by Jane Finn
Siena Italy – If you are a history buff or a horse-racing fan then more than likely you know that Siena continues to operate as a true medieval city. Ruled by its 17 contrades, every year the city hosts the world renowned Il Palio, a serious, no-holds barred, bareback race around the stunning Piazza del Campo, where the winning team earns nothing more than the all important victory flag and a year’s worth of bragging rights.
You may even know about the long standing rivalry between Florence and Siena and that after the Florentines conquered the city in 1546 Cosimo d’Medici commissioned the Fortezza Medici just outside the city walls to house his garrison of soldiers, in the event that the Sienese would reassert their independence. Standing on the ramparts today, you can admire the panoramic view of the city and the Tuscan countryside but the real secret of Siena lies beneath the northeast bastion – the Enoteca Italiana.
The entrance to the Enoteca Italiana is tucked away in a hillside beneath the shadow of the fortress, a bit challenging to find but definitely worth the effort. Knowing that we were going ‘underground’ to visit what was billed as a most ‘extraordinary cellar’ I was not prepared for the stunning surroundings – the vaulted ceilings, the exposed brick walls awash with ambient light and the subtle scent of grapes that mingled with aroma of sauces simmering in the restaurant’s kitchen – that immediately engaged all our senses.
At the end of entrance corridor the wine bar beckons, but let us recommend that before you start tasting, you take time to explore the subterranean floor below. It is here where the past meets the present and a whole new world of wine awaits you.
Turn to your right and descend the wide tiled stairs to explore the vaults and dungeons of the old fortress that nowadays holds more than 1600 different wines. To earn a spot in the line-up, every wine is appraised by a panel of 6 to 12 judges and must score 80 or better. Not only are these substantial wines but each bottle literally speaks to you and no I haven’t been sampling yet!
The Parladivino is a permanent, interactive, innovative exhibit where visitors can enjoy a virtual tour of vineyards located in 20 different regions of the country. Each quietly lit alcove is devoted to a region and every bottle is bar-coded. Why is this unique? Because it allows you, with a simple handheld device, to explore what interests you, at your own pace, with full audio and visuals. Thanks to this modern technology, you can trace a wine back to an estate or house, production zone or the precise denomination of origin and gain a full appreciation of the nuances of individual wines. We understand that ideally you would like to personally visit every vineyard but, this is your opportunity to discover, under one roof, the breadth and depth of Italy’s viticulture. Whether you are a wine amateur or connoisseur it’ a great way to determine – where next?
Having completed your research, now it’s time to taste a glass or two. In Italy wine is seldom served without food. We’d suggest that you start off on the sunny terrace surrounded by the walls of the fortress draped in caper vines where you can drink in the history along with a glass of a cool, crisp Prosecco while nibbling on a platter of salamis, cheeses and indescribably delicious olives.
After that, you may want to adjourn to the Ristorante Millevini where the charming and knowledgeable sommeliers will help you pair the wines you want sample with the finest of local dishes but be forewarned; leave a little room to try a Vin Santo affectionately known as the ‘Wine of the Saints’. Until the ‘70s this prized wine was made only for family and friends but today the finest ones from Tuscany, Umbria or Veneto are available to you and when paired with ‘Cantucci’ a nutty Tuscan cookie or seasonal fresh fruits, make the perfect finish for your wine tasting journey.
By now you are probably ready to make a purchase a bottle or two at the wine shop, but if you are finding it hard to choose, no worries, the staff at Enoteca Italiana will be happy to ship your treasures, anywhere in the world.
While there is much to see and do in the ancient and majestic city of Siena, if you really want to savour the flavour, add an afternoon or evening at the Enoteca Italiana to your itinerary. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
The Enoteca Italiana is located at Via Camolia, 72 – 53100 Siena, Tuscany, Italy and is open for wine tasting, lunch or dinner Monday through Saturday. Visit: www.enoteca-italiana.it for more information.
There are a number of golf courses within striking distance. If you’re looking for a different type of golf vacation where you can explore history and culture, art and architecture, wine and cuisine while indulging your passion consider Tuscany Italy. For more information visit www.macanagolf.com or contact Macana Golf Tours at firstname.lastname@example.org to design a customized golf and wine tour package just for you. We know you will be delighted! Ciao!