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Tuscany, Parma, Sienna, Florence, Salsomaggiore

In the heart of Tuscany/Chianti - Could not be better

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The Autumn of 2011 saw a two week adventure to the Italian regions of Tuscany and Reggio Emilia.The time we spent in Tuscany, a region well known for wine, olives & oil, wild boar, truffles, Pecorino cheeses and of course outstanding scenery. We were lucky enough to stay at a perfect location in the heart of the Chianti wine region called 'Castellina in Chianti'. Our accommodation at could not have been better. The Proprietors Sandra and Franco are warm and welcoming and had great suggestions on secret places to park the car in Florence and Sienna and super recommendations for places to savor the Tuscan comestibles! (Check out the photos of the Porchetta - the roasted meat with the pig head - wow!) We had planned to do some bike riding and brought our two wheeled friends with us. However, once seeing the reality of the steepness of the hills and how much there was to experience around the areas we elected to use the auto instead. (At least the bikes can tell their progeny they have been to Italy)

In Tuscany we were lucky enough to arrive during the Annual Chianti Wine Festival in Greve. Hand over 10 Euros and you receive a wine glass and have the opportunity to sample wines from vintners from all over the region. Bob drove and took some new German friends with us (and may have been the only one without a bit of a headache the next morning) The daily exploration of Tuscany was no less than a continual series of beautiful surprises. The many 'hill towns' are inspiring sights, the variety and quality of food and wine are daily delights. One of the most amazing experiences was venturing down to St. Antimo Abbey (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) between Sienna and Montalcino. The oratory was built in 352; ancient I would say. You probably have heard of the 'Gregorian Chants' of some monks. Well, we had the real awe inspiring privilege of seeing this in person at the Abby. We ventured there and sat in the church with only 4 others and witnessed the afternoon Mass with 2 groups of 4 monks sitting on small benches facing each other chanting their prayers back and forth. Very inspiring!

We also spent a week a bit north in Reggio Emilia, a region noted for the genuine Parmesan Cheese and Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) as well as many pork specialities. We were again lucky. We happened upon the city of Parma the weekend of the Parma Ham Festival. We certainly gorged on the wonderful ham and local cheeses along with local Balsamic Vinegars. We were fortunate enough to go to a town named Langhirano in Parma which is the Mecca of Parma Ham. While there we went on a tour of the Monpiu 'Salumifico' where they make and age Parma Ham, Salami, Culatello etc. The photos on the site below will give a taste of Tuscany and Reggio Emilia. (Where I was not able to get a great picture of a particular item I have 'borrowed' one from others. Those are marked with an 'NM' {Not Mine})