During this unique Tuscan farm foodie adventure, we’ll immerse ourselves in an exploration of the culinary traditions and delights of two very specific areas within Tuscany: Val di Merse (Siena) and Greve in Chianti. This trip entails a full immersion into Tuscan farm lifestyle and methods of farming and wine making, as well as the production of olive oil, meats, cheese, honey and other types of food typical to these areas of Tuscany.
Short walks each day through varied landscapes will familiarize us with the land and deepen our connection to the products grown or raised in the area. We’ll indulge in multiple tastings of regional specialties, and diverse cultural events will ensure that we engage in plenty of interaction with locals. One of this tour’s highlights is the half-day we’ll devote to preparing our own Tuscan lunch, using ingredients fresh from an organic garden.
DAY 1: Arrival at Castello di Spannocchia
Highlights: Arrival at Spannocchia Castle; historical talk; tour of the castle and grounds; afternoon lesson on Cinta Senese
Our host will guide us through Castello di Spannocchia and its grounds, sharing knowledge about the architecture of the Castello, the histories of the Cinelli and Spannocchi families, the mezzadria sharecropping system, (by which Spannocchia operated for centuries), and past and present agricultural activities on the property. We’ll visit the chapel, the library, the cantina, the secret garden and climb Spannocchia’s medieval tower for a breath-taking view of the 1,100 acres of rolling hills and farmland surrounding the Castello.
After our welcome lunch, Spannocchia offers us an in depth look at one of Noah’s Ark rare breed animals, the Cinta Senese pig, their organic artisan meat production and the typical salumi (salt-cured meats) created at Spannocchia. The tour includes a walk to see the pigs in their habitat, a glimpse into the seasoning/curing room, concluding with a guided tasting of their salumi products such as salame, prosciutto, capocollo and lardo.
Dinner & Overnight Activity: Short walk to Castello di Spannocchia, walk around the property
DAY 2: Cooking Lesson & San Galgano Walk
Highlights: Organic garden tour; pasta/dessert cooking class; walk to a 13th century abbey; wine demystification tasting/class
The cooking class begins at 9am with a tour through the vegetable garden. Carmen, our 'Ortolana', will describe the cycle of the various crops through the year and her methods for providing the kitchen with fresh, flavorful products. Then to the kitchen, where Loredana will assist us in preparing Tuscan pasta and desserts utilizing ingredients from the estate. The first course may be handmade pasta such as tagliatelle, ravioli, gnocchi or pici. We finish with a traditional dessert such as cantucci cookies with Spannocchia vin santo, pine nut cake, tiramisu, or their renowned salame al cioccolato.
After a leisurely lunch enjoying our culinary creations, we’ll visit San Galgano abbey for an afternoon walk in the area. Built as a Cistercian monastery in the 1200s, San Galgano’s decline began in the 15th century and now it stands, roofless and monumental, one of the most evocative sites in all of Italy. The monumental complex of Saint Galgano rises approximately 30km (approx. 19 mi) to the west of Siena, between the villages of Monticiano and Chiusdino, in a rugged, but beautiful natural landscape.
This afternoon’s wine demystification class and tasting is a wine tour with a difference – at Spannocchia, they tell it like it is! Oenology is a tricky business but appreciating good wine doesn’t have to be. What exactly is wine? What does terroir mean? What is a super Tuscan? From demijohns to D.O.C. labeling, together we will demystify the wine culture of Italy, with a little help from the very visual and fragrant 'aroma board'. We'll taste wines from at least five of Italy’s wine regions.
Dinner & Overnight Activity & Distance: Cooking lesson in the morning; 2 hour walk in afternoon, 3 miles
DAY 3: Torri to Stigliano Walk
Highlights: hike to a medieval village; visit a three-tiered cloister in an ancient Vallombrosan monastery; Bottega di Stigliano (a small shop that sells local organic products); afternoon honey and olive oil tours and tastings
We’ll begin today’s adventures with a morning hike to Torri – a medieval village where we visit the enchanting three-tiered cloister in the ancient Vallombrosan monastery. We continue on to the village of Stigliano, where we visit the Bottega di Stigliano, an initiative by locals dedicated to '0 kilometer' food and agriculture, promoting local farmers and their products and cultural initiatives which deepen the connection between what we consume and the environment in which we live. We can discuss and compare the ‘0 km’ movements in Italy and the US.
After lunch, we return to Spannocchia for a session with a local bee keeper (and honey tasting) with local agronomist Andrea, who introduces us to the wonderful world of bees! Andrea explains bee dances, bee keeping history and honey production, and if the temperature’s just right, Andrea may bring some bees along too. He concludes by leading us through a honey tasting of several different local varieties.
Before dinner, our host will give us a brief history of olives and olive oil, and explain how olive oil is produced. We’ll take a walk in the olive orchard and learn about olive trees from a botanical perspective. We’ll conclude with a guided tasting of several Tuscan oils, including Spannocchia's award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Dinner & Overnight Activity & Distance: Walking 3.5 – 4 hours; 5 miles. Bee keeper visit and honey tasting; olive oil tasting.
DAY 4: Siena — Greve
Highlights: visit to weekly market in Siena; guided city tour; mini Italian lesson; Masseto farm visit
Today, Italy's loveliest medieval city is ours to explore. We’ll begin our adventure with a visit to the weekly market, followed by a guided tour of Siena and an introduction to the passions of the world famous bareback Palio horse race, held twice a year; July 2nd in honor of the local Madonna of Provenzano and August 16th in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin.
Siena is one of Italy’s jewels. ‘Il Campo’, Siena’s sloped central piazza, shaped like a seashell, is the heart of the city and beloved by the townspeople and tourists alike. The many medieval and Gothic buildings throughout Siena make you think you’ve fallen back through time and ‘Il Palio’ horse race, which takes place in the Campo, has no equal in terms of passion and pageantry. Together with our city guide, we’ll visit the cathedral with its stunning Piccolomini library and mosaic floors, walk through the city which is always abuzz with the latest Palio news, and stop to sample Siena’s famous sweets. Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, resembling fruitcake, and ricciarelli are traditional biscuits with Sienese origins dating to the 14th century.
Lunch on your own may be on the piazza or in one of Siena’s many trattorie. After lunch we can join our guide to explore Siena’s city walls and hidden neighborhoods or venture out on our own to shop or explore the town at our leisure.
A shuttle takes us to our new farm stay just outside of Greve in Chianti, to the Masseto farm, our home for the next two nights. Perched in the hills of Chianti Classico between Castellina and Greve, we’ll be surrounded by beautiful villages rich in history, culture and interesting sights. In the main farmhouse, the medieval tower dating from the 11th century overlooks the Pesa Valley river. Currently, the farm consists of 120 acres of woodland and fields cultivated with vineyards and terraced olive groves following the rules of organic farming. The hospitality of the owners, who live at the farmhouse, is unsurpassed.
Dinner & Overnight in Chianti area Activity: City walking
DAY 5: Casavecchia alla Piazza
Highlights: Casavecchia alla Piazza winery and farm visit
After breakfast, we’ll visit our neighbors at Casavecchia alla Piazza winery and farm where we are hosted by Gabriele Buondonno and his wife, Valeria. The farm is surrounded by woods, vineyards and olive groves, covering approximately 20 hectares, eight of which are vineyards, four are olive groves, and the remainder are woodland and pasture. Casavecchia can be found on maps dated as early as 1549 and marked as the ‘place of Leonardo Buonarroti’, Michelangelo’s nephew. From the letters written between Michelangelo and Leonardo, we learn that the farm was bought by Michelangelo and that the wine they produced even then had an excellent reputation: ‘I would rather have two barrels of Trebbiano than eight shirts’ Michelangelo writes to Leonardo, adding that he needs them as a ‘gift for the Pope’.
Long-standing members of the Tuscan Organic Farmers Association, Gabriele Buondonno and Valeria Sodano are originally from Naples and are both agronomists. They bought the farm in 1988 and have since dedicated themselves to agriculture, putting all their energy and determination into creating a small farm using organic methods to produce quality wines. We'll lunch with the family and taste their award-winning wines. The afternoon is yours to bask in the quiet of the Chianti hills or join our guide for an afternoon stroll followed by a special farewell dinner.
Dinner & Overnight in Chianti area Activity: Winery visit and optional walk
DAY 6: Departure
After breakfast, transfer to Florence train station or Hotel Orto dei Medici.