Another Tuscan Love Story

It was fall of 2006 when I first fell in love with Tuscany. My now-husband and I were in college and fortunate enough to spend a semester abroad. Our alma mater, Emerson College, owns a 12th century castle called Kasteel Well in a very rural corner of The Netherlands, along the German border. This castle, complete with a moat, is where we called home for nearly four months.

One of the greatest decisions we made in planning for our time over seas was to schedule our classes to be Tuesday through Thursday, ensuring we would have every Friday through Monday to travel around Europe. We were additionally granted two weeks off from classes to explore however we chose. We ended up spending one of those weeks touring Italy – and that is when I fell in love.

They say fall is a great time to visit Italy, and I can’t argue that. We spent the first part of our journey in Rome and ended it in Venice. In between, it was pure romance. The middle section of our Italian adventure was enjoyed in Florence. I had read online about wine tours in Tuscany and was determined to sign up for an excursion. Early in the morning, we boarded a coach bus that left from the center of Florence. I am notorious for falling asleep during road trips, and this was no different. I drifted off to sleep and awoke in heaven.

Castles seemed to be a theme of our time in Europe, as the winery we visited was Castello di Querceto – a beautiful vineyard and castle with views that are forever imprinted in my memory and on my heart. It was a gorgeous, clear day when we stepped off the bus and in to the warm sunshine. We first traveled down to the wine cellar, where we discovered bottles literally covered in dust from decades ago. We were given a tour of the storage facility as our guide described the process of wine-making. I think I was too in awe of my surroundings (there was a wine barrel taller than me!) to fully take in all she was trying to teach us.

Following the adventure through the wine cellar, we once again emerged in to the warm sun to overlook the Tuscan countryside from a patio. Looking back, these memories almost seem like a dream. Tuscany truly is as beautiful, if not more so, than it is on postcards and in movies. Finally, I had seen a landscape with my own eyes that was the definition of “picture perfect.”

We retreated to the castle’s lawn, where patio tables and chairs awaited us. Peacocks roamed the yard, waddling in and out of tables to visit each guest as we were served delicious cheeses. Soon after, we were given our first glass of wine to taste. Although I wasn’t a big wine connoisseur at the time (and I remain only a casual wine-lover today), I could tell there was something special about this wine. And when the Chianti Classico “Le Capanne” came around, I knew I had discovered the most amazing wine ever. We bought several bottles of it – some to give our parents when we returned home for Christmas, and a bottle for ourselves as well.

At the conclusion of the wine tasting, we basked in the sunshine a bit longer before hopping back on the bus. We stopped at a nearby tiny church that rested on the top of the hill. It was from that vantage point that we were able to sit on a stone wall and watch the sun set over the Tuscan countryside. It was a beautiful end to an unforgettable day.

When night fell, our bus stopped one last time at a restaurant where we all enjoyed dinner before returning to the center of Florence. We were seated at a small table for four, where we were joined by two Japanese women. There were only a few other Americans on the tour; the majority of tourists were from various European countries or Asia. Though we didn’t understand much of what each other said, we enjoyed our meal with the universal understanding that we had shared an incredible experience.

Years later, my day in Tuscany remains one of my favorite of my life. Its simple beauty, warm culture, and delicious wine are absolutely unbeatable. I fell in love that day. And when I got married last summer, my mom surprised me on the eve of marrying the love of my life with another love of my life: that bottle of Chianti Classico “Le Capanne” that we had brought back for her. Tuscany is full of life, and will forever be a part of my love story.