I’ve grown up in Northern California and lived about an hour away from the major wine hub of North America. I’ve driven past vineyards and wineries for as long as I can remember, yet I knew so little about the industry. Ironically, I moved to another major wine hub for study abroad. Tuscany, and specifically the Chianti region, produces millions of bottles of wine each year, and I happened to be around during the grape harvest.
The minute you step foot outside the city of Florence you are instantly surrounded by rolling hills filled with vineyards as far as the eye can see. I got out of our bus and instantly felt at home. The quiet tree-filled hills brought me peace and tranquility, something I don’t think I’ve felt much of since moving here. We were at the Castello del Trebbio, a winery home to a castle from the 12th century and over 850,000 acres of wine land.
We were given gloves, clippers, and a large crate and told to begin picking grapes! The end of September is prime grape-picking time in Tuscany, as the grapes are ripe and full and the summer heat is just beginning to die down. I was so content walking up and down the vineyard collecting grapes. I felt as though the inner Northern Californian in me finally began peeking through!
After our picking extravaganza, our guide led us to the castle just down the road for a quick tour. The castle had some interesting history tied to it: originally owned by the Pazzi family, the castle was taken into possession by the Florentine Government after the Pazzi’s plotted to kill the Medici family, the rulers at the time. The owners of the winery currently live in the castle and they keep some of the bottom floor rooms and the cellars open for tours.
After perusing the cellars, we were brought to a large dining room where we feasted on a local Tuscan lunch and tasted three different wines they produce: two reds, which I was able to appreciate but are not my favorite, and a dessert wine that tasted like alcoholic caramel. The winery also has a small olive oil and honey production, so I was sure to grab a few of those products from the store, as well as a bottle of red we tasted.
On the bus ride home I began thinking about why I enjoyed this day trip so much. I’m truly not a big wine-drinker — in fact, I couldn’t even swallow a sip of red before arriving in Italy. I’ve never been to a vineyard in Napa or learned much about the wine industry. This wasn’t exactly my type of thing. But then I thought about how I felt seeing the green hills and walking throughout the vineyard; something in Italy finally felt familiar to me, a taste of home. Living in Florence can be, and is, incredibly overwhelming. I’m certainly not a city person and I like my grass and my trees. I go on runs every morning in a park in Florence just to simply see a few trees and be awake when the city is semi-quiet. I can’t walk or bike anywhere without literally bumping into a dozen people because the streets are so filled. I haven’t always slept as well as I’d like, as we live in an apartment right in the heart of the city and the stores below get restocked at odd hours. In other words, I haven’t had the quiet outdoor space that normally keeps me sane.
Even though Castello del Trebbio was just a few hours away, it was incredibly valuable and heart-warming to experience. I miss my quiet time. I miss seeing mountains and redwood trees. So for now, I’ll take these small moments and carry them with me.
I’ll always remember partaking in a Tuscan Grape Harvest, tasting traditional wine steps away from where it was grown. Small moments away from the hustle and bustle of a city remind me that even though I may be thousands of miles away, there are pieces of the world that will always remind me of home.