I recently had the delight of a once-in-a-lifetime wine-tasting tour of Tuscany and Umbria.
I arrived in Rome two days before the tour and stayed at a wonderful little Palazzo near the Vatican, Cardinal Cesi. This is a wonderful location within walking distance of so many of Rome’s attractions. The beatification for Pope John Paul 23rd was scheduled for Sunday, so it was very busy to say the least.
Our bus picked us up in Rome and we started off for Montefalco, a delightful village in Umbria with a medieval feeling in its small streets and narrow alleys. It is a very religious community that has produced a total of eight saints. We stayed at the Villa Pambuffetti, a family owned and run hotel. The warm and intimate feeling made me believe we were visiting in someone’s home.
The villa has an authentic Italian restaurant which uses local ingredients and serves Montefalco wines. It also had a lovely pool, wifi access and expansive views from each window.
Our next day included a visit to the Antonelli and Banfi Vineyards. Wine Spectator rated Banfi “the most consistently outstanding vineyard”. It is an American owned estate. We were served a variety of their ‘super Tuscan’ wines and viewed the private rooms of Il Borgo, their hotel on site. They also have a very unique antique Glass Museum.
A tour of the famous Antonelli vineyard and wineries allowed us a feel for this wonderful area and its famous ‘super Tuscans.’ The term ‘super Tuscans’ was coined by Robert Parker and describes any red wine such as Cabinet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovise, or Syrah, as long as at least 85% of the grapes blended are, in fact, grown in the region.
The following day found us in the hilltop town of Assisi, the burial place of St. Francis, patron saint of animals. The basilica di San Francesco, which was severely damaged in 1997, has reopened with its frescos and Giotto’s Life of St. Francis in 28 huge panels.
A visit to Perugia, Umbria’s capital rounded out our day. In its center is Fontano Maggiore, one of Italy’s most beautiful fountains. The National Gallery here shows the development of Umbrian art. After all the art I headed to the chocolate shops to take home some of this town’s worldly recognized Perugia chocolates.
Our next stop over was Hotel Corsignano in Pienza. This family run hotel has an excellent restaurant with exquisite views of the Corsia Valley. The staff was very professional and friendly. The local foods and wines were sumptuous.