A Beautiful Day
There’s a reason why we all come to Tuscany.
The desirable characteristics of this region of Italy are stamped on the international consciousness: Wine. Cypress trees. Delicious cuisine. Rolling green hillsides glowing with Mediterranean sunshine. I expected this idyllic image to be partly exaggerated - after all, how could such a place exist in reality, in the modern world? I’m happy to say that it does, and I visited it on Friday. It’s called Chianti.
Siena rises out of the surrounding landscape on a tall hill, with countryside fanning out in every direction. I went north with the Siena School to the heart of wine country. Our first stop was a former Carthusian abbey, isolated and no longer inhabited by the monks that once found spiritual refuge amidst its vaulted halls. The place was the epitome of pastoral peace. Long corridors, formerly frescoed, were interrupted by quiet courtyards where the first spring daisies coated the grass like fresh snow. The church was tall but modest and medieval. The gardens, behind the abbey, offered not only a distant view of Siena but a lovely cultivated space peppered with olive trees. We took photographs and admired flowers. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh air.
The next place we went to was a castle, well-known - Castello Brolio. Unfortunately we could not go inside, but we could appreciate a sweeping view of essentially all of northern Tuscany, the kind of view you can only get from making the steep climb to a castle perched on the tallest hilltop for miles. What was most fascinating was our next destination: another castle, abandoned. It was so swallowed up by the forest that you cannot see it from any road. Centuries old, the tower had collapsed into rubble, and remains a brick skeleton penetrated by the roots of ambitious trees. We had the feeling of uncovering buried treasure. I delighted at the chance to climb walls older than my entire country, yet forgotten and reclaimed by nature.
After lunch - pici and bruschetta - we headed for one of the many vineyards that cover Tuscany in a patchwork. Alex Burge, the manager of the winery Tenuta la Cappellina, gave us a tour of the vineyard and facilities. The science behind winemaking was more complex than I realized, the conditions so specific to make Chianti. This was followed up with a wine tasting, which I did not partake in, but it certainly felt like royal treatment as Alex explained the different weather conditions to produce each fine vintage. And finally, before returning Siena, we stopped by the Osservanza Basilica, a church housing important relics of Saint Bernardino and some lovely Della Robbia reliefs. After such a beautiful day, it felt magical to come home to the equally majestic sunset over Siena.
Museum Studies Student