Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sightseeing Chianti – October 7, 2009

We decided follow a short day tour to the region of Chianti, a famous wine making region in Tuscany. Following the tour was the best way for us to get there and not get lost! The tour cost us about Euro 40 (or more) per person and took about 4-5 hours. A double decked bus chauffeured us from the heart of Florence into the cascading hills of Chianti. Our tour guide, Simone was probably one of the best tour guides I’ve had!

Unlike the Asian (Chinese) operated tours in the US, the tour or the tour guide did not ask us to pay a compulsory gratuity to the guide and the driver. I’ve taken one Chinese operated tour in the US and was forced to pay USD 6 per person per day as a gratuity to the tour guide and the bus driver. I ended up paying over USD 140 for a 6 days trip for my family. Even though their website suggest the $6 of gratuity, in reality…. they MAKE you pay!  The worst part was, it was the tour guide does not speak very good English. I struggled so much trying to understand what she was trying to say, I ended up listening to her in mandarin as it was much easier. I pity the other non-Chinese tourists who doesn’t understand Mandarin. I was not the only one who encountered the problem with the so called “suggested” gratuity. My friends who recently took a North East trip also encountered such bad business practice! Their tour guide insisted them of paying USD 6 per person for tip even though the tour guide only picked them up from the airport at night! The airport pick-up ride was supposed to be complimentary. And they also had to pay the USD 6 per day per person to a not so worthy tour guide the next couple days! Ugh!

Well, back to my Chianti day trip…… the tour brought us to see a tiny church called the Church of Santa Brigida (Bottom Left). Nothing too interesting about the church, it was probably a ploy to make the whole Chinati day tour a little longer! Haha!

The soft rolling hills of Tuscany was definitely spectacular (Bottom Right)…….You’ll be surrounded by olive trees, vineries and other greeneries.


Another picture of the soft rolling hills of Tuscany (Bottom Left). This picture was taken at the Castello del Trebbio Winery which was the highlight of the trip.

Olive tree up close (Bottom Right). I guess, those are black olives? Or are they just ripe olives? Or bad olives? =P


And another view of the Tuscan hills from the Castello del Trebbio winery (Bottom Left).

Castello del Trebbio was once a fortress built in the 12th century for the Pazzi family. It was said that this fortress was where the Pazzi family planned the Pazzi conspiracy to kill the Medici family, which then failed. In the 15th century, the fortress was confiscated by the Medici family who turned it into a villa. The current owners of Castello del Trebbio bought the place in 1968 and have since produce various kind of wine, olive oil and even saffron. 


View of the castle from its garden (Bottom Left). We got a tour into parts of the castle/fortress. First stop was to the courtyard (Bottom Right). Apparently the owner of the winery still lives in this old castle. Everything was ancient looking in the building, and the rooms were big and cold. I don’t think I would want to live there…….at least not everyday! It just feels so scary!!!

Castello del Trebbio also offers villas and cottages nearby the main castle (I think) for vacation rentals and honeymoon for the newly weds. They also offer cooking class for those who’s interested in learning to cook some good Italian food, the Tuscan way.


View of the wine cellar view barrels of wine are being aged (Bottom Left). And also in the wine cellar we saw bottles after bottles of Chianti, all covered in dust (Bottom Right).


More wine being aged in different kind of barrels (Bottom Left). I forgot the names for these barrels, but I recall being told that they were costly and only have a shelf life of 3 years before it’s time to get new barrels.

With the tour, we got a tasting of 3 – 4 different kind of white and red wines that the winery produces. We were also given light snacks (Toast with their own olive oil, olive tapanade, bruscetta, salami and cheese) to pair the wines with (Bottom Right). 


Sangiovese grapes (Bottom Left); the grapes used in Chianti wines. We strolled into the vineyard (Bottom Right) and managed to sample some of the Sangiovese grapes. They tasted pretty good. =)


After a few hours, the tour bus took us back to the city. It was dinner time by the time we got home.

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