The first full day with the entire group in Italy was characterized by aggressive walking and excessive dining. The day started with a walking tour of Florence past many of the main sights including the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Piazza della Signoria where a replica of Michelangelo’s famous “David” stands. It was definitely a brisk morning, but the near constant movement kept us from completely freezing.
After a demonstration of the Florentine leather working tradition, a group of fellow MBA students retired to a restaurant called Zaza. Stephanie and Derek had been to this restaurant on a previous trip to Florence and had been raving about it nonstop for the past few months. Everyone was eager to sample some Italian wine, so we ordered the house Chianti (a bottle of which was already on the table) and a Vermentino from Colli di Luni. I talk incessantly about how Vermentino is my favorite white varietal, and luckily this wine lived up to my hype, showing off its beautiful floral nose, cleansing acidity and crisp green fruit. The group insisted that I order a second bottle.
Ravenous from the morning of walking and still with a chill in my bones, I ordered a sampling of traditional Tuscan soups, and porchetta with Tuscan white beans. My favorite of the soups was the Ribollita, a staple of the region made with indigenous white beans, black cabbage and tomatoes. Between the soups, of which two of the three contained beans, and the beans that came on the side of my porchetta, I now fully understand why the rest of Italy refers to the Tuscans as “mangiafagioles” – bean eaters.
To burn the enormous amount of calories we consumed at lunch, three of us decided to hike the 461 steps to the top of the Duomo. It was definitely a workout, but well worth the effort. The close-up views of the fresco on the ceiling on the way up were spectacular and the panorama of Florence from the top was breathtaking.
The day concluded with a group dinner, where our table decided to order a few bottles of wine to share. The wine list was certainly interesting to look at from an American point of view – the wines were identified only by their region of origin, with no mention of the producer at all. This fact certainly drives home the value of the strict DOC and DOCG regulations, as consumers can be sure of the quality of the wine and the fairness of the price without even having to know who made it. I can’t imagine just seeing “Russian River Valley Pinot Noir” on a wine list for $50 or $75 and feeling confident enough to order it without knowing the specific producer.
We decided on a Vernaccia di San Gimignano for our white wine, which was an ideal pairing for the first course of ravioli with pears and gorgonzola. It had vibrant acidity to cut through the weight of the creamy sauce and crisp pear and green apple flavors to complement similar flavors in the dish. For our red wine choice, we decided to try something no one had ever heard of – Morellino di Scansano. After a cursory Google search, we discovered that this was 100% Sangiovese from Maremma in the south of Tuscany, Morellino being the local name for the clone of Sangiovese grown there. It was dry and dusty, a perfect match for the steak dish served with bitter greens and dry Italian cheese, and definitely got us excited to taste some Chianti the next day…
-Palmer Emmitt, January 4, 2013