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Racing to the Heart of Tuscany

June 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel


In the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn inspires audiences with her Vespa trip through Italy. Now, Italy by Vespa founders Stanley and Patsy Gallery from Denver, Colorado, bring that on-screen fantasy to life with a first-rate guided tour, where you can discover the beauty of a Tuscan countryside while cruising on a Ferrari-red Vespa ET4 over a seven-day span. Promising an unforgettable journey into the historical epicentre of Italy, your every sense will race from the passionate culture, cuisine, art and vestiges of Tuscany.

Most  often enough, couples looking to celebrate their love escape to the warm climate and laid-back atmosphere of a tropical resort. But in my case, commemorating my wedding anniversary with my husband demanded a bit more adventure, mixed in with culture and fast-paced action set in the historically rich region of Tuscany. With that said, booking the ultimate vacation was easy – just by signing up for a touring vacation with Italy by Vespa, founded by Stanley and Patsy Gallery.

Arriving in the sun-drenched city of Florence, we first settle in at Hotel Radda, where we rest our heads amidst the essence of 11th century architecture and impressive stone walkways. As we settle in for the first part of our trip, we admire the majestic view of the surrounding countryside, then quickly make our way to the Vespa orientation. While we do encounter scooter-challenged members in our group, after a little concentration and courtesy, all 16 of us Vespa enthusiasts are soon zooming around the picturesque town on our very first afternoon. The next day, we relocate just minutes away to Hotel Vignale, still in the heart of Tuscany. The refined hotel boasts carefully restored craftsmanship and ancient architectural features.

Every morning, our group gathers in anticipation, for an exciting new day of endless discoveries. As we speed along winding roads to our next destination, there’s plenty to admire: vineyards bearing some of the world’s finest grapes, stately lines of towering cypress trees, silvery-green olive groves, and fields of swaying, crimson poppies. Not just a wine-producing region, Chianti bursts with Romanesque churches, hamlets and castles, which still bare witness to the area’s history and culture. Each village we travel through is embellished with clusters of fragrant and colourful flowers. The floral scent floods our noses, and our eyes widen to capture and remember the picture-perfect terrain.

As our adrenaline is in full swing with every turn on our Vespa, the sound of scooters cuts through the wind. We all can’t help but laugh out loud as we zoom by on our fiery red Vespas, which catch the attention of curious locals.

Each day brings a new finding. We visit Il Borro estate, the medieval hamlet that since 1993, has been restored by the fashion-saavy Ferragamo family. Travellers can rent a villa, discover hidden local artisans’ shops and dine as we did at L’Osteria Del Borro, on a terrace overlooking the medieval village. Apart from Italy’s masterworks, the one thing I miss the most is the extraordinary flavour of the locally grown food: lush tomatoes, salty prosciutto, savoury goat cheese, and more. Every day, we indulge in meals that are five or six courses long. Most meals begin with simply displayed antipasti, including bruschetta, pecorino cheese dripped with honey, and an array of cured meats. At the Michelin-starred restaurant La Bottega del 30, we participate in the art of food preparation, helping to create fresh homemade noodles, tossed in diced tomato and a scintillating sauce of porcini mushroom. More than that, you can’t go to Tuscany without trying the classic cinghiale (wild boar), which is a favourite amongst Tuscans in every restaurant. After every satisfying feast, we find ourselves lingering around the table, sipping Vin Santo, a source of great pride for Tuscans. Chilled limoncello and grappa also make it to the table, to cleanse our palate and restore our senses.

During the rest of our week-long trip, we embark on guided wine tours through some of the most distinguished wineries. This is where we taste, indulge, discuss – not drink – wine made from San Giovese grapes, each glass accompanied by cheese or bread. Next on our list, we fulfill all of our guilty pleasures by slipping through the doors of the only Prada outlet store in Montevarchi, lunch at the 13th century-built Castello di Verrazzano, and a walk through the awe-aspiring Duomo in Siena.

Italy by Vespa successfully takes you past stunning panoramas, lively town squares, authentic gelato shoppes, quiet chapels and every Italian extravagance you can conjure. An adventure of a lifetime, the sweet sound of a scooter or the taste of Chianti Classico on my lips, always transports me back to that fabulous Tuscan voyage. Cin Cin!


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