The Tuscan Countryside

Posted on August 12, 2012

When people mention of Tuscany, Italian wine comes to mind. Though mountainous, the soil is known to be mineral-rich, ideal for growing grapes that ferment into world class wines. Our bus took us across the Apennine Mountains – the backbone of the Italian peninsula – passing olive orchards, sunflower fields and even large-scale Mediterranean cypress tree farms. I stayed confined in a vehicle with no open windows, taking pictures behind a piece of tinted glass, longing to spend some time in the open photographing the effulgent landscape as we sped past another vineyard.

A sunflower farm outside Siena

We had a wine tasting lunch at a Tuscan farmhouse somewhere between Pisa and Florence. Our unusually enthusiastic (an accurate description and you can see for yourself) guide introduced us to the various types of grapes used for different types of wines, one of the more memorable ones named gasolin. Yes, it tasted like it sounds

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the guide claimed that they owe their slender figures to their consumption – generous consumption – of olive oil in every bit of Tuscan cuisine. Here, olive oil had replaced butter (“a very northerly product”) on the bread to a tasteful delight.

This lunch made me a fan of ingredients I had been avoiding. Balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes – at least in the way they prepared them – mixed with olive oil made for an irresistible combination.