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CEA Excursion: Castello di Verrazzano

On September 7th, just 4 days after arriving in Italy, CEA took us on an amazing excursion to Castello di Verrazzano, which is located on a hilltop outside of Florence in the Chianti Classico region. It took about half an hour to get there on our bus, going carefully around the ridiculously skinny, winding, and precarious roads of Tuscany.

  We started out in the gardens of the Castello, where our tour guide, Gino, told us to listen to the wild boars that live all around (and make for delicious prosciutto and salami).
Fun fact: According to Gino, wine was used many years ago when there was a prohibition on water because it could carry many diseases such as typhoid, but the alcohol in wine would kill any bacteria. That is why wine is an integral part of the Italian culture, because it would be drank at meals instead of water. Side note on the fun fact: I don’t know how Italian people don’t die from dehydration – it’s so difficult to get water here!

He also showed us stones and a plaque in the side of the castle that come from the Verrazzano bridge in New York City, named after Giovanni Verrazzano who was born here and was the first to cross into New York. Those stones were sent here to honor the home of Giovanni, and the family sent back stones from the castle in return which are now in the Verrazzano bridge. I thought that was really cool, because I was wondering if there was any relation to the Verrazzano bridge so close to my hometown

in CT. We toured the basement with many huge wine barrels. He showed us the glass contraption (I don’t know the scientific name) that is used to keep the wine level above the top of the barrel, to ensure that there is no air inside the barrel. We also saw meats hanging from the ceilings, as our tour guide said, “There is no food without wine, and no wine without food.”

After the tour came our favorite part: the lunch and wine tasting. Starting out with a rosé wine, Gino taught how to properly hold the glass (by the stem so your hand doesn’t make the wine warm – not easy!), swirl the wine to create more surface area exposed to oxygen and unlock the smells, smell the wine, and finally (after much anticipation) taste it. Oh so sophisticated.

  Our lunch included pasta pomodoro, prosciutto, salami, toast with olive oil made onsite, and 4 more wines. The meats were so good, they convinced a vegetarian at our table to eat meat for the first time in 5 years! My favorite course was pecorino and mozzarella cheese with the “Oh My God” balsamic that really lived up to its name. They gave us literally a small spoonful because it was so strong – and expensive! Everyone wanted to buy the balsamic because it was ridiculously good, but it was €48 for a small bottle! It’s just that awesome. I bought a bottle of my favorite wine from the tasting: the Rosso Verrazzano. I would love to go back there again, and I strongly recommend that anyone looking for a wine tasting in Tuscany – this is the place to go!

Samantha Wood is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO in Florence, Italy

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