For anybody who loves food, Fall in Tuscany has to be on your bucket list. The air is infused with the heady smell of fermented grape stems being spread around grapevines, freshly separated from their precious grapey cargo. Drive past a community's olive oil press and you'll want to stop the car, open all the windows and inhale the airborne extra virgin molecules. Fairs spring up everywhere: The Fair of the Potato Tortelloni with Bolognese sauce, the Snail Festival, The Annual Chestnut Market and Roasted Chestnut Fair, the Festival of the Vin Novello, the young red wine that is the moment this year's crop makes its tentative debut. Chocolate fairs and tastings also seem to pop up in this time of year...maybe because before now it would melt? Maybe because it pairs so well with the season's foods: wine, grappa, and wild boar?
And then, especially for those of us fortunate to live in San Miniato...there is the King of the Fall, the appropriately named Tuber Magnatum Pico: the White Truffle. For some, it is just an interesting flavor to add to a dish, for scenic effect or a nice earthy flavor. For others, the white truffle puts them into culinary ecstasy! San Miniato hosts the Annual International Truffle Festival during the last three weekends of November and there are so many white truffles on display, even under glass, that the entire town smells truffly. If you have ever felt that your foodie inclination has been under-challenged, these are the weekends for you!
Because really...if you are drawing in gourmands delighted to pay exorbitant amounts of money for white truffles...then of course all the other goodies are happy to be on display within a nose sniff away! So here the best San Miniato wines are available for tasting...here a tent is set up with local chocolatiers, up under the portico of the seminary you'll find every local baker's best concoctions. It is not a weekend for dieting.
So here will be OUR schedule for this month's rowing week. We have only a few spots left for this week so please let us know if you are interested.
Saturday, November 16th
After meeting everyone at the airport, we'll get settled into the Hotel San Miniato, a recently restored convent within a short walk from the Truffle Fair. We'll walk around together and begin our exploration of all the goodies to be appreciated. Afterward we'll head down to our rowing basin and get set up in boats, trying them out and adjusting heights as needed. Afterwards back to San Miniato for dinner in one of the many eateries this Slow Food town has to offer, or simply wander around the stall and taste as many delicacies as you wish!
Sunday, November 17th
To the boats, mateys! Sunday morning everyone is at the club, masters, youths, and international guests. It feels great to be part of a club! After rowing, we'll head to the canteen of the local Truffler's Asociation, where the freshest and most authentically prepared truffles can be found, served up by the wives and grandmothers of the men who are out at dawn with their dogs. Afterward, a digestive walk around the fair, trying everything we haven't already indulged in.
Wednesday, November 18th
Today we get moving! After rowing in the morning (not dawn...just morning!) and then a break to change at the hotel, we'll go explore Vinci! We'll learn about the amazing Leonardo and walk the hills he often walked, with a naturalist as our guide, in time to catch the early November sunset from one of his favorite hilltop spots.
Tuesday, November 19th
Florence! Ready for the emotion of rowing under the Ponte Vecchio? Of course you're not! It's impossible to imagine the sound of dozens of cameras taking your picture as you become someone's memory of the Arno. Or to imagine the basement locale of the exclusive Florence Rowing Club, where we accompany you. We'll all have lunch together ...and then Florence is your oyster!
Wednesday, November 20th
If today is nice, we will head to one of my favorite hot springs in Tuscany to soak our muscles and feel pampered in the naturally hot, therapeutic water. Our row will be in the morning or afternoon, depending on the weather report, to take advantage of the most sunshine possible.
Thursday, November 21st
This morning, after another delicious breakfast at the hotel, we'll do some video review of our rowing and talk about technique. In mid-morning our local cycle guide will meet us with a fleet of e-bikes. After a quick course on how to use them, we'll pedal off into the hills of Tuscany, using the power assistance as needed for the more daunting hills. We will end up on a lovely hilltop restaurant where something light and delicious will be enjoyed, and then back to San Miniato in time for a rest.
Friday, November 22nd
Breakfast....rowing...learning drills to bring home with you...and then LUCCA! Of our all-time favorite towns in this gorgeous region. This walled city is fantastic for walking around, biking the walls, shopping, enjoying lunch, learning about Puccini, the Romans, or even just people watching! In the old town very few cars are allowed and the view from a sidewalk café is always fascinating. Our lunch here will be memorable, bringing out all the freshest flavors of Fall and pairing them with fantastic wines.
Saturday, November 23rd
Today depends on departure schedules...we can row together one last time, or visit the Tower of Pisa if flights are leaving from the nearby airport. It's always sad to see new friends leave!