“We can live with no brain, as a vegetable, but we cannot live without a heart. Therefore, we must experience life with our heart.” ~ Gino Rosi
I met Gino Rosi on the ninth day of my ten days in Tuscany. He was the guest tour leader, wine expert, and consummate storyteller for our intimate group of 14 travelers on a day trip to the Chianti Classico region of Italy.
I listened to Gino talk in the van about history, philosophy, wine, food, women, and the beauty of the Tuscan countryside and was drawn in by his passion. For eight days preceding, I had been immersed in Tuscan culture and experiencing so many wonderful places on a very unique tour called “Ten Days in Tuscany,” but in that moment, I realized I hadn’t been doing it with the right mindset. It was like a revelation as I listened to Gino, and I knew in order to find my true inspiration on this amazing trip I needed to let down my journalistic American guard; let go of my expectations; stop comparing, over analyzing, taking notes; and simply embrace Tuscany with my heart. Thank goodness I figured it out in time … for it was the most magical day under the Tuscan sun.
High on a hill in the vineyards of Castello di Monsanto, Gino led us by foot to an ancient stone lookout tower. We climbed the roughhewn steps and were greeted at the top with a white linen covered table lined with wine glasses, bottles of wine, and a spectacular view. He uncorked the bottles and generously poured us a deep pink Rosé. It was 9:00 am! I pushed the thought of time from my head and instead stayed present in the moment by toasting my fellow travelers the way Gino had instructed; with purpose, with eye contact, with words of sincerity and with a firm touch of wine glasses that makes a beautiful sound followed by a slow purposeful sip of wine that lingers on the tongue and truly allows for tasting. While we drank the Fabrizio Bianchi Rosato 2016 in the morning sun, I gazed at the panoramic 360 degrees of beauty that enveloped me. Rolling green hills, blue skies, and grape vines as far as the eye could see. I breathed in deeply the scent of earthiness, felt the warmth of the sun, noticed bright patches of wildflower color between endless green vines, listened to the melodious quality of Gino’s voice and tried with all my heart to be in the moment. It was the serendipitous culmination of all that I dreamed my Tuscan adventure would be and . . . it was bliss.
The “Ten Days in Tuscany” Tour is a truly satisfying taste of “la dolce vita” and is offered twice a year in May and October. The food-centric adventure is personally guided by knowledgeable and engaging Pittsburgh chef and restaurateur Jason Capps. The tour offers a fast-paced itinerary that was purposefully curated by Capps to showcase what he feels is “the best of the best.” All meals were at amazing restaurants, were included in the tour package, and provided some of the most extraordinary dining experiences Italy has to offer. I came home full and satisfied and with a new appreciation for Tuscan cuisine prepared with pride and the freshest, most simple ingredients.
The tour also trends a new style of “agritourism” which immerses guests in authentic settings and allows them to personally experience the passion of a chef, wine maker, or farmer. A perfect example was our historical accommodations at an olive oil farm on the outskirts of Lucca called Fattoria Di Camporomano. We were treated to the warm hospitality of our host, Niccolo, in his family home and learned first-hand the pride and passion that goes into generations of olive oil production. A highlight of the stay was a hands-on pasta making class in the large Camporomano family kitchen taught by the gracious innkeeper and matriarch, Elena, and two experienced pasta making “bella donnas” who spoke no English. It’s was a wonderful learning experience that surpassed language barriers. After class, our diverse group of 14 dined on our labors. We laughed, talked, and enjoyed….. All of our diversity brought together by a simple meal in an amazing place.
In addition to the abundance of local food and wine, the tour treated us to visits in some charming smaller cities not typically on the tourist trail. Places like Viareggio, Vernazza, Panzano, Pietrasanta, Santa Teresa, Carrara, San Gimignano, and Siena all provided beautiful surprises, amazing tastes, and passionate people to fondly remember. I may not have started the 10 days in Tuscany experiencing things with my heart, but I certainly finished that way and am forever changed by this amazing Tuscan journey.
When least expected, “Gino-isms” (memorable Gino Rosi quotes) will pop into my thoughts. I ordered a glass of wine the other day in a restaurant and could hear Gino saying, “Remember . . . wine is never just what you find in a glass. It is the people, the land, the passion, and everything that went into making it. So taste it with that in mind!” I promise, Gino, I will. Grazie! Grazie mille!
If you go:
Ten Days in Tuscany Tour with Jason Capps www.tendaysintuscany.com
Fattoria Di Camporomano www.fattoriacamporomano.it
Castello di Monsanto www.castellodimonsanto.it
Chianti Classico Region Tours with Gino Rosi firstname.lastname@example.org