Our Tasty Tuscany Food Tour with Tuscan Wine Tours

My husband and I did this Tasty Tuscany food (and wine) tour in October 2014, while on our Maltese-Italian honeymoon. We had been looking for something to splurge on during our trip, but wanted to find something interesting and exclusive to spend our money on – no run-of-the-mill bus tour would do. I’m so glad we found this tour by Tuscan Wine Tours, because it was one of our favorite days of the trip, all thanks to our guide Caterina, the fabulous company, and amazing destinations and local producers we met throughout our memorable day in Tuscany.

Our small group of 8 were all couples, all happened to be from the states, and were all really cool, like-minded and adventurous travelers. I was a bit hesitant to book the tour since it was a bit pricey at 300 Euros per person, but as we met in the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi that morning, all my anxiety melted away as we boarded the comfortable minivan with our cheerful co-adventurers and met Caterina, our tourguide/driver extraordinaire.

Caterina was a fantastic guide, who educated us on the wines and foods of Tuscany between our various stops on the tour. We were really excited because it turned out that our tour was the last of its kind before the itinerary was modified to make different stops.

The Stops

Stop #1 – Fresh Pasta Maker

Our first stop was at a fresh pasta maker.

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This spot was no joke. It reminded me of some of the shops in Mendoza, Argentina that the Italian-Argentine families run, who churn out fresh pasta daily to buy by weight and prepare at home.

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After a brief lesson on what the different types of pasta are called and which ones were “native” to Tuscany (pici!), we were whisked into the back of the shop – to the kitchen, to see the pasta making in action.

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Showing us the two types of flour it takes to make pasta dough.

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That dough, doe.

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It took a lot not to try to stuff a few of these into my purse.

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These golden strands are ready for sale!


IMG_1181We were so inspired by the pasta maker that we took notes and actually came home and made really great pasta on our own after our trip!

Stop #2 – WINETASTING AT PASOLINI DALL’ONDA

Our second stop was wine and olive oil tasting at a Chianti Classico winery situated underneath a tiny Tuscan hill town, at Pasolini Dall’Onda’s Tenuta Di Barberino Val D’Elsa location.

Did you know that the black rooster symbol on the capsule of the bottle (the top of the bottle where you cut the foil and pull the cork) means that you’re buying an authentic Chianti wine? Well, now you do!

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We had some deeeelicious olive oil that we got to try (two kinds), which the winery makes itself, before we toured the facilities and tasted the wine.

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We bought a bottle of each, to have shipped home. Oops.

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One of the winemakers and olive oil makers gave us a private tour of the digs – I forget his name, sorry! – but it was very cool.

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This Chianti is from the 1960’s! Dang!

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Stop #3 -LUNCH AT IL CASTAGNOLINO

This amazing little Agriturismo’s specialty crop is saffron. Yes, the ridiculously expensive spice.

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We were ushered inside to the dining room at this charming Agriturismo, which is an Italian bed and breakfast which is also an operational farm (there are tons all over Italy, and they offer an amazing value and culinary experiences for budget-conscious travelers).  The main crop, as I said, at this agriturismo is saffron. And so, we reluctantly (yeah, right) tucked in to a multi-course lunch of saffron-scented and infused delights – accompanied by an emblematic white from the region – Vernaccia.

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We started with an amazing vegetarian sampler – which we thought was the entire lunch.

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But THEN, they came out with a saffron cream house-made ravioli that was to. die. for.

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And if that wasn’t enough, the meal ended on a sweet note with saffron ice cream, topped with a fresh cinnamon stick and garnished with fresh fruit.

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The owners were lovely and lively – I would stay here if we were coming through Tuscany again!

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Stop #4 – San Gimignano

The next stop on our gorge-fest (just kidding – we only had a cookie at the pasta stop, some olive oil and wine, and then lunch) was the Manhattan of medieval times – San Gimignano. The town was known for all of the towers that the wealthy, warring merchant families erected during the 13th century to show power and to protect their families.  Although there were as many as 72 towers in the city at one time, many of the towers have unfortunately since fallen, but a few do remain – only 13. Thinking about how long ago these were erected, and what sorts of other things people were doing during those times, it’s truly an impressive feat.

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Caterina recommended the gelato at Gelateria Dondoli...which was, true to its reputation, amazing. Well worth the wait, and not expensive. Win-win!

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When it comes to gelato, there are only 2 flavors worth always getting: pistachio and dark chocolate. MAYBE stracciatella. But, that’s just my opinion.

Stop #5 – Truffle Hunt!

Our last stop, and the one that I had been looking forward to all day, was a truffle hunt with a local farmer/truffle hunter. We met Francisco and his dogs Nuaru and Angie, as we pulled off a dirt country road in the middle of nowhere.

Contrary to popular belief, truffle hunters don’t really use pigs for hunting them – they use a special breed of dog called the Lagotto Romagnolo- an Italian hunting breed. They’re freaking adorable.

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The dogs are trained to smell truffles in different ways. Angie was better close-up, but Nuaru was trained to detect a scent from far away. Contrary to what I had always thought, truffles do not grow like mushrooms at the bases of trees or on the ground. They’re also not mushrooms, after all. Womp womp.

They grow UNDERNEATH the soil, which is why you need a dog (or a pig like they used to use) to sniff them out and find them.

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Once they find one, Francisco starts to smell the soil in the area where the dogs are digging – the truffle scent is so strong, the dirt around it will smell like it and he’ll know if they’re onto something.

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Francisco needed to get involved because if you’re not careful, the dogs will actually eat the truffle. A very expensive mistake!

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I would advise sensible shoes, as the paths were muddy and, since horses use the trails as well, there were also horse droppings all over the place – I tread very carefully!

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We didn’t find any substantial ones on our hunt, but Francisco had found some RIGHT before we got there (or so he said) – and took them out to show us. The scent and size were incredible.

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Truffle hunt

Luke’s hand, not mine.

Caterina, ever the professional and prepared for any disappointment and had actually bought some truffled cheese in San Gimignano as a nice surprise treat for us! How sweet is that?

WHY DO THIS TOUR?

What really made this tour special was the small producers, the personal attention, our amazing guide, the comfortable transportation and small group, and a well-rounded itinerary that made us feel like we were getting the most out of Tuscany in just one short day.

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It truly was an amazing day. The best thing is that the tours operate out of both Florence and Siena, so there are more options available to travelers who either don’t want to spend more time in Florence or who don’t have Florence as part of their trip itinerary.

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We would definitely do another one of the Tuscan Wine Tours next time find ourselves in Florence or Siena. Cin Cin!

How to Book

Note: I don’t get anything from recommending this tour or you clicking on these links to book. I just want others to have a great, memorable day like we did. The tour itinerary changes with the season and periodically, so there’s no guarantee that a certain tour would have the same stops and experiences that we did, but the quality of our guide, the other travelers, and the overall experience was so great that I would recommend them no matter what.

http://www.tuscan-wine-tours.com/

The itinerary is a bit different for the Tasty Tuscany tour, but still sounds amazing!

http://www.tuscan-wine-tours.com/Tasty_Tuscany.htm

Have you done a really awesome food tour? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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