Reviewed by Lee Terry (June 2013)
Our exploration of Tuscany with Elke and Russ Buck and three other intrepid family and friends was close to perfection. Their exuberant love for Tuscany was infectious, and made the rainiest weather in 200 years irrelevant! Not only are they fun, they made us all feel like we were special, interesting and their favorite companions. They were considerate, found us a wonderful villa near the charming market town of Greve for our headquarters, and did everything they could to make us comfortable, given the physical challenges of the cobblestone, steep steps of the hill towns. They were in touch with us well beforehand to make sure they could buy the necessary tickets in advance for the museums and churches and the reservations for the marvelous restaurants in Tuscany.
It's hard to say what the favorite destinations were, but in the Academia Gallery in Florence, Michelangelo's David stands out. I never realized the statue was so huge and powerful. At the Ufizzi, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lippi and Botticelli paintings. Even the simplest churches had brilliant mosaics and frescos - and every hill town had at least one church.
Then there were the vineyards -- "Crazy About Chianti" should be the Beck's motto! When there wasn't a town on a hill, there was a farm on a hill, some with a restaurants featuring local organic dishes, and marvelous wine tastings to be had. Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva wines were the stars, enhancing the tasty dishes such as pungent truffle-laden cheeses made from sheep's milk and wild boar sausages and sauces.
Although all meals were wonderful, my most wonderful restaurant evening (our "romantic dinner night" )occurred in Sienna, where we descended from the moonlit main plaza at the top of the city into ancient history -- into a gorgeous Etruscan ruin, beautifully lighted with candles all around. We were greeted by vivacious waiters with plates of appetizers of various cheeses and salamis, and glasses of prosecco to toast ourselves and Sienna. It was in Sienna where we first became turned on by truffles!
I could go on and on, but it would take a very long time to detail the richness and joy of our experiences on this trip!