Day Trips: Chianti – By Zoe Eager

Tour of a Chianti vineyard

Two Saturdays ago I visited the stunning Chianti wine region for a tour of a vineyard to be followed by a wine and olive oil tasting. I’m only getting around to writing about it now because my legs were still in recovery from the “little walk” that our guides proposed we take through the vineyard.

It was brutal.

But it was completely worth it in terms of the high-quality touristy photos I got to take, and as a workout that, to my mind, gave me free reign to eat as much as I wanted at the gorgeous lunch hosted by the vineyard owner (not to mention the glasses of different wines at the accompanying wine tasting). After a hike through the vineyard itself, my friends and I were led into the wine cellar where we saw how the Chianti blends are made and aged, before getting to actually guzzle taste some for ourselves.

Wine tasting in Chianti. Casual.

Day Trips: Venice – By Zoe Eager

Venice

One of the best things about Florence is that it’s so easy to hop over to other cool places around Italy. I was pretty skeptical about going through a trip planner for the first time, actually; you see a million of those tour groups around Florence, and I had no desire to be one in a herd of sweaty tourists, following a tour guide around and straining to hear about monuments I wasn’t particularly interested in anyway.

I much prefer to wander cities by myself and, with my sense of direction, inevitably get lost – I’ve stumbled upon some of my favorite places in Florence this way, and it’s a good workout to boot. That said though, when I was planning a day trip to Venice I had to balance my desire for independent strolling with my general struggle to get my own act together, so I did eventually try a trip planning agency, rationalizing that now, as a legal adult, I wasn’t duty-bound to participate in any of the prescribed funtivities if I didn’t want to.

And I wasn’t. Hallelujah!

The bundle price of the trip included transport to and from Venice, a boat tour of the Grand Canal, a glass blowing demonstration, and a walking tour of two of the islands; the first two I was all for, as they were both fun and relaxing, but then by simply telling the tour guide that I would be back at the meeting point for the return trip to Florence, I was at liberty to wander the city as I pleased.

Thumbs up for successfully ditching the group

The glass-blowing demonstration was unreal though. Venetian glass blowing is a family art that has been passed down father-to-son for centuries, and can only be learned this way – there’s no school for it. The glass-blowers themselves go through a 20-year unpaid apprenticeship before being considered masters in their own right, which I suppose explains the exorbitant prices they were charging for glass figurines and such.

Glass-blowing demonstration in Venice

As a Jew, I felt a bit guilty for not going to visit the three supposedly incredible, ancient synagogs in Venice, but to be honest I was focused on more important things, like taking pose-y pictures in a gondola that I planned on uploading to Facebook the second I got my film developed.

Case in point

Getting to Venice from Florence only takes about three hours, and is totally worth it, if you’re looking for a cool day trip. I took a bus before catching a train to the Venice station, which is the cheapest option, or you can take a train the whole way: prices vary depending on how last-minute you’re trying to book, but check out train times and ticket prices at http://www.trenitalia.com/.

For other day trips (not for Venice, obviously, but in general), you might just want to rent a car, but personally, even though I have an international driving licence, I’m not sure I feel courageous enough to go head-to-head with Italians on motorinos.

Happy day tripping!!