Sadly, there's no time for a Café Marocchino today, only time for a quick cappuccino and dolce downstairs before grabbing a taxi for the outskirts of Florence
. We find our way to the location of the 500 Touring Club and meet with our guide, Andrea, an ex-pat from Australia who is married to her tour partner Giuseppe, a native of Florence. The couple have acquired and restored a small fleet of these iconic vehicles. They have lovingly named each of their cars and we'll be driving Giaccomo today. Altogether there will be 4 Fiats in our little caravan this morning. After a brief "driving test" (we had to display proficiency with a manual transmission and the art of la doppietta
- double clutching), we're assigned to our vehicles and then get underway. Our guide is in the lead car, a powder blue "station wagon" version. We are next in Giaccomo, the yellow Fiat, followed by a couple from Ireland driving Paola, the red one. Bringing up the rear are a couple of gents from England driving Ezio, the green Fiat.
Giaccomo fires off right on cue and we're on our way. Surprisingly, Giaccomo is quite responsive as we cruise some 20 miles south through the hills of Tuscany toward the town of Greve in Chianti. Our first stop is near a terra cotta factory where we are blessed with a magnificent view of the countryside. To showcase the view, the owner of the factory has erected a gigantic circular portal made of terra cotta through which one can enjoy a "framed" overlook of the Tuscan hills.
Since we are in the heart of the Chianti region, it just wouldn't be right not to visit a grape vineyard
. So our second stop is just that - at the edge of a huge well tended vineyard where Andrea explains some of the finer points of the region, the grapes, and the wine (which we'll be tasting later). As we more closely inspect the vines, we can see that the bunches are just starting to form. Lingering here in the vineyard takes Ron back to his youth on their farm in Western New York where his family, being of good Italian stock as they were, also tended a vineyard. With this being the half way point of the tour, it's also time to give the Fiats a chance to catch their breath. The engines of these little jewels are air cooled, so we open the engine compartment lids to allow the engines to release some heat.
If vineyards are the most prevalent feature of the landscape in the Chianti region, then olive groves run a close second. So appropriately enough, our third stop is at an olive grove, where Andrea takes the time to increase our appreciation for this timeless fruit. Like the grapes, the olive fruit is just beginning to set, albeit somewhat late this year due to the excessively cool and moist spring. So the harvest and oil pressing will be correspondingly late this fall.
Our last stop is the Villa Le Piazzole, a 15th century winery estate near the starting point of the tour
. An inviting spread of crostini, meats, and cheeses has been laid out for us to enjoy as we taste the wines and oils produced here on the estate. We meet the gracious owners, tour their cellars, and wander through their beautiful gardens. What a great way to end our Fiat adventure!
After our cab ride back to Florence, we make our way back to the apartment for a bit of a rest before dinner. Tonight we opt for a return visit to Accadi, the small neighborhood trattoria we went to on Saturday. Again, the food, service, and atmosphere are top notch. Unfortunately, this is our last night in Florence, so we have to cut our evening short to get packed and ready for tomorrow's travel day. With all the shopping that was done this week, we've added a few pounds and some volume to our luggage. Let's hope it all fits. Oh well...
Earlier this week, Diahann discovered yet another tour opportunity for us to explore. And what a great find it was! During our 2010 Italy trip we rented a car for one of our weeks. It was a Fiat 500 - a really cool little car that's getting a lot of marketing exposure in the U.S. these days. We had a great time tooling around the Tuscan country roads in that car. The tour that Diahann discovered kind of brings us full circle with that experience. She found a great little tour group called the 500 Touring Club that features a small fleet of vintage 1950's and 60's Fiat 500s as the centerpiece of each of their tours. So that's where we're off to today - a drive through the Chianti region of Tuscany in a vintage Fiat 500!