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Most Amazing Places You Ever Seen

October 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 162

The Arrivals Hall at Geneva airport has a machine that dispenses free tickets to passengers for trains and buses from the airport to the city, Go for it, because the taxi fare is an exorbitant SFr 40 to the city centre, which is just 6km away. Most Geneva hotels also give their guests a Geneva Transport Card for the duration of their stay, which allows unlimited free travel on the city’s buses and trams. You have to ask for it.

On  the terrace of Villa Vignamaggio, the Chianti vineyard and farm where Mona Lisa is believed to have spent her childhood summers, our host Sandro Checcucci declares that he had been drinking wine from the age of three, like everyone else in the region:”First a little wine in my water.             

Then a little water in my wine. And then just wine.”  Shocking news that would fell a paediatrician, but I barely hear him. My mind is elsewhere. I have the sobering conviction that though I have never been to this villa before, I have seen the terrace we are standing on.

Actually I had, the previous day, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I’d be surprised if it isn’t the setting of one of Leonardo’s best-known paintings, the Annunciation. It’s entirely possible because Leonardo’s and Mona Lisa’s parents were close friends and he spent time Vignamaggio. If I am right, I was standing smack between the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel. It’s a spooky feeling, to step into the frame of a masterpiece that depicts a turning point in history.

Tuscany is about wine, art and history. The English pioneered tourism here in the 17th century, when Florence and Pisa became important waypoints waypoints on the Grand Tour, the extravagant educational walkabout across Europe undertaken by scions of rich families in preparation for careers in the arts, academia, government and diplomacy.

Even today, Indian tourists limit themselves to those two cities, though the real life of Tuscany is best  seen elsewhere, in the steep, cobbled streets of ancient Etruscan hill towns, like Volterra and Cortona, on the pleasure coast of Versilia and here, in the valley of Chianti.

But we must move on from the superb wines of Vignamaggio and the artistic speculations their fumes engender to.. er, more wine. The Cantina in Greve-in- Chianti beckons, home to all the wines of the Chianti Classico region. Run by the vintners’ union, it has automated the gentle sport of wine-testing.

Buy a charge card, pop it into a dispenser, punch a button and out comes your wine. Easy as snagging a Mars bar on the subway, but here we are talking wines we avert our eyes from in the shops because the sticker shock could damage the retina:

Ornellaia (130 euros the bottle), Vicchiomaggio (126 euros), Luce Frescobaldi(105 euros) and Barbaresco (153 erous). And then we are told that the real thing is still ahead: the Enoteca Italiana in Siena, with 1,600 wines from all over Italy.

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