During our recent trip through the Tuscany region, we stayed at a Villa in the outskirts of Florence. The Villa was up one of the hills in the municipality of Bagno a Ripoli. The place was called Borgo I Vicelli. Beyond the gates is a narrow winding dirt road flanked by tall trees. As we rounded a curve, the greenery on our right cleared a bit and we could see an old pond. As we moved forward, the road was flanked by olive trees as far as our eyes could see. And at the end of the road was to be our home for the next few days.
The owner, Matilda, had recommended that on one of our day trips, we visit Volpaia, a walled medieval village that can be reached through winding uphill roads lined with tall lean Italian cypress trees and olive orchards alternating with vineyards.
We reached Volpaia sometime late morning after a scenic drive. On the outside there did not seem to be much activity going around the village. We walked around the neat alleyways and noticed how pretty the residents have made their surroundings. It was clear that there is great affection for the village.
There were some home fronts that looked like they could be in a postcard! Little alleyways, connecting one passageway to another, have been kept meticulously clean, orderly, and prettied up with pots of plants. But the whole thing did not appear contrived or forced. There were Vespas parked outside doors. There was even the occasional laundry hanging from some window in the distance. The village was obviously a working one, albeit, charming and quite lovely.
We found out that Volpaia has a thriving wine industry that has been around for centuries. The castle and its fortification dates back to the 11th century. Because of its location between Florence and Siena, it had its share of strife, getting caught in the crossfire of the two rival “republics” back in the medieval ages. To defend itself, Volpaia had to build strong walls (terra murata or walled village) and towers, most of which still exist today.
Sometime in the 16th century, when there was finally a truce between Florence and Siena, Volpaia’s wine industry flourished and from it emerged such fine wines. Wealthy committed families, passionate about viticulture, invested their time and effort to developing high quality Chianti Classico in the region that is shipped all over the world today.
Although the exterior of the buildings was preserved in its 15th century flavor, the interior of most buildings have been converted to process and bottle the wines.
We spent sometime at their tasting room and chatted up the manager. The wines were smooth, medium-bodied, low in tannins. I was already imagining what food to pair it with, when we were called out to have lunch at the bistro, named Bar Ucci, located out in front of the village’s entrance.
It was a most pleasant lunch. The food was typical Tuscan fare. The difference, though, is that owner Paula Barucci (yes! That’s why she named her bistro Bar-Ucci), told us that most of the greens, the tomatoes, even the fruits, came from her backyard. The Mozzarella di Bufala in the Caprese was fresh and oh-so creamy. The wild boar stew reminded us of the Kaldereta.
Because it was a pleasant day, and we were all entertained by Paula, and also because we were celebrating a birthday, we all splurged on dessert. Paula served us Panna cotta, a Zuccotto, and a classic Tiramisu.
And so, after some good espresso, we reluctantly left our table, bid Paula and her team arrivederci, and off we went to our next Tuscan town.
- Why you should visit Panzano (Chianti) in Tuscany (ggnitaly84.wordpress.com)