Tenuta Monteloro—Antinori Vineyards

We are surrounded by vineyards of Antinori. Fortunately, they are one of the oldest wine-making families in the world and have learned quite a few things over the past 600 years. As a result, everything they do is precise, immaculate and beautiful. Perfect neighbors.

The vineyards are irresistible. They change constantly with each season, daily and even hourly.  The meticulous rows mesmerize us, forming the perfect backdrop for far-off-gazing, solitary contemplation or soulful conversation. But, beyond distant admiration, it’s even better to traipse silently into them. Walking through their alluring geometry has become an important morning ritual—with dawn’s crisp air, the natural cadence of muffled footsteps, the sight of an occasional leaping deer, darting rabbits, and the sun peeking over the distant mountain ridge. Nature’s wholesome aroma gently fills my lungs to the brim. Day after day I honor the beauty of the vineyards.

Purple Wildflower

This morning was even more delightful than usual. In summer, the paths surrounding the vineyards are dotted with purple wild flowers. They are hearty varietals indeed, because when I bent down to pick one for Cheryl, it was difficult to break the stem. They grow in the toughest conditions, so durability is required for survival. With persistence, I freed the tiny flower and held it close. It was even more beautiful than I expected—strong yet delicate. I carried it home as a present for my true love, like a naive schoolboy with my first girlfriend (nearly 50 years after our first encounter).

Then came the surprise. My focus on the purple flowers caused me to look closer still toward the ground-covering wildflowers. First, I saw the most colorful ones. Then, I started to see other less obvious flowers nearby. There was an obscure yellow bloom, then I noticed an unlikely tiny white-lace canopy that I had previously seen as a weed. Each blossom was now more interesting than before. I found myself standing in an abundant garden of everyday, unassuming flowers. Upon closer inspection, even the brown-red spiky thistle I always avoided became one of the most unique of the bunch. I plucked it from the dry earth, adding to my collection.

Wildflowers for my Love

What a wonderful metaphor for life! Incredible beauty is literally everywhere. We wander obliviously through a veritable garden, side-stepping that which we haven’t yet learned to appreciate. Value appears only when we have a shift of perspective. Certainly, everything is inherently valuable. Then suddenly, we simply decide to see it.

The tiny vase of wild flowers took its rightful place at the center of our table and our lives where we could be reminded daily of simple overlooked joys—those that await an aware gaze. Our eyes open, and a tiny new panorama is freshly taken in. Exhilarating!

 

We love hiking the Tuscan “anelli” (rings).

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The Destination

We typically drive to a trail head, hike the route and return to our starting point. Each anello is unique. The one to Nipozzano Castle was exceptional! If you like castles, wine, beautiful Tuscan scenery, we suggest you visit the site called Sentieri di Toscana (Tuscan Trails). The Nipozzano is nothing short of magic. It is a hilltop hike which took us about 4 hours, including miscues, intentional wandering and many photo stops along the way. Have a look at the photo gallery we’ve included and the details to get you into a hiking frame of mind.

Frescobaldi Vineyards

On a slightly overcast mid-November day, we set out in search of the castle. Summer would surely have found the small town buzzing with activity, but we prefer feeling like we’re the only ones to ever discover a place, so an off-season, unplanned visit is perfect for us. However, with a little planning during the high-season, you will likely find a few tours available, and possibly discover a wine tasting reward at the end of your trek. Nipozzano is home to the famous Frescobaldi brand, one of the ancient Italian names synonymous with fine wine. The vineyards completely surround the castle.

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1000 Year Old Castle

Here’s some background about the castle-town Nipozzano. The castle dates back to the year 1000, and is nestled in the heart of Tuscany just a bit north-east of Florence. Situated on a picturesque hilltop in the Appenine mountain range, it was originally built as a fortress for the protection of Florence, which is tucked into the Arno River valley below. Local lore has it that in centuries past, the word nipozzano, meant “without well.” Since the entire region can be somewhat arid and rocky, you can imagine how the location is considered perfect for vineyards. Early records indicate that during the Renaissance, famous artists/sculptors such as Donatello would visit the castle to buy wine. This was also the “neighborhood” where author/poet Dante Alighieri wandered the romantic hillsides in the 1300s. He surely would have been familiar with the famous castle, vineyards and olive groves.

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Albereta Beyond

The hike begins and ends in the small town of Albereta just outside the larger river-town of Pontassieve, which is situated east of Florence. A description of the trail and a Google-earth map are the only links you need to find your way up the quasi-gradual slopes toward the castle above. The marked trail meanders along the surrounding hillsides making the climb fairly moderate. So as not to fatigue trekkers, you’ll find yourselves zigzagging, always upward. As you circle higher toward the castle, you will enjoy the ever-changing, absolutely beautiful distant views. Soon, among the manicured olive groves and earthy stone walls, you will arrive at the destination. Wow! What vistas of the expansive vineyards, villas and farms below! After enjoying the magical panoramas from atop the castle, the return route descends more steeply down the hillside toward the Arno and Albereta.

We hope you enjoy the following photo gallery, and plan to visit Tuscany for a hike or two on the thousands of gorgeous trails—each one a picture-postcard photo at every turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To say that things move slowly in Tuscany would be a colossal understatement. However, thanks to that nearly imperceivable plodding pace, Toscana remains true to her simple beauty—year after year after year. However, beneath the timeless and serenely rolling landscape, change does in fact arrive in its own way—piano, piano (slowly, slowly)—Tuscan style. (more…)