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Hi and welcome to the Passion for Italy Travel Podcast. This is Lindsay, from the Tampa, Florida office. Today we discover a super, Tuscan experience.
Have you ever noticed the power of flavor and aroma to transport you to places far from home, but close to your heart?
One night this week it was storming in Tampa. Our usual evening walk was not possible. So, instead, my husband reached for one of our special bottles of wine and we went out on the porch to listen to the rain and dream of Tuscany.
Today, we will share with you the winery that has brought us and all of our clients who have visited such joy through the years. We will hear from the winemaker himself as he shares a special message with our Passion for Italy Travel clients and followers, and some stories about the family; their recipes, their wines, and their passion.
Near the beautiful medieval village of San Gimignano with its grand towers, stunning vistas, and world-famous gelato, lies a winery where passion runs as deep as the roots of the vines themselves.
Pierluigi Giachi, along with his wife, Luciana, and their children, nieces, and nephews strive daily to produce the best products of Tuscany, and welcome guests from all over the world to their Tenuta Torciano Winery.
Years ago, before I worked for or had ever heard of Passion for Italy Travel, my husband and I had lunch at Torciano on our first trip to Italy together. Lillo, nephew of the winemaker led us through our tasting with a passion and humor we will never forget.
Just over a year later, I was training with PFI’s director, Gemma, and she was telling me about the most wonderful winery where we send clients for lunches with wine tastings, cooking classes, or even truffle hunts.
As soon as he overheard the name, my husband, Matt, came running in the room waving our empty bottle of Cavaliere Super Tuscan that we were saving so we would never forget the name of the winery. He pointed to the name on the bottle. It was the same place.
Torciano Winery had etched itself not only into our memory, but into our future, and I was so excited to know I would get to work with such a special place for years to come.
In 2018, after making several bookings for clients there, we finally got to book our own return trip. It had been 3 years since our first visit.
Walking up the familiar path, we were greeted instantly by another of the winemaker’s nephews, Gabriele. As we were waiting for other guests to arrive, Lillo saw us and came out to chat. He recognized us still. We all had to laugh at how on earth it had already been three years!
Sitting down at his table, right where we had before, we felt at home. Out came the pappa al pomodoro, a fabulous tomato soup. Then, enter Lillo pouring the winery’s own truffle olive oil, which to this day is the best I have ever had. “You will love this soup, my grandmother’s soup!”
My favorite thing about a Torciano experience is the way the family’s passion shines through every aspect. Sitting at the table, we hear about the recipes and the nonna who passed them down. We get to know the only member of the family to have his portrait on a bottle of a namesake wine, because Bartolomeo who began this winery in 1720 had 18 children! We laugh his descendants as they point out maybe the great-great-great-great-great… grandmother should have made it on the bottle with him!
Here, it is not just a brief explanation and a sales pitch. The family welcomes you in. Each wine, each recipe, has a story to tell.
As we sat sipping the Chianti Classico Riserva, Lillo told us the story of the black rooster that has come to symbolize the wine and the region. The two rivals Florence and Siena both wanted control of the Chianti region. They reached an agreement that on a selected day each would send out a rider at the crow of a rooster and they would ride towards each other. Where they met the boarders would be drawn.
Siena chose a white rooster and fed him plentifully thinking that if he went to bed happy, he might wake earlier. Florence, instead, chose a black rooster, and sent him to bed hungry so that he would wake early the next morning and give Florence a head-start. Sure enough, the black rooster woke so early that the Florentine rider made it quite near to Siena, claiming the entire territory for Florence. So, today, we still see the black rooster, or il gallo nero as the symbol of the region.
It is impossible to spend time at this winery without wanting to share it with your friends back home. Luckily, the family offers a solution to that problem! Every year during normal circumstances members of the family travel all over the US to visit those of us who love it and want to offer a little taste of Tuscany to our friends at home.
A few months after our second visit with Lillo, his cousin, Letizia, every bit as passionate about her family and their wines, arrived in Tampa to host a wine school at our Italian Club. What a pleasure it was for all of us to spend an evening laughing together, learning together, tasting incredible wines, and letting her take us, if only for a few hours to her beautiful home in Tuscany.
Over the years, every client I have sent to Torciano has reached out the same day, sometimes from the winery, to shoot me a quick message saying, “This place is awesome!”, “I want to host a wine school!”, or a simple, “Thank you, this has made our trip”.
Some clients choose a pasta cooking class, some want the pizza class. Some have always dreamed of hunting truffles, and others prefer to leave the cooking to the nonna and instead just spend a couple of blissful hours under a vine-draped pergola immersing themselves in local culture and flavor. All of them leave feeling a like a part of the family.
This February, right before Covid became such a nightmare, we were blessed to spend an evening back at Torciano.
There is nothing like a warm Torciano welcome to fend off the cold. We were greeted by Gabriele, who exchanged our frigid handshakes for a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva telling us, “You know what they say, cold hands, warm heart!”
Glass of wine in hand, he took us out into the vineyards to meet Signor Pierluigi Giachi, bidding his vines buonanotte as the sun sank over the surrounding hills. He introduced us to the “grandmother vine” the oldest on the property, and explained how one grape variety grows beautifully here, another on the next hill, and another on the hill over there. How the soil and sun dictate which grapes will thrive in which area.
Standing in the vineyard, taking in the beauty of the landscape and the moment, watching the sky explode with colors from peach to red and purple, tasting the wine while getting to know its papa`, is an unforgettable moment.
Walking back inside, the room, painted in a quintessentially Tuscan soft gold, was almost glowing with warmth. The table was arranged stunningly with bottles of wine, glasses for each, olive oils and an aged balsamic vinegar. Our first course was a homemade Ribollita, a traditional Tuscan winter soup, and this was the best I have ever tasted. Gabriele topped it with the family’s pepper infused olive oil, as Melanie poured us a glass of the exquisite Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
They know what they are doing with these pairings. A sip of the wine brought out the chili spice from the olive oil, and the spice brought out a subtle sweetness in the wine. On to a wonderful arrabbiata pasta with truffle oil for vegetarian here, and wild boar for Matt. We were in heaven. And then came, our favorite part of the meal, always, the experience.
Gabriele and Melanie sat to chat with us. One moment explaining the wines, and the next just enjoying conversation. We laughed together as we discovered that it was him who greeted us on our last visit before Lillo recognized us. We talked about travel, about wine, about friends. As always, we felt not only welcome here, but at home.
As we left that evening, we had great plans to share the experiences with clients this year, to celebrate the anniversary of the winery, and to host another wine school with them in Tampa. A month later, it became clear that none of that would be possible as we had imagined.
Yet, the winery has found a way to keep in touch with all of us who have been blessed to discover it. Every Friday night they offer an online cooking class with chef Massimo. They are free to watch on facebook, and sure to put a smile on your face.
Some weeks we have been able to say hi to Lillo, last week Pierluigi himself stayed up past midnight his time to be able to keep in touch with his friends in the US and beyond. Just hearing his voice, hearing the way he lovingly describes his wines and humbly thanks each person, the friendly banter in the kitchen, all of it makes us feel like we are there again.
Finding ways to keep in touch like this has certainly been a bright spot in the darkness of this year.
When I explained that I would like to feature him and his winery in this podcast, Pierluigi Giachi asked me to share this message with all of you,
“Good morning Lindsay! I would like to say that I hope that all my friends are fine after this difficult covid period and I wish them all the best. This year I would have loved to celebrate all together the 300 year anniversary of Tenuta Torciano, but as it was not possible, I really hope to meet everybody in Tuscany next year to drink a glass of wine and celebrate together! We are waiting for them with a lot of news, starting from the new hotel up to many new wine collections. Thank you for your support.”
I sent a few photos of our visits through the years to the family once we returned from that trip and the covid situation began to play out.
Pierluigi wrote back,
“Love these moments, we will have many more in the future! You are now part of our big family.”
Is there a better reason to travel than to feel a welcome like that? The wines are spectacular, the scenery breathtaking. The same could be said for countless vineyards in Italy and beyond. Here, the special thing is the ability to open a bottle, swirl the glass and stick your whole nose inside like the family taught you, laugh as you remember Lillo pointing to his nose and saying, “Italian… it is not so easy for me!”, and take a sip which instantly brings you back to the table full of laughter and smiles.
At Passion for Italy Travel we select experiences that make you understand the culture and feel like a part of it. Accommodations where you’re greeted by name each morning, guides who are knowledgeable, but also personable, places where you arrive a stranger but leave as a part of a big family you will welcome you back time and time again.
Once we can all travel again, please reach out to us at PFI Travel to plan your trip to this winery, and to Italy. We will carefully weave together experiences like this one which will stay in your mind and heart long after you return home.
Buon Fine Settimana! May we all keep dreaming of Italy and keep its people in our hearts until we are able to return.