On our first trip to Tuscany we meet up with our old friend Roberto Rizzo in Florence. Roberto is proud of his city and region, indeed, he is an ambassador for Tuscany and brings local businesses in touch with international companies. He is Florentine to the bone and was even the captain for one of the teams of a traditional football-like game, “calcio storico”, that is being played since the Middle Ages. It takes years of waiting to be admitted to a team, let alone becoming the captain. Nonetheless, he is easy-going, modest, rather unassuming and very sincere – like the wines we like the most. Even though Roberto operates around all of Tuscany, we agree on just making the acquaintance of some quality producers around Florence during this first trip.
First we visit “Ghiott”, which is not a winery. Everyone in Florence knows them for their “ghiottini”, the house recipe for “cantucci” (dry almond biscuits), and other typical sweets, made of almonds and nuts, sultanas and/or dry figs, like amaretti and panforte.
Ghiott used to bake in the centre of Florence and the scent of baking sweetened everyone’s days. Then this family business grew and moved outside, in the Chianti mountains, along the scenic route to Siena. Excellent biscuits, especially when dunked into Vin Santo! What a treat and a must-have in any Tuscan restaurant and self-respecting home.
So, now we need to find something to dunk these new friends into. Our next stop is at the overwhelmingly beautiful Podere Casaccia, in Scandicci, a town with over 50,000 people on the outskirts of the Florence Metropolitan area.
Not far from Florence, heading west, we reach the town of Montemurlo. The road climbs higher and higher up the mountainside. The view is spectacular over the Arno River Valley, which continues towards beautiful Lucca and famous Pisa.
Our last stop is in a small winery in Mamantile, a tiny hamlet part of Lastra a Signa, South of Florence. We drive along small country roads, then turn left onto a dirt track which winds its way between cypress trees, wheat fields, olive groves and vineyards. Picture book Tuscany! Beautifully peaceful.