“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine.
As someone who has really never traveled off the northeast coast, my whole study abroad experience has been something very new to me. Hey, I’ve tried anchovy pizza, food with labels I can’t read, explored new places, tasted champagne and lemoncello flavored gelatos, and plenty of other things already. I wouldn’t say I experienced much culture shock, because I knew Italy was going to be very, very different than suburban New Jersey or Rhode Island. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but that was part of the whole adventure.
On Saturday I boarded a bus, and two hours later I was in Tuscany. Worried about getting our moneys worth because we really didn’t know what to expect, we slept for a majority of the ride there. I woke up to the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. I couldn’t stop taking pictures every time the road wound (which was a lot) to get a picture of a new landscape slightly different but equally as gorgeous as the former. After winding up and around hills, we finally reached the first winery. This was located in a small town. There were shops and a few people, but it was one of the most relaxed, quietest places. There were apartments and narrow roads, but there was no hustle and bustle, no sense of crowds, nothing. Everything was very calm.
With our tour of the winery, we saw how they age their wine, and how the basement (if you will) was a prisoner torture chamber in the 1500’s. We continued through narrow stairwells back upstairs, where we tasted their wine, sampled cheese and salami that matched the wines, and had some bread with olive oil. Frankly, that’s all you gotta give me to make me happy: Wine, cheese, salami, and olive oil. The real stuff (for all of those), though.
At this location, Montepulciano, we had time to walk around. I definitely got my workout of the day in by walking straight up hill to get to places we could see miles upon miles into the distance. It was definitely stereotypical Tuscany: There were cobblestone archways, tiny gates, wine, cheese, those tall skinny trees, and incomparable views. But at the same time, it’s like nothing I have ever seen before or that any camera could capture. It looked like everything you see here, but it was in person. And it was real. Click that >> Tuscany.
We headed to Montalcino for our next tour at a vineyard set apart from everything, as most things in Tuscany were. I would like to assume this was a family owned business. Their German Shepard was running around interacting with our tour group, and no one was there except for the 3 employees we saw. We had some downtime to walk around. My camera has almost no battery at this point, because I cannot get enough of the view. More pictures are to be posted after I get the opportunity to upload them.
As for the wine, this location used all of their own grapes, only old style corks, and didn’t sell any of their grapes. Some of the aging process for some of the grapes was up to 20 years- I can’t imagine having to keep track of cycles from 20 years ago (I mean, it’d be hard to do as a 4 month old, but still). Their wine definitely tasted fruiter and fresher, and slightly stronger than the first place, but I liked the first place’s better. It tasted more like wine I’ve had in the past, rather than perhaps a lighter tasting one. Then again, they also gave me cheese. Brownie points.
Yesterday was the second time I saw rain in Italy- after the beautiful, 96 degree, low humidity weather we had experienced for our tours. The first was a downpour/storm on move-in day. Yesterday, I looked at the front windshield of the bus on the ride home, and there were rain drops… a lot of them. I had been looking out the window the whole time, and didn’t even know it was rainy. I suppose it’s because there weren’t any trees blocking the way, but the sun was shining just as bright as before over the beautiful landscape. There must have been a raincloud directly above, but the sun wasn’t obstructed by anything, so we had an awesome sun shower.
The opportunity as a whole was definitely once in a lifetime, and I’m glad I took the opportunity to explore more of Italy’s hidden treasures than just sticking to Rome. Although I love it here, there’s such a different dynamic in the rolling hills. I felt like from any given point, there were mountains in the distance, countryside to your left and right, and sunshine with no clouds above. It was peaceful and quiet, and it just seemed like a very happy place to be.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
You can read. You can look at pictures. But at the end of the day, it’s the experience that will leave the lasting impression.