she turned her back to violently scrub the dishes, I snuck out the sliding glass door.
That’s a passage from the book “Naked In Italy,” a memoir by M.E. Evans detailing her not-so-fairytale adventure of living in Florence. Sure there were the rolling hills of the Val d'Orcia, cheap wine, and good looking Italian men. But as M.E. explains in the book and this podcast, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape life.
Our conversation with her is candid. She doesn’t hold back, and her humor that is on display in the book comes out as quick wit on this podcast.
If you love to laugh, if your cherish honesty, and if you like the roller coaster of life with Tuscany as the backdrop, then you are going want to buy Naked In Italy today! You won’t want to put it down.
Episode 64: Opera In The Kitchen
When we plan a podcast, we are always looking for a new and unique experience to inspire you to travel to Tuscany. We have done just that in this episode.
Lucrezia Cammito is and entrepreneur who’s taken her passions, cooking, and opera and brought them together in a quaint setting in the Tuscan countryside.
Opera in the Kitchen is specially designed for small groups, 10-12 people, and promises to make memories that will last a lifetime. You get to pick your vegetables and herbs. You learn to prepare and cook pasta from a professional chef. You dine at sunset while drinking some of the most exceptional Italian wine.
The Opera In The Kitchen experience has been so popular, Lucrezia is bringing her talents to the United States in November. She will be visiting Atlanta, New York, Miami, and Houston. Additionally, she is working on new experiences she plans to launch for guests in 2020.
Episode 63: The Best Wine Tasting Ever
Without a doubt, the most common question we get asked about from our family, friends, and clients is about wine. Everyone wants to know two things; how good is it, and can you recommend a vineyard tour?
The answers we always give are simple; the wine in Tuscany is fantastic! Also, we can recommend hundreds of vineyard tours. However, the best tasting we've ever had was at a small vineyard outside of Florence. Was it because the wine was excellent, maybe but we think it was because of today's guest, Anthony Freveletti.
Episode 62: Renting A Villa With Peace of Mind
In today's world of travel of experiences, people are quick to rent a property on the internet sight unseen where reviews are manipulated, and pretty pictures don't tell the whole story.
When it comes to a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, or even Italy for that matter, why chance it? You shouldn't and why Parker Villas is the best when it comes to first-class rental properties and excellent customer service and satisfaction.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great resource, affable podcasters.
I’ve been planning our first trip to Tuscany, and in addition to the usual guidebooks, I’ve been seeking and listening to podcasts for ideas. Among the best I’ve found is Total Tuscany. They’re enjoyable and get right to the point, and their interviews are easygoing, thorough and very useful. Through them I’ve gotten some great tips, discovered other great resources, and even found an amazing place to stay in Florence for that portion of our trip — a place that no other guides I’ve found mentioned, but it couldn’t be more up our alley.
My only disappointment is that I only wish there were more episodes.
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