It was a brisk December afternoon, my wife and I were sitting in the Piazza della Republica in Florence waiting to meet up with our friend Linda Sorgiovanni. You've heard Linda on the podcast before, she owns and operates Italy Customized with her business partner Alberto Bassilichi. However, our afternoon plans were to experience the other business they own and operate, Urban Adventures Florence.
We were excited because Linda was going to give us a sample of the Florence Foodies Walk. The walk, a two-and-a-half exploration of the city streets, where we found some hidden gems and experienced the following:
Truffles. Gelato. Chianti. Olive Oil. All the essentials of the Italian food pyramid were included on this Florence tour. Leave the diet at home and embrace the feast that is Florence.
A local, English speaking guide gives the tour, and for about 75-bucks, everything you eat and drink is included.
We were fortunate to have Linda give us a private walk, but it would have been amazing to have other people to share the experience with and get different reactions.
Our first stop was a new Antinori wine bar/restaurant that included a small museum. Besides giving the history of the Antinori family, the courtyard housed a replica "Crazy Cart," which could haul up to 2000 bottles of chianti.
The next stop was a short walk from the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. We went behind the scenes at Top Bakery, where the owners were making their world-famous Panettone. A sweet cake popular around the Christmas holiday. Close your eyes and imagine the most fabulous smell a bakery can produce. That's what we experienced at Top, and everything we tasted was just as delicious!
It was time to sit down, Linda had something special planned as we walked into Procacci, a wine bar. We stared with the most refreshing glass of Prosecco and followed it up with not one, but two truffle and butter sandwiches that were simply unforgettable!
Our final stop, Forno di Antonio Mattei. A quaint little shop where we sampled biscotti. Not only did we taste several varieties, but the shop documents the history of the family and the business that is still thriving today. We purchased our biscotti in the replica "hatbox" that was traditional before modern packaging.
We ended our tour at Linda's office to record this podcast. Enjoy! You will want to experience one of the Urban Adventures Florence tours. We want to save you some money doing so! When you book online, enter the promo code, TOTAL TUSCANY, and you will save 5% off the purchase price. If you love (or like) food, and wine, Urban Adventures Florence will give you the best day ever!
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 Duomo. 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.
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 two and a half hours at I Balzini we climbed back into the van to head back to Florence. We made one more quick stop at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. This is the final resting place for 4,398 Americans who helped liberate Italy in World War 2. It is one of two American cemeteries in Italy and a must-visit for any American.
We left the cemetery in the late afternoon as the sun was setting into the horizon. Anna maneuvered the streets of Florence and was able to find a parking spot on in the Oltrarno side of the Arno river. We walked to a tiny but upscale wine bar where we sat next to a large window overlooking the Arno. Anna ordered water, my wife and I ordered wine. It was like a dream, and I didn't want the day to end. So I counted down, 3, 2, 1, and started interviewing Anna with my portable recorder. The result, the 67th episode of the Total Tuscany Podcast which you can listen to by hitting the play button at the top of this page.
We talked about our perfect day together, her growing business, and what you can expect when you hire Anna to be your guide a day or even longer.
Anna is simply the best! If you are going to Tuscany, do yourself a favor and hire her. Your experience with this sweet, spunky Italian will most likely turn into the most memorable part of your trip. You will see Tuscany through her experienced eye and know the place better.
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.
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.
You want to know makes the wine taste even better? The presentation and the person who is leading the tasting experience.
We first met Anthony Freveletti in October of 2018 as we were leading one of our Total Tuscany Experiences. Our first stop with our private guide, Anna Madafferi from Cool Tours was at this beautiful vineyard outside of Florence, Podere Dell'Anselmo. We were greeted by this American with an Italian last name and an accent that is a mix between Chicago, New York, and Italian. From the moment we stepped out of our van, Anthony was grinning from ear to ear an had a larger than life personality. What followed was the most passionate description of the soil, the vine, the grape, and the process of producing wine we have ever heard. We remember leaving the estate thinking that was the most exceptional wine we have ever tasted! Was it? Who knows, but Anthony sure made us feel like it was.
If you are a regular listener to the total Tuscany Podcast, you know that Pat Campagna has a great passion for the region. If you are not a regular listener well, then you will hear Pat's enthusiasm as he details his five favorite things about Tuscany.
Visiting Tuscany, or Italy for that matter is not about travel and tourism, it's about the experience. You can travel anywhere, but it's what you do, what you see, what you taste and smell once you get there that makes the memories last a lifetime. Food, wine, people, landscapes, art, it all comes together to what we think is euphoria.
Sitting around the table with food, wine, and a a full day of experiences make for the best conversations.
Visiting local hilltop towns and watching local artists in action gives you a feeling that everything is genuine and you are taking home something that is unique to you and your experience.
The landscapes at every turn will take your breath away. Sometimes you just have to stop, get out the car and take it all in.
It's the people you meet in the places you visit that make a at trip a a true experience. The more we learn not just about the places we visit but about each other is what makes the world a better place to live in.
When it comes to tourism in Tuscany, Querceto Di Castellina has what I call the holy trinity for visitors.
If you are a regular listener to the Total Tuscany Podcast, you know that we've talked about Querceto before, way back on Episode #3 with Jacopo di Battista. While traveling to the United States to promote the wines of Querceto, Jacopo met the love this life, Mary Shea. Having done consulting work in the food and wine industry, Mary knew a good wine when she tasted it. However, we aren't quite sure if that was prerequisite to getting the first date but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
After a long distance courtship, Mary has moved to Tuscany to be the Marketing Director for Querceto. She manages the brand from a social and visual aspect, but Mary also makes sure the hospitality and service you get when visiting Querceto are second to none. It's no secret that tourism in Tuscany is very competitive and visitors looking for a unique and memorable experience.
Querceto is a family owned Agriturismo and the wines produced on the estate are certified organic. Currently, there are five different vintages produced at the farm that dates back to the 14th century.
The estate also produces olive oil and Grappa di Chianti Classico
affinata in Barriques.
Travis Justice & Pat Campagna have been traveling to Tuscany since 2009. They produce the Total Tuscany Podcast and all the content on this website.