February 2016: Update | Cycle Bella Italia

February 2016: Update:

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Our Trips in 2016

Our available trips to Tuscany 2016 are filling up – so book your trip soon. We’ll cycle and enjoy some amazing small towns during your visit: Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Assisi, Cortona and more. Contact us regarding special pricing for groups of 4 or more or to reserve one of the following weeks:

• June 25 – July 2

• July 2 – July 9

• July 9 – July 16

Beautiful Tuscany

Tuscany is the combination of great art, sumptuous countryside, and memorable food and wine, making a trip to this enchanting part of Italy incomparable. There are no words that adequately describe the incredible beauty of this area. The beauty of Italy is on full display in its Tuscan region.

Focus on: Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a medieval, Renaissance, hill town located in the Val di Chiana near the beautiful Val d’Orcia. It is one of the most attractive hill towns in all of Tuscany and is built on the ruins of the ancient Etruscan city of Nocera Alfaterna. Subterranean Etruscan ruins are on display at a number of small shops and restaurants along Il Corso, the main street of the town. Il Corso climbs up to the main square, which crowns the summit of the hill. Inside the walls and fortifications of the city, the tiny streets are crammed with Renaissance-style palazzi and churches.

Festivals are a major social event throughout Italy. In Montepulciano, the Bravio delle botti – a barrel race in which large wine barrels are rolled up the sloping main street – has been held on the last Sunday of August since the 14th Century.

The home of delicious of porchetta (pork), cheese, unique “pici” pasta, lentils, and honey, Montepulciano is best known world-wide for its Vino Nobile wine, which connoisseurs consider to be one of the premier wines in all of Italy.

Any visit to Tuscany must include a tour of this most beautiful and historic hill town.

Wine Talk: Brunello

Brunello di Montalcino is made from Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes around Montalcino – a classic Tuscan hilltop village approximately 20 miles south of Siena. The word Brunello translates roughly as ‘little dark one’, and is the local vernacular name for Sangiovese Grosso, the large-berried form of Sangiovese grape which grows in the area.

The all-Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino style known today did not emerge until the 1870s, just after Il Risorgimento (the unification of the various Italian regions into a single state). The wine’s evolution is credited to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, whose name lives on in one of Montalcino’s finest Brunello-producing estates. Biondi-Santi developed some novel winemaking techniques which would revolutionize wine styles not only in Montalcino but in much of Tuscany.

Traditional Brunello di Montalcino winemaking methods involve aging the wine for extended periods in large oak vats, which results in particularly complex wines, although very tannic and dry. A ‘fruitier’ style of Brunello was cultivated in the 1980s, when producers shortened the barrel-maturation time and used smaller French oak barrels (barriques) to age the wine. Brunello, along with Barolo of the Piedmont region, was the first wines to achieve Italy’s highest recognition of appellation – DOCG in July 1980.

Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese and aged for at least four years (five for reserve wines). Two of these years must be spent in oak, and the wine must be bottled at least four months prior to commercial release. The elegant, age-worthy wine which results from these strict laws is known for its brilliant garnet hue and its bouquet of berries with underlying vanilla and spice. A hint of earthiness brings balance to the finest examples.

Winter in Tuscany

As December practically means Christmas, February has always been synonymous with Carnival, during which, as the old local saying says: anything goes! Festivals, music, colored floats and masked dancing groups of people always draw thousands of children and grown-ups to participate! Many eagerly await these moments to freely express their fantastic and original creativity, while some even plan for it all year round.

As every authentic Tuscan festival, Carnival boasts many traditional treats that are prepared only during this time of year. Many of them are sweet delicacies such as the frittelle (which are round masses of rice and raisin which is fried and then sprinkled with sugar) and cenci (sweet strips of fried dough) which often are made into different shapes and flavors according to the location.

From Our Shop

Featured this month is the Cycle Bella Italia polo by Ogio. These high performance, comfortable polos are available in a variety of colors. Why not order one to wear on your trip with us this summer!