Tuscan Adventures by Leah Bickford

Tuscan Adventures

By Leah Bickford


I arrived safely this evening to the City of Florence (Firenze in Italia).  Highlights of my journey include: meeting Dave Grohl’s doppelganger, nearly stepping into an elevator seconds before a city-wide power outage….oh and a 5 second shuttle bus ride!  I am reminded of the Italians and their warm, but no change in organization I’m afraid.

I have the pleasure of staying in Florence a couple of days before I hit the road and start tasting.   It is the capital of Tuscany, with an alleged 382,000 inhabitants!

I am interested to hear how the 2015 vintage is shaping us as well as taste some of the ‘13s and ‘14s in the Tuscan region.


It’s difficult to choose what places to dine in a city and so I rely on local advice. I also use the SLOW WINE Osteria guide that has recently becoming available in English. It’s not so user friendly, but a good resource. I will include some recommendations during my blog posts including: Coquinarius Café. Located in the “Via delle Oche of Florence especially wonderful if you are looking for a casual atmosphere and wonderful food and wine selection. Owner Nico and I quickly began to nerd out over wine as he expressed excitement for his pending visit to Canada and BC! One of the many wonderful things about wine – connecting strangers around the world. Make sure you make a reservation!

Here are some cool wines from there list to look for:

  1. 2012 IL RIO Sentise Pinot Nero (from the hills just north of Florence) Pinot Noir – this is the only red wine made by the producer and grapes are grown in an area that was considered undesirable for Sangiovese. Lots of spice (Cayenne, cinnamon) with cedar box and red cherry/raspberry. Lacks a little in concentration but has great freshness and food appeal. Reminiscent of Sancerre Pinot with more spice!
  2. 2014 Maccario Dringenberg Rossese Di Dolceaqua Superiore, Luguria A client was recently asking me about if we are planning to bring a wine like this in. I hope we can. It is a little like a variety from Piedmont called Pelaverga. Light on the palate with loads of spice, violets and juicy freshness.

IMG_1366Turns out that there is rain all around the world! This Feburary 2016 has been especially wet and an all round warm winter. The conversation of climate change continues!

A cold seems to have set in nicely with the rain no help I am sadly not up to my usual 150% speed of tasting and trying as many wines as possible.

We (at Marquis) recently sent out our newest Italian wine pre-sale and I was excited when I received more than half a dozen emails from clients who will be travelling to Italy in the near future – asking for travel advice. I truly believe that our investment in travelling to and fully understanding the world’s wine regions for all that they offer (history, food, culture) and in turn being able to provide expert advice is part delivering a full client experience. Don’t hesitate to touch base with us when you’re travelling. Don’t hesitate to touch base with us when you’re travelling.

I thought I would provide some general tips and findings in Florence:

  1. Don’t rely on the hotel concierge for restaurant or wine bar recommendations. Of course there are exceptions and it does depend on where you stay, but do your research ahead of time. Talk to those who share your interests/values. I asked friends living here in Florence for recommendations on wine bars to check out and the hotel staff where I am staying were completely unfamiliar. The staff may not be fully aware or have alliances with local restaurants that don’t fit with what you are looking for!
  2. Manage your expectations with the touristy cafés/bars in the busy piazzas. It’s great for people watching and taking in views, but expect to pay double for underwhelming food/beverage selections. I typically order a Spritz, which is Aparol, Prosecco and fresh orange. Usually served in a large glass on ice and is great for sipping/crowd watching. This is a good tip for most major Italy tourist destinations.
  3. Try STREET food. Florence is great for this. It’s extremely affordable and delicious. Mercato Centrale for example is located directly beside the San Lorenzo market and it is treat for the senses. Meats, produce, spices, olive oils, cheese and those which are unfamiliar. Best of all, you can find a great Panini with fresh salumi and cheese with a cup of vino (plastic mind you) for 4E! Tripe is a specialty here in Florence and you can find sandwiches stall around the city with different variations. Tried it but think it’s an acquired taste for sure!
  4. Florence is definitely (CONFIRMED) the capital of LEATHER for Italy and maybe the world! This is truly the mecca for leather. Come with a plan and some ideas around what you want/need and shop around! Bartering is key. It is part of the culture and way of life in this city. I was given some tips from a kind man in the San Lorenzo market (as I’ve never felt very comfortable bartering). Get used to low-balling! He suggested that if someone is asking for 20E for a belt…say “I only have 10E to spend”. The worst that can happen is they say no. Shopping here in the low season is a serious advantage. This year in particular, has seen a slow down in the economy and tourism and so shop owners are keen to move product at good prices. In general the leather here is well worth the price considering the craftsmanship and quality for price compared to Canada! That being said, don’t let them bully you, because they are extremely intense and aggressive.
  5. Book at hotel with complimentary buffet breakfast. You may have heard that the Italians can go a little over-board when it comes to food. The complimentary breakfasts in this country are un-real. It pretty much covers your breakfast and lunch and even includes fancy, delicious coffee.


Il Santino is def worth checking out. The staff are friendly, and there’s a huge selection of Tuscan wines to choose from. Simple, small, shared plates. CROSTINI is a big thing here in Florence. I’m not sure yet how it is different from Bruschetta but I’ll get back to you on that. Le Volpi e l’uva: Didn’t love as I thought the staff were not welcoming or friendly…I don’t dig wine snobs who think there are better because they know WINE! But this is a very local joint, so practice up your Italian, maybe your experience will be different than mine.

Pitti Gola: Was closed for construction but heard great things – these three talented dudes are running a fab wine bar and wine club.

  • Wine Bars/Restos:
    Coquinarius – (http://www.coquinarius.com)
    Il Santino Via Santa Spirito, 60R/Santo Bevitore
    Le Volpi e l’uva- Piazza de’ Rossi 1 – just across the bridge towards Ponte Vecchio
    Pitti Gola e Cantina – Piazza de’ Pitti, 16

More to come on my findings and Tuscan wine tastings!