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Antonio's Italy, Wine & Culinary Travel July 2014

Beth Ribblett

Antonio’s Italy 
July 5 – July 12, 2014

Join Swirl Wine Bar & Market in July 2014 as Antonio Molesini, Italian Wine Specialist and native of Tuscany, takes us on a very special wine and cultural tour of his homeland.  We’ll be living like locals, spending a week in a villa in Cortona and visiting Antonio’s favorite wineries, restaurants, hill towns and wine bars. With its centralized location, Cortona is the perfect base from which to explore both Umbria and Tuscany and experience their distinct wines, regional foods and cultural heritage.

Accommodations:  Our home for the next week is the beautifully restored Casa Berrittini, located just inside the ancient city walls of Cortona.  This 14th century house was the birthplace of one of Cortona’s most famous Renaissance artists, Pietro Berrittini, and has been lovingly renovated over several years by the owner in the traditional Tuscan style.  Casa Berrittini is wonderfully situated within the ancient city walls and offers incredible views, one of the largest private gardens in the town and four suites with a separate sitting area, queen size bed and bath.  Common areas include a large kitchen and living room areas as well as full use of the majestic gardens.
Cortona:  Antonio was born and raised in the medieval hill town of Cortona and his deep passion combined with immense historical knowledge of the region gives us a unique advantage.  You'll have his insider tips on where to shop, join him on private tours and eat in ristoranti owned by his friends and family. Tour frescoed churches from the 13th century; explore the original city walls; see an art exhibit in the 16th century fortress. You can also visit the local museums and libraries, tiptoe around ancient monasteries and tombs dating back to the second century B.C. Dine on the best Tuscan dishes as you look out on an historic palazzo or hike out to the beautiful countryside. As for shopping, you'll find local handicrafts, antiques, and of course regional wines and olive oils that will surpass anything you've ever tasted!  

Day One:  Saturday, July 5th - Welcome to Cortona!
We meet at the train station and bring you to the medieval city of Cortona.  Casa Pietro Berrittini is located with in the ancient city walls and gives us easy access to this beautiful historic hill town.  Today we’ll settle in at the villa, have lunch at a little enoteca and get oriented to Cortona with Antonio as our personal guide. We'll have dinner tonight in one of Cortona's top ristoranti located in a 13th century building overlooking the main piazza.  

Day Two:  Sunday, July 6th – Walk of the Etruscans
Tuscany is considered to be the cradle of Etruscan Civilization, which had its beginnings in the 9th century B.C. Ancient Etruria was centered on a confederation of twelve great Etruscan cities, including Volterra, Populonia, Chiusi, Arezzo and Cortona. Cortona’s importance is apparent with its archaeological sites and today we'll have an exclusive, private look at a dig site that dates back to the 7th century BC and a tour of Museum of Etruscan and Roman City of Cortona (MAEC) with Antonio as your personal guide.

Lunch today is in a one of a kind restaurant in Camucia,  but we can't too much because we will cook a special dinner for you tonight at the villa and focus on the food and wine of Umbria. With its border only 3 miles from Cortona, Umbria offers its own unique culture and culinary traditions for us to indulge in!

Day Three: Monday, July 7th  – The Wines of Cortona and Montepulciano 
We’ll spend today exploring the designated wine regions of Cortona and Montepulciano.  While the two regions border each other, you’ll learn how the unique micro climates and soil types of each area makes for very different grape varieties and wine production. We'll visit a winery within the Cortona DOC that is considered the benchmark producer for the region. After our private tour of the winery we'll enjoy a tasting of the complete range of their wines and have lunch on their terrace overlooking the Chiana Valley.

After lunch we’ll drive to the village of Montepulciano, without a doubt one of the most beautiful medieval towns of Tuscany.  Resting at 2000 feet above sea level, protected by still impressively intact walls, Montepulciano is known for its noble Renaissance town houses and for the elegant architecture of its churches. Montepulciano is also renowned for its enoteche (wine bars) and cantine (wine cellars) with most offering the chance to sample local products like pecorino cheese, salami, honey, olive oil, and, of course, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. We have special visit planned where we’ll compare and contrast the 3 methods of Sangiovese production in the region – Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile, and Vino Nobile Reserva.   Following our tasting you’ll be free to explore this amazing town before heading back to Cortona and dinner at one of town’s top 5 ristoranti!

Day Four: Tuesday, July 8th  – Exploring Umbria
Our base in Cortona makes the region of Umbria just a short distance and today we will be celebrating one of the region's culinary treasures with a local to guide the way.  After our morning foraging in the forest, we'll have a cooking lesson in his kitchen with this magical treasure and then eat what we cook accompanied by the local wines!

Afterwards we’ll visit a classical Umbrian hill town.  This is a magical, medieval city of ancient fortresses and medieval palaces known for its ceramics, woodworking, and metal crafts where we’ll spend a few hours exploring  before we head back to Cortona. Dinner tonight will be a real treat as Antonio's friend Paolo prepares a local favorite, beef steaks from the local Chianina cattle grilled in the famous style, Bistecca Fiorentina. His ristorante focuses on the rustic simplicity of Tuscan cuisine and most of the game as well as the wine come from his family farm.

Day 5:  Wednesday, July 9th  – Shopping!
Today you will have the option to go by train to Florence with Antonio on one of his infamous shopping trips, schedule museum tours or spend a leisurely day relaxing in Cortona.  Antonio loves to shop and he’ll take you to visit his favorite merchants at the Ponte Vecchio, the outdoor markets and main shopping thoroughfares in one of the most fashionable cities in the world.  Or if you would like, we can arrange for you to visit Florence’s incredible museums on your own and we will all meet at the train station in the afternoon to return to Cortona together.

For those who choose not to go to Florence, you can spend a relaxing day in the tranquility of Cortona, visiting the local merchants on the Via Nazionale shopping for gifts, touring churches and museums, or hanging out in an enoteca with a great glass of wine! 

We have a special treat for dinner tonight as we dine at the house of a Cortonese native.  Our hosts, Patrizia & Lucia will prepare for us a delicious traditional Tuscan meal served in their garden accompanied by the wines of two of Tuscany’s most famed regions, the Maremma and Montalcino. 

Day 6:  Thursday, July 10th -  The Wines of Chianti Classico
After an early breakfast this morning we’ll head west through the green rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside to visit a winery that has carried on the tradition of winemaking since 1150.  During our visit we’ll tour the historical, still working cellars, stroll in the late-Reinassance gardens of the Villa, and maybe have the chance to see the wild boar bred in the surrounding woods! We’ll have a wonderful lunch on the property accompanied by their range of wines.

In the afternoon we’ll spend a few hours wandering the streets of one of Chianti's classic towns to do some shopping and visit a famous butcher.  And if there is time, we’ll stop at a medieval castle for a guided tour and tasting of their wines.  Tonight we’ll dine in Cortona at a favorite of the locals for their delicious pastas.

Day Seven: Friday, July 11th -   Lago Trasimeno &  Vino Colli del Trasimeno
We’ll spend a peaceful, relaxing day today around Lago Trasimeno.  Rolling  green hills dotted with fields of sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards, Lake Trasimeno is  located right on the Umbria Tuscan border and is one of Italy’s largest lakes.  In the morning, we’ll visit a small, family owned winery with beautiful views of the lake for a tasting of their wines. Then take a boat out on the lake to one of the islands where we’ll have lunch in a waterfront ristorante and afterwards spend time hiking around the island or enjoying the lovely churches and museums.  

We’ll get back early enough for you spend some time in Cortona, visiting the local merchants on the Via Nazionale to do your last minute shopping before our farewell dinner at Antonio's family ristorante tucked away in a little piazzetta (little piazza) off the main Piazza Repubblica in the center of Cortona.  This multi coursed feast of local Cortonese specialties will be an excellent end to our culinary travels!

Day 8: Saturday, July 12th -  Arrividerci Cortona! 
We sadly say goodbye to Cortona this morning, take you to the train station in Camucia and help you get to you next destination.

Trip Price is $2750 per person, double occupancy only.  A $750 deposit by cash or check and a completed registration form are required to book your spot.  The balance of $2000 is due 90 days from trip start date.

Our trips book very quickly!  If you are interested in more information, please contact me at 504.304.0635