Our trip to Florence began with the decision to choose a hostel not in the centre, but in fact in the Chianti region surrounding Florence.
If that wasn’t a good decision, I don’t know what was…the hostel was brilliant…but getting there was the problem. Drama started immediately. Our Hostel was Ostello del Chianti…and we heard the good reviews and were excited to stay there, but just lacked the main knowledge…how on earth do we get there? We knew we needed to catch a bus as most people cited the only fault was the distance of the hostel from the centre of Florence, (in our eyes that was a sort of pro to see another side of the region) We, in a prime example of our lack of organisation, jumped on a bus google maps recommended..and about 10 minutes into the trip, on a bus going at quite a fast speed we came to the worrying realisation that it was the wrong bus.
Oh boy, did we panic. The ticket inspector had firmly told us that the bus was not heading the right direction…we needed Tavernelle…this bus wasn’t going there. We were bordering on panic. After a 20 hour boat trip from Split to Ancona, after exhausting ticket confusion from Ancona to Florence, we longed for showers and had only just barely discarded our massive backpacks before the trouble had started again. We just wanted to get to the hostel but had absolutely no idea what do do next.
My Italian was limited to a few phrases and an occasional helpful word. We felt stuck on a moving vehicle and not really sure where it was going…my panicking mind jumped to the worst- what if we ended up in another city and what of the cost it would take for us to come back to centre bus station to catch the right bus? The complications just piled on each other…Between panicked conversation with my friend, I spared occasional glances at the ticket inspector….he was speaking to the driver and making some calls on his mobile….was it about us?
Then almost at that same moment the though crossed my mind once more, he gestured to us and told us to put our bags on.
“We are getting off here. The bus going to Tavernelle will stop and pick you up”
We couldn’t believe it! He had saved us!The ticket inspector was simply put..the saviour of the day… He was under no obligation to, but he had helped us. He even waited with us! We piled out, and stood by the busy road under the scorching early afternoon tuscan sun.
As we waited the friendly Inspector shared with us an exciting and interesting list of things to try in the region.
“How long you girls here fore? 2 months, 3 months’?” He asked.
We fidgeted .”2″
“2 weeks, 2 months?”
Again we fidgeted, slightly embarrassed. “2 days”
“What? For Florence alone you need at least a month!”
We assured him next time we definitely planned to stay longer! We knew that is impossible get a taste of Italy and to not come back for more…especially in Florence! All I had seen of it was through my history books, and Assassin Creed and the jumbled rush to the bus that allowed us barely even a glimpse of the city…but all those together gave me the direct message that Florence was an amazing beautiful city with much to discover, that 2 days would barely scratch the surface of it. A month was the minimum. Saying that throughout our adventures we kept lengthening our time in Florence…2 days became 3, 3 became 4, 4 finally became 5 beautiful days, which I still barely consider to have skimmed the city. Florence I shall return!
Conversation continued pleasantly with the inspector.
“The red wine is a must!! You like red wine? Chianti red wine is beautiful! A local speciality! You are going wine tasting, yes?”
We affirmed that, and I practiced my most likely grammatically incorrect Italian and mentioned ‘L’aperitivo,’ a traditional custom I heard from a hostel worker in Milan.
He laughed amiably.”Ahhh you know of L’aperitivo! You speak true italian!”
Then before we knew it, the right bus had arrived! After many thanks we tumbled on the bus, finally set in the right direction. We finally arrived at the hostel!
The reception wasn’t open yet, but we lingered in the common room talking to our fellow hostel dwellers. Already, before we even checked in we made plans with others, preparing to cycle around to a wine tasting and maybe a medieval village the next day.
We checked in, showered, and with a new Canadian friend, us three set of to explore Tavernelle. A cute and charming small town, we walked past a cafe that offered wine tasting for 3 euros. Remembering what a girl at the hostel had said for the free wine tastings in the region, we decided to start with this. She had stated that they weren’t as pleasant as they should be. That when she had gone, they had barely had a chance to finish and savour the small portion in their glass before the next one was pushed down their throat. Also she disliked the pressure applied to them when it had finished to buy expensive bottles. She told us she would recommend paying for the ones that don’t rush you. Taking this insight into account we decided to walk in to this cafe.
It was charming. The interior was oh so old and italian. The people were incredibly friendly and they seemed eager to share the story of their wine empire. We tried four bottles of delicious red wine while the young man in charge told us the story of his family business, the attributes of each particular bottle, produced wine booklets and rankings where his wines were, talking about it all with such pride and passion it was a delight to listen. He was one of many sons and all were involved with the business. THe others at that moment were working in the fields, while it was his turn in the store/cafe.
We savoured and discussed, and just breathed in the atmosphere. The staff, being wonderful brought us out delicious plain focaccias and breads to enjoy with the wine, and later a delicious tomato focaccia all ‘gratis’! Also stories of the cafe were told. Apparently it was the oldest cafe in that city, and used to function as a stopover for many, in the old days when horses trotted through the stone streets.
A particular favorite was the 49, one of the wines highest in the ranking index. Absolutely delicious. The wines must have affected me, because being my painfully clumsy self I managed to not swirl the wine elegantly, but aggressively thrust it at the table, spilling it over a brochures. Sophiticatation at its finest. Even the young wine trader chuckled.
Overall it was a wonderfully pleasant experience! A definite recommended visit! It’s recommended on Trip Advisor so after I look through the wine-stained brochure, somewhere in my travel memories box, and find the name, I will leave the link here!
By this time we were hungry as hades! (I have this perk…i try to create my own sayings…I don’t know why Hades would be hungry? Was it just alliteration that caused me to choose that? I don’t know…moving on.) We asked at the hostel for a recommended place to eat and the lovely lady working gave us a map and recommended a local sort of community hall, where food was cheap, plentiful and delicious. We set off. The region was so beautiful. You can’t go for a 5 minute walk without running into beauty like this! I love running into amazing views like that.
Then I tried to utilise my italian to read the menu! (this time with success!) We all ordered pasta with pesto and fresh tomatos. As we waited we just savoured the atmosphere. Everybody seemed to know each other and there was the constant hum of conversation, beautiful Italian being sung at every occupied table.
When the food came we were in heaven. It was the best pesto I have ever tasted! Only 3.50 euros, but it was a dish I could swear by!
Then we went back to the hostel, and did the traveller thing…talked to fellow travellers, from interesting guys from Madrid, awesome girls from America and Australia, to even some lovely Canadians. Then making plans to go to the city of Florence tomorrow we retired to our rooms for a good and well deserved rest! Alarms set, windows open for the barely there night breeze we drifted off.