Eleven years ago when I studied abroad at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Italy I had no idea what I was in for. I knew no one, didn’t understand the language, had never traveled abroad never mind going to live in a foreign city for 4 months…and I didn’t like wine other than, embarrassingly to say now, Carlo Rossi and Arbor Mist. Today, I’ve been back 7 times including getting married there, I write an Italian wine blog, and work for an Italian wine importer, PSP Imports, and lastly have been studying Italian for the last 4 years at an intermediate level approaching fluency if only I could get the Italians to slow down when talking. It is certainly a very passionate, animated culture that my family & I can speak to.
I have to say I have been all over Italy and truly appreciate each region’s own landscapes, food, wine and traditions. Although, my heart is taken by the capital of Tuscany, Florence aka Firenze, and this is very evident to anyone entering my home with all the pictures and memorabilia I’ve brought back over the years.
I’m usually one for smaller towns in the countryside as you get a true sense of the culture of an area and region, but even though Florence is a city, the city center is closed to most traffic and everything is within walking distance. You can easily visit one of the top art galleries in the world, the Uffizi, experience the stunning size and architecture of the Duomo, shop at the eye-catching 18k gold shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, visit the famous tombs in the Santa Croce church and explore Michelangelo’s marble structures including the famous David in the Accademia Gallery; finally the icing on the cake is the breathtaking and memorable panoramic skyline at Piazzale Michelangelo from the hill overlooking the city.
If you’re a wine lover you have the picturesque Chianti Classico wine region just a short ride away in the outskirts of Florence. A new addition to the center of Florence as of spring this year was the opening of the Enoteca Chianti Classico inside the Mercato Centrale Firenze, “Florence Central Market”, which is right in the heart of the city with street vendors every day selling items like leather bags, gloves, wallets, belts, silk ties, pashminas and much more. The Mercato Centrale is open daily from 10am to midnight, except for New Year’s Day. This market has always housed the freshest meats, cheeses, spices, pasta and other foods. It will also serve as the headquarters for Chianti Classico.
The Enoteca offers a great way to explore the wines of the region without having to drive out to the countryside, although personally I would also visit the wineries themselves while taking in the stunning Tuscan landscapes. What’s great about the Enoteca of Chianti Classico is that you can sample over 1200 wines by the glass or bottle. This new 30,000 square foot renovation will not only satisfy your wine desires, but it is also a gastronomic delight as it allows you to sample many of the local specialties of the region. After exploring the city it’s a great way to sit down, relax and treat yourself. There are even wine and cooking schools. It’s a great learning experience to sample and appreciate the fine wines from members of the consortium displaying their dedication and passion through the wine of the Black Rooster, Chianti Classico.
–Jennifer Martin: I fell in love with Italy over 10 years ago when I studied abroad in Florence. I have now returned there 7 times including my recent marriage in the town of Bucine. My love and passion for Italy comes not only from my experience of living there, but also my Italian roots. I have traveled all over Italy and have experienced so many beautiful cities, wines, foods and traditions in each region which I love to share with the whole world. Vino Travels is my blog focused on Italian wines and travel. You can subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter , Facebook and Pinterest.
Concierge tip: The ideal place to stay in Florence to experience all these wonderful joys is the Relais Santa Croce Florence. The hotel has also recently launched a special Tuscany Wine Experience package which includes the chance to get a unique behind-the-scenes tour of the exclusive Guicciardini Strozzi Domain in San Gimignano.