Have you ever had a day on vacation where everything worked so great that you do not feel that you deserved it? Today was that day for us!

When we first knew that we were going to come to Tuscany, I wanted to have a guide at least for some of the days. Just someone who could really get us imbedded into the region and culture. For a lot of it, we were looking at what we could get via credit card points and through that I found this guy (Fabrizio Fe’) that was offering four-hour curated tours of Tuscany. We sort of went back and forth on what we wanted to do and I sent him an email looking for more information. We sort of forgot/put off making a decision until a few weeks before our trip. By that time when I looked at his services he had added a 12 hour Tuscan tour! The tour starts with him picking us up at our place, we would then see some sights, go to two vineyards, and conclude with him making us dinner at his house in Montepulciano. Twelve hours is a massive commitment to spend with a guide, and we were hesitant to take it. However, when I saw his blooper reel on his website, I knew this is someone I needed to meet.

I emailed back and forth with Fabrizio before I trip so that he could get a sense of who we were and what we liked. We made plans on the price, date, and time. Today, we had an early breakfast and at 9:30 AM we met him at the front of the farm house. This guy has a massive smile and from first glance I knew that this was going to be a great day. Before getting in his car, he checked with us to see if we had issues with car sickness (we both took medicine for it before we walked out) and he indicated that he will drive slow so that we don’t have any problems. The car ride was just like connecting with an old friend. We talked about everything, some Italy related, others about our pasts. He hit me right away with a great fact, the entire Val D’Orca area (think of it like Nappa Valley) is a Unesco World Heritage location. What this means is that they basically take a snapshot of the entire area and say that nothing can change from that point on. Purchased a new tractor for your olive farm and want to have it covered in a shed? Nope! If the shed was not in place in the past, you can not add it now. He joked that before Google Maps it was easier because people would just start announcing when the inspectors were coming by and people would hide anything that they changed.

We made our way to Pioggi Grande vineyard, which was hand selected by Fabrizio based on a number of criteria. First, the vineyard must be multi-generational. He wanted to make sure that he is bringing people not just to a vineyard that has good wine, but that it also has history and a story to tell. The second, is that the vineyard produces a limited supply annually. This means that the product that we try will be special and each grape means something. Finally, he wants vineyards that are off the beaten path and does not supply to large groups. We passed a few of these vineyards that had access for large buses and there is just no personal touch that you can provide when there are 70 people showing up.

This vineyard was run by a woman named Giullitta. Apparently, one in three vineyards in the area are run by women, which I think is amazing. This is in the Castiglion d’Orcia, and for the most part they just work with different blends of the sangiovese grape varietal. Oddly enough, they also have some grapes that make some white wines, which is very rare for this area. We tasted around six wines, all of them were very good. The prices are crazy reasonable and we really enjoyed the stories about the vineyard and how they came up with the name. At the end, they provided us with the price sheet and the shipping cost and I was blown away with how reasonable it was….so we bought six bottles.

We left Pioggi with a little more smiles on our faces and Fabrizio took us to Bagno Vignoni which is a small town (really there are only 22 residents) and is home of a natural thermal spring. In the middle of the “town” there is a large Roman bath and from the stories that Fabrizio told us, this is where the Romans would come to relax and talk business. Apparently, it was open for locals for a while until people started to drop trash and bottles into the pools after they drank a little too much and they banned people from going into it. There are additional hotels and spas in the town that you can pay 20 euros for some time in their thermal baths, and there were a lot of people at our farmhouse that visited and really enjoyed it. This location has the hottest thermal spring in all of Tuscany (it comes out at 126F!).

After we left the thermal springs we headed towards another vineyard. This one is called Innocenti (sounds like innochenti in Italian). This was another multi-generational vineyard. However, it is in the Montalcino region which means that it is known for a wine type called Brunello. This has a lot of regulations on how long the wine has to stay in the barrel and the bottle. The plan at this place was to have a light lunch, and try some wines and olive oil. They prepared a meat and cheese plate for us, then served us some olive oil. The olive oil here is amazing, however, every now and again we get some that just tastes off. Apparently, what we are missing is to add a little salt to the oil, which is not not something that they take offense to. The olive oil here is remarkable, it is very easy to add to just about anything. They bring us a bunch of wines to try while we eat. The first two were just their normal sangenovese wines. Then they brought out the big guns, the brunellos. They bring out a 2016 brunello and it is remarkable. We kept talking about how much we enjoyed the wines and I think that since we bought some at the pervious vineyard, Fabrizio was able to convince then to let us try some of the older vintages. They brought out the 2013 vintage and we were in love. Lindsey and I mentioned that we love to guess the prices when we do wine tastings/classes at Total Wine, and apparently they have never heard of this before. I see Fabrizio running back to the room to grab paper and pencils. They refill all our glasses and we start to guess the prices. Fortunately, just before we left for Italy we did an “Under the Tuscan Sun” wine class at Total Wine and through that we learned that some of the Brunello Reserve wines are extremely expensive. Armed with this experience and knowledge, we start to put down numbers. I think the highest we guessed was $200 for the 2013 Brunello Reserva….it was $69! The ladies at the vineyard enjoyed seeing how close we were to the new vintages and how far away we were for the “good stuff.” As the time wound down, it was once again time to pick and choose what we wanted to purchase. We ended up with 18 wines, 2 bottles of EVOO, and a bottle of reserved grappa.

After we left the winery we drove through the country side and made it to two of the locations where they shot the movie “The Gladiator,” followed by some gelato in Pienza. When walking through Pienza there was a market there that the nun’s were putting on. From there, I was able to get some limoncello and Lindsey got some soap. The nun’s were so cute and happy that we were buying things from them, they sent us on our way with their blessings and we headed to Montepulciano.

We did a quick tour of Montepulciano, which is where Fabrizio lives, and then we headed to his house. He has an amazing apartment that is basically on the cliffside of the town, facing the setting sun. We meet his wife, and she starts making the pasta for our food. We have some prosecco and conversations and then Fabrizio makes up some mozzarella and tomatoes with a truffle and balsamic vinaigrette. Then followed the tagliatelle pasta his wife prepared with a pork cheek and beef ragù sauce. He then served us some raw sliced fennel drizzled with olive oil and topped with smoke salmon that even Lindsey enjoyed. For dessert, it was simple but amazing. He cut up an orange, sprinkled some date sugar on it and then drizzled a chocolate liquor on top. It was so light and full of flavor, that it surely will be something that we make at home.

The evening carried on far past the “planned” time that we were supposed to finish. The conversation was so easy and as he told his wife, “Today, I did not have to work,” confirmed that this was a great time. At the end of the evening, I tried to arrange the payment. However, he stopped me saying that I can send him the payment tomorrow or whenever I wanted. We ended the evening like we started, full of conversations on the way home and not at all feeling like we had spent the last 14 hours hanging out with someone we just met.

Thanks Fabrizio for an amazing time, and ruining all future guided tours I will have for the rest of my life 🙂

Post Navigation