Castello di Ama

Friday, November 28, 2014

Castello di Ama

Posted by Ruth Albracht (28 November 2014)
Once a year the entire team of To Tuscany gather together in Tuscany. We stay in some beautiful holiday villas at the charminghamlet of Casanuova di Ama and beside the many meetings indoors we are treated with special dinners and outings.

The employees of To Tuscany have their homes at Great Britain, Germany, USA, Australia, France, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands. This is a friendly and warm group of people who all have the same passion: Tuscany!

This year we went to visit the beautiful winery of Castello di Ama. After a short walk through the vineyards with the last sun of the day setting everything in an enchanting light we arrived at the beautifully restored winery. Ama, the hamlet only four hundred meters away from Castello di Ama has been there for five hundred years and fine wines where made by some important families back then, which had residence in the midst of the Chianti. Castello di Ama has been fabulously restored in 1960 to revive the old days and they started to produce the famous Chianti Classico, one of the world’s most prestigious wines. The family of Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti leads Castello di Ama today. Marco Pallanti is a gifted winemaker. They have had great successes over the past 25 years and built a thriving business. Castello di Ama has received multiple awards for their outstanding wines. 

The charming hostess gave us a tour over the estate. We learned about wine making and at the same time we could admire the amazing modern art at the estate. Think of Michelangelo Pistoletto, Anish Kapoor and Louise Bourgeois. It is such a special feature that modern art made by famous artists is integrated in the company. We were so surprised. While our hostess explained about the different fermentation progresses, how long wine barrels were used and why it‘s necessary to roll them over – every three months all the wine is removed from the barrels to be returned in ‘fresh’ rolled barrels- we took in the various art installations.

It was very interesting to learn more about winemaking and how the particular modern art, especially made for Castello di Ama was established.

The Indian artist Anish Kapoor transformed the charming chapel at the estate by installing a red sphere that represents the warming glow of a communal fire in the middle of the chapel. The old floor was removed and a new concrete floor could be made with a hole one and a half meters deep in the middle. That is where the light installation was put to create a red shimmering pulsing light. When entering the small chapel we were utterly surprised, it looked like a glowing boll of hot lava on the floor that you could easily touch. Magic!

The work ‘Topiary’ of Louise Bourgeois is mind blowing. Situated at the bottom of a narrow cave that had a timeless medieval atmosphere you see a fountain made of Carrera marble resembling an adolescent girl and a at the same time beautiful flower. The walls around this sunning peace of art are pitch black and this makes it difficult to orientate. The magical work looks like a fragment of a forgotten myth.

The warm welcome, the interesting stories and the great atmosphere wants us to undertake another wonderful visit to Castello di Ama. The combination of the ancient traditional Tuscany and modern art is phenomenal.

It is definitely worthwhile to combine wine tasting with a tour of the estate and enjoy the extraordinary modern art in an enchanting landscape. Four wines are tasted during the tasting, the Al Poggio IGT, Il Chiuso IGT, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico, a selection of Vigneto, and their extra virgin olive oil DOP Chianti Classico. The tasting takes about 2.5 hours.

If you would like to have more information about prices and bookings please contact Castello di Ama.
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Lights, Camera, Action...

Friday, November 21, 2014


Written by Dympna Docherty on 21 November 2014

Is usually something that Hollywood actors/actresses hear, but during the To Tuscany recent company annualconference we had a film crew following us around with the aim of producing a video for each of our websites – German, French, Dutch, Polish, USA/Canada and the UK/Ireland/Rest of the World. To Tuscany have been leading the way with our online videos of our villas using drone technology to capture birds-eye views so we wanted to do something personal where each agent can 'speak' to you directly and where you can meet the owner of To Tuscany even if its only on film.
Some were nervous about the videos, some were having hair lacquered down by their wives, some were thinking through what to say and some of us were wishing we had more notice so we could lose the 10lbs the camera apparently adds!

Our first filming schedule was during our visit to the Castello di Ama winery and art gallery. This is located just a short walk from the hamlet of Casanuova di Ama where we were based in a variety of accommodation: Annamaria villa, Villa Gallo Nero and the Le Volte & Il Forno properties. The contemporary art installations at the winery have been produced by a variety of internationally aclaimed artists such as Anish Kapoor, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Louise Bourgeois and Cristina Iglasias and Castello di Ama are very proud of this collaboration.

The 'real' filming was for our individual interviews and once they were underway we found our nerves disappeared as we were after all only saying to the camera what we tell hundreds of our lovely guests as part of our job. Talking about Tuscany and villas in Tuscany comes easily to us, we have all spent so much time visiting the area that we can talk with confidence on the subject.

We were lucky that the weather provided blue skies and sunshine during our time with the film crew – we know it isnt always sunny in Tuscany, but we like to show you this delightful region looking its best! - the warm sunshine even provided for some opportunities to relax whilst waiting for our camera calls.
Our group visit to the local town of Radda in Chianti caused a few heads to turn, its not often that a film crew shows up and the fact that some of us were wearing the To Tuscany jackets and t-shirts that had been provided specially for the filming meant we were on the end of some quizzical looks from the locals. One of the locals who is more used to a film crew than us is Luciano who runs the famous Porciatti delicatessen in Radda – he made a number of appearances as a chef on one of Italys cookery shows. His bustling shop made a great backdrop for some filming of local products and typical daily life.

On the subject of chefs, Andrea from thePasta e Fagioli private chef service served up a meal of distinction for all 20+ of us – the porcetta (roasted pork) was so delicious that a vegetarian amongst us couldnt resist and even went back for seconds, thats how good it was!

We can highly recommend the video company Mediabrightom, Annelies and Ben Simon made us feel relaxed and comfortable while filming.
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Panzano in Chianti Wine Festival

Posted by Sean Caulfield on 14 November 2014

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Italy isn’t short on wine festivals. The Tuscany region certainly has its fair share and Vino al Vino (Wine to Wine) held in Panzano in Chianti is one of the stand out examples. It focuses on local producers, with a more intimate feel compared to many of its competitors, making this the perfect choice for real wine-lovers with the drink itself very much the star of the show.

Vino al Vino is organised by a group of 20 local wineries and has been going strong for years. It has managed to stay relatively small, however, offering a great alternative to the bigger wine festivals (which, don’t get me wrong, are fantastic in their own way).  Located between the larger towns of Greve and Castellina, Panzano is a classic small Tuscan village that makes a lovely setting, in no small part thanks to the beautiful surrounding scenery. Located on the breast of a hill, Panzano in Chianti has amazing views to the surrounding countryside, which is made up of a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves. This is quintessential rural Italy.

The festival takes places in the main piazza at the heart of Panzano, where the wineries set up in wooden stalls around the central square. To one side of the square is the welcome point where you buy a glass for 15 Euros and then taste as much wine as you like at no extra cost! The 15 Euro for the glass is your contribution to the cost of the festival, which makes it a fantastic deal if you turn up on the Thursday or Friday as you can keep going in every day tasting the wine in exchange for that one-off payment. Even if you can only make it for a few hours though, the number of different wines you can taste and the experience you get means it’s still a great deal. And, of course, you get the glass to keep as a souvenir!

Right by the entrance to the square is a small bar where the various wines for tasting are served. The ideal way to enjoy the festival is to grab a glassful of something that takes your fancy, then head over to the stall of the winery that produced it so you can find out all about what went into the wine you’re sampling. Every vineyard from the surrounding area has their own section displaying their produce so it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the wine-making process and each producer’s own particular philosophy and methods of production. Whether you’re a seasoned wine aficionado or a more casual drinker, Vino al Vino is your chance to try a wide range of different styles of wine and work out which one suits you best. 

Once you’ve found that perfect tipple, you’ll no doubt want a bottle or maybe even a case or two to take away and drink at your leisure. Fortunately the festival organisers have thought of that and there’s a helpful buying and ordering station right beside the welcome point. This is staffed by a really helpful lady who speaks multiple languages and who has wines from all the different vineyards stacked up behind her. You can either buy a bottle right then and there, or place a larger order and have it delivered, giving you something to remember the festival by for a long time to come!

A firmly as the festival is focused on wine, it wouldn’t be a real Italian event if there wasn’t some great food on offer too. Panzano in Chianti just happens to be the home of Dario Cecchini, a world-famous butcher and chef. He runs Antica Macelleria Cecchini (Cecchini’s Old Butcher’s Shop) a family business that has been going for over 250 years. A really colourful character, Dario has three restaurants in Panzano, each serving a different range of meat based dishes (and a few non-meat treats for vegetarians). The village also boasts an excellent baker, proving that wine isn’t the only local produce worth shouting about.

The local restaurants really contribute to the festival buzz, bursting out from their usual premises to line the streets with their tables. Waiters cross back and forth serving people on both sides of the road as they sit eating great food, soaking up the sun and basking in the wonderful atmosphere. So, if nothing else, Panzano is a great place to go for lunch on the festival weekend, even if you’re not a wine drinker! There’s also live jazz music in the early evening on Saturday and Sunday and loads of local artists there displaying their work, making for a well-rounded Italian experience.

Of course, for those there for the wine, the restaurants and baker (who offers a range of snacks over the weekend) are really handy as you do need something to eat when you’re trying all those different wines. Otherwise you’d just end up falling over, or forgetting which wine it was you liked so much!

The Panzano in Chianti Wine Festival is a really great little festival for those who want a true taste of Tuscan culture in a fantastic location. It’s the perfect opportunity to develop your wine knowledge with loads to learn and absorb. We often hear back from people who visit once and then end up searching out wines from the Panzano region all over the world. Fortunately this is relatively easy as wines from the region are available in the UK, USA and throughout Europe, making a taste for Panzano wines one worth acquiring.

Vino al Vino takes place each year on the 3rd week of September, just before the harvest begins. It runs for four days from Thursday through to Sunday, meaning you can pop down for just one day or make a long weekend of it. And, if nothing else, the beautiful calm atmosphere in the middle of the Chianti on a sunny day is something to behold!

To find out more about Panzano, take a look at our guide to the local area and if you need somewhere to stay while you visit the festival, take a look at our villas in nearby Florence, Panzano in Chianti and the surrounding area. For more information and advice, please feel free to send us an email or call us on 0121 286 7782.
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Via Francigena walk

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Via Francigena walk

A warm, sunny autumn day in Tuscany was the perfect time to undertake the Via Francigena walk. We travelled the twenty minute car journey from the Chianti to meet our tour guide at the local car park in Abbadia d'Isola.  Ingo our guide was waiting for us as we arrived. We jumped into the minibus provided and were driven to our starting point at Castello della Chiocchiola.

Ingo had been thoughtful and had provided all of us with a chilled bottle of water. Donning his rucksack (which I presume was full of useful tools and emergency equipment) we set off down a dusty track towards the woods.

The weather was wonderfully warm and I looked forward to the journey ahead. Ingo then proceeded  to tell us about the pilgrimage and some of its history. And here is some of what I learned.

The Via Francigena route starts in Canterbury in the U.K (which I live about 20 miles away from back home) and continues through France, Switzerland and down through Italy and all the way to Rome.   

Although I have said that the pilgrimage started in Canterbury, this is not 100% accurate. Starting points varied along the route depending on where you came from, you would not be expected to start from Canterbury if you lived in France.

The Arch Bishop, Sigeric the Serious had made and documented the pilgrimage himself in 990 and became the self appointed authority on the subject and therefore the unofficial starting point became Canterbury in Kent.

The route has not changed that much since medieval times, but due to modernisation and the building of new roads etc, slight detours have had to be made. However, this said there is an abundance of untouched Tuscan scenery and woodland paths which have changed very little  overtime.

The trail took us through a mixture of forests, open plains and along winding white roads. A good pair of walking boots is recommended as the paths are full of loose gravel and stones which I slipped on several times. If your planning on cycling this route, I recommend protective clothing and a certain amount of experience in the sport.

After nearly two hours of walking we came out to an opening in the woods which looked across the valley and towards the majestic walled town of Monteriggioni. Ingo informed us that this medieval town had been the site of a siege and a battle between the Florentines and the Sienese. It was also world famous for being featured in the video game “Assassins Creed”. However on my return to the UK I was informed and corrected by my teenage son, that actually it featured in Assassins Creed 2!

We  made our way across to  Monteriggioni and entered the town through one of the original fortified gates. Monteriggioni is a charming little town with a small selection of bars and gift shops. We sat in the main plaza enjoying the atmosphere of a bygone age while sipping our cool beverages. As we sat and talked we were introduced to Andrea the owner of the tour company (, who had come to greet us.

After a much needed rest and a quick tour of the old town it was time to leave this picturesque place  and all its history.  The walk back took approximately an hour as we took a shorter route than by which we had came. Along the way we sampled some reddish berries that grew in hedgerows along the track, we really were following the spirit of the pilgrims now.

We eventually arrived back at the minibus as the sun slowly set over Tuscany. Ingo kindly drove us back to our car and after a lot of handshaking and laughing we said our farewells and headed back to our Villa for a much needed glass of  the finest Chianti Classico.

I learned a great deal of interesting facts surrounding the Via Francigena, which I have deliberately omitted from this account. If you wish to know what I know, you will just have to take the journey yourself (maybe not from Canterbury).  Say Hi to Ingo for me!

Paul Perry
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