This was one of my favorite days. The horse they assigned me this day was Jup, who got a good review from Kevin. She was one of the most rideable horses at the farm. She turned out to be my favorite horse the entire week. We set out with Donatella leading us.
We started out the day by riding to the vineyards of Tenuta Di Arceno. The road leading to it was a typical Tuscan cypress lane.
We arrived at the vineyards and settled in for our tasting.
Before we tasted the wine we were given a brief talk on the winery and its history and property. We also received a lesson in Chianti wine. True Chianti wine must be at least 80% San Giovese grape. It doesn't have to be all San Giovese because it's a strong grape that makes a very strong wine, so it's permissable to blend it somewhat. Chianti wine is meant to be drunk with food so that something can counteract its strong acidic and tannin qualities. We tried four wines that day. We tried their Classico, which is the lightest blend, the Riserva, which has a higher San Giovese grape content, a pure San Giovese wine, and a wine blend that is not considered Chianti at all.
After having four glasses of wine, I was definitely feeling a bit tipsy. Our horses were waiting patiently in the olive groves, but I had no wall or block or even a slope to help me get back on. Jup is not a large horse, but she isn't a pony like Baby or Riddle. It was utterly comical seeing my drunk self attempt to mount her from the ground!
From the vineyard we rode to the hillside village of San Gusme`.
We had to tie up our horses and explore on foot. It's a picturesque little town with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Donatella encouraged us to go have a drink at a particular trattoria, but I had consumed enough pre-lunch alcohol that morning. We strolled through the town and took some photos of the views before rejoining Donatella and the horses.
From there were rode down into the valley and then back up to a plateau of another hill to Campi. There was a farm and a church there and more beautiful views.
It had been a long morning, so lunch was quite leisurely. After we had eaten (and drunk more wine) we lay back and attempted a siesta. The ride back down was not terribly long, so it wasn't too back breaking. The day was the perfect balance of ridingl, relaxing and wine-tasting. My horse was wonderful. It was a good day.
That night we had company for dinner. Jenny the English woman from Rendola has brought her guests to stay at Beradenga for the night. They were on a progressive ride. Kevin and I had been considering Jenny's trip when we were choosing our vacation, but we were glad we ended up where we were. There were 8 American women doing the Rendola ride. They were all very nice, but most of them knew each other prior to the ride and their interal banter was a bit overwhelming. They were a real flock of hens! Throughout the week either Donatella or Sadio joined us at dinner while one of them would have dinner downstairs in their apartment with their daughter. This particular night was Donatella's night to eat with us, so Kevin was the odd man out. It all made for a very strange evening, but horse people are horse people no matter where you go, so we all had some common ground to enjoy, sharing photos of horses and miscellaneous animals.
Day 5 -
It's a good thing I'm not a coffee drinker because the Rendola women managed to ravage the coffee supply that morning. We all had one more meal together before they departed for their ride and their night in Siena.
Today was another half-day ride. My horse for the morning was Skyan, a gorgeous little black Arabian. Kevin had ridden him on Monday and wasn't terribly crazy about him. I was a little tentative about it, but Sadio assured me I'd be fine. I found he was pretty good.
A Dutch couple currently living in Colorado who were staying at Montebenichi joined us for the morning's trail ride. Sadio had us just ride around in their indoor ring (it's not an actual indoor ring, but a small ring under an open pavilion) while we waited for them. It gave me a chance to get acquainted with Skyan and establish who is boss. I found him a bit lazy in the ring. On the trail he was still a tad lazy until it came time to canter. Then he wanted to just keep going and going. I had a hard time bringing him down to a trot and a walk after we would canter for a stretch.
The ride was a quiet one. We rode up the other side of the D'Ombrone Abbey and eventually rode to the property where Donatella first opened her business. On the way back we went through the woods, which Donatella called the Fairy Forest. It did look rather enchanted with the bright Tuscan sun filtering through the green leaves. Lush green forests can seem out of place in Tuscany in a drought.
We returned to the farm for a delicious lunch and then Sadio took us to the Medieval Fortress of Castello di Brolio. This has been home to the Ricasoli family for 32 generations. Although not much of the castle is original, the older parts do date back to Medieval times while there is a larger newer part built in the 20th Century and is still occupied by the Ricasoli family. The Medieval area now houses a small museum displaying artifacts from the estate. We had a nice tour, but I was forbidden to take pictures inside. When we left our tour we ran into the Rendola women who were about to embark on the tour themselves.
We learned about Barone Bettino Ricasoli who was one of the first prime ministers of Italy after the Risorgimento (when Italy became a unified country in the 19th century). He was also a scientist and an artist and much of his work and studies were on display in the museum. His best claim to fame though is that he is the inventor of Chianti wine. He was the one who came up with the formula to temper the strong taste of the San Giovese grape.
Because this is the birthplace of Chianti wine, the property houses a winery that makes several kinds of Chianti wine and other vintages as well. We visited the winery for a tasting. Our price of admission to the museum only bought us one wine each, but Kevin and I each tried a different one and swapped sips. I tried a robust Chianti, while he tried a sweet ice wine.
We also spent some time walking the grounds. The views were stunning. The gardens were particularly beautiful with their perfectly manicured shrubbery.
From Brolio we stopped on the way home to the house that was the site of the movie Stealing Beauty. It's not occupied now. The lower floor has horse stalls in it and that's where Jenny was keeping the Rendola horses for the night while their tour spent the night in Siena. (Kevin joked that the next morning a hotel in Siena was going to run out of coffee very quickly.) I recognized the little cottage where Liv Tyler stayed in the movie. There were the signature olive groves there was well.
It was back to the farm for a nice quiet dinner with just Kevin, Miriam and Sadio.