5th October, 2014

WineGeese Society Tour of Rome and Tuscany 2014

Date : 5th October, 2014



Rome and Tuscany

5 to 11 October 2014

Description (as of 9th August, 2014)


Sun, 5 October, Rome

Our tour begins in magical Rome on Sunday 5 October with a WineGeese dinner at the Irish Embassy hosted by
HE Amb Bobby McDonagh, the Irish Ambassador to Italy, at the Villa Spada, the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s diplomatic missions and the nation’s most valuable foreign embassy property.  Constructed in the 1630s, it was the home of the Nobili family of Montepulciano and subsequently purchased by the Spada family who employed amongst other great Italian artists Beini and Borromini on the villa.  The Irish govement purchased the Villa Spada in 1946.

Our first two nights will be at the five-star historic Grand Hotel de la Minerve, a magnificent mansion dating from the 1600s.  Set in the historical city center, the hotel overlooks the Pantheon and is just minutes from Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.  Completely renovated, the hotel has retained its noble, elegant lines and the atmosphere of a comfortable, welcoming aristocratic “home”.  And the views from its roof garden are unparalleled!

Grand Hotel de la Minerve, Piazza della Minerva, Rome

Mon, 6 October, Rome

Today we will explore eteally enchanting Rome.  For those who wish to avail, we have arranged for the celebration of mass at the Irish Chapel in the crypt of St Peter’s to be officiated by Fr Luke Macnamara of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, Ireland.  We will retu to the Grand Hotel de la Minerve following the service.

The moing will be spent enjoying a private tour of the gardens at Castel Gandolfo, the traditional papal summer residence just outside Rome, which was opened to the public for the first time in March 2014 by Pope Francis.  Your private tour will take you strolling through the giant covered passageway where the Emperor Domitian and his retainers would take their evening constitutional, at what was at the time the most famous villa of ancient Rome.  The Castel Gandolfo property has been in papal hands since 1596.  It was Pius XI who embarked on its major renovation and recreated the series of terraced gardens you will discover.

We will lunch en route to our next destination for a private tour of the Case Romane del Celio, revealing an important ancient Roman excavation that was first opened in 2002 as a museum.  Deep beneath the 5th-century Basilica of SS Giovanni e Paolo,   excavations revealed a residential complex of several Roman houses of different periods,   providing a unique picture of how generations of Romans lived. Preserved at the labyrinthine site is a residence from the 2nd-century, a single home of a wealthy family, and a 3rd-century apartment building for artisans.  Painted figures, such as the Nymphaeum in the picture to the right, grace the walls, still vibrant after some two millennia.  Farther on is the Confessio altar of SS Giovanni e Paolo, officials at Constantine’s court who were executed under Julian the Apostate.

The evening will be spent discovering the grandeur of Late Renaissance Rome, with a private visit to the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, Baldassare Peruzzi’s renaissance jewel, built in the years 1533-36, home of the historic Massimo family.  The Sienese architect Peruzzi was a contemporary of Raphael and Donato Bramante.  The famous curved façade follows the outlines of the ancient Odeon from the age of Domitian.  The main courtyard, inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome, is adoed with ancient statuary.  The other courtyard is embellished with 17th century bas-reliefs and medallions.  The Massimo family still owns and lives in the palace, where very little has changed since its construction.  Once a year, on 16 March, the palace is open to the public as a commemoration of a miracle performed on that date in 1583 by the priest who became St Philip Neri.

Following our tour of the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne we will go “next door” to the Palazzo Massimo di Pirro where we will be welcomed by Donna Teresa Coppa Solari Massimo Lancellotti and Baron Gino Coppa Solari.  This elegant and austere palace, one of the residences of the Massimo family, was built in 1533 following the Sack of Rome in 1527.  The piano nobile, in the picture to the right, has been recently restored, a project that lasted over nine years.  The palace contains frescoes by Perin del Vaga and in the Hall of Mosaics can be found the famous ancient Roman floor, discovered in 1810, depicting the head of Medusa.

According to Roman tradition, the family descends from Fabius Maximus Cunctator, a famous patrician and general of Imperial Rome.  Historical traces of the family are found in documents dating to before the year 1000.  They have lived in this area for some 900 years.  In later centuries, the family married into the royal houses of Europe, including those of Bourbon, Saxony, and Savoy.

Grand Hotel de la Minerve, Piazza della Minerva, Rome

Tue, 7 October, Tuscany

Moing departure for Tuscany from where we will explore the delights of the wines of Tuscany including the Nobile di Montepulciano and the classic Brunello di Montalcino, which many regard as the greatest red wine of Italy.  We will also explore the great wines of the Chianti Classico region.

Our exploration of the wines of Nobile di Montepulciano and our tracking of the Sangiovese grape and its multifaceted expressions in Tuscany will bring us for a private tour and lunch to Avignonesi Winery, one of the flagship producers of Tuscany.  Under present ownership, the winery has tued to biodynamic methods in their pursuit of the full exploration of their Vino Nobile made with 100% Sangiovese and their other range of wines.  (For those who recall the sticky wines of Australia, prepare yourselves for the 100-point Avignonesi Occhio de Peice Prugnolo Gentile – Vin Santo de Montepulciano.)  Wine writers agree that Avignonesi is one of two producers showing the true potential of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Following our visit to Avignonesi, we will check in to our home for the next five days, the Hotel Borgo San Felice, the only Relais & Châteaux five-star hotel in the Chianti Classico region.  This medieval village was restored and transformed into a hotel in 1991 still surrounded by endless rows of vines, oak forests, and olive groves, with the towers of Siena on the horizon.  Enjoy the spa services or go trekking into the hillsides by bicycle or explore the countryside via hot air balloon or just improve your bocce technique in your leisure time.

And, to quote Cyril Ray, because “this is not only bottle-and-glass country but, also knife-and-fork country”, we will be enjoying some of the greatest food that Italy has to offer, from hidden gems to famous restaurants.  For those of you anxious to lea the how and why, you may sign up for tonight’s Cooking Class at Borgo San Felice, guided by chef Alessandra Zacchei, for a memorable experience.  Those not interested in the cooking class, may want to sign up for the “cocktails” course, followed by dinner for all at San Felice.

Tip; look for their San Felice 2010 Il Grigio da San Felice Gran Selezione Red (Chianti Classico) recently given 94 points by Wine Enthusiast to prepare for the feasts to come.
Oveight Borgo
San Felice, Località San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Wed, 8 October, Tuscany

Following a moing at leisure, we will set out today to explore the wines of Brunello di Montalcino with a visit and special tasting to the incomparable Biondi-Santi, the “undisputed birthplace of Brunello” created in the late nineteenth century by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi from select Sangiovese plants, which the family has been producing since that time to enormous acclaim.  Famed for their longevity – the 1888 and 1891 vintages still thrill wine lovers – these wines express the essence of Brunello di Montalcino.  Indeed, Nicolas Belfrage of Decanter magazine gave the 1891 reserve a ten out of ten when tasted in 1994.

After Biondi-Santi, we will head to nearby Montisi for an immersion into what makes Tuscan wines so special.  Maurizio Castelli, one of the top winemakers in Italy as well as inteationally, will lead this special presentation and tasting.  He will help us navigate the intricacies and complexities of Italy’s great wines.  A pioneer who helped create such renowned wines as Col d’Orcia’s Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Mastrojanni’s Brunello Schiena d’asino, and Poderi Boscarelli’s Vino Nobile, Castelli has more than 40 years of experience in winemaking and consulting around the world, including famed Badia a Coltibuono.  After the tasting and casual dinner, we will make our way back to San Felice.

Oveight Borgo
San Felice, Località San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Thu, 9 October, Tuscany

After a moing at leisure, we will explore the Chianti Classico region with a tour of Tignanello, a milestone in Italian wines, one of the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, the first red wine to be blended with non-traditional varieties (like Cabeet), and one of the first Chianti reds not to use white grapes.  The Antinori family, owners of such classic wines as Tignanello and Solaia, has been involved in the production of wine for over six centuries, ever since, in 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori entered as a member the Winemakers’s Guild of the city of Florence.  Through twenty-six generations, the family has been directly involved in winemaking.

Today the firm is run by Marquis Piero Antinori with his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia.  Our tour and tasting (including Tignanello and Solaia) will begin at the Badia a Passignano.  The abbey belongs to the monks, while Antinori has
the use of the splendid old cellars located directly beneath the monastery.  The cellars have vaulted ceilings and thick walls, which are a perfect environment for the aging of the wines as they maintain constant temperatures and humidity throughout the year.  They hold approximately two thousand 60 gallon barrels coopered from French oak for the production of the Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva.  Following lunch at the Osteria di Passignano, we will visit the nearby Tenuta Tignanello.

Superlatives abound for the Antinori Solaia wines.  Indeed, Antonio Galloni proclaims the Solaia 2010 the greatest Solaia ever made, representing “the height of finesse Antinori started to achieve with the 2004.  In time, the 2010 will be recognized as one of the all-time legendary Solaias”.

After this all-encompassing visit, we will retu to Borgo San Felice before we set out to a local restaurant for a casual dinner.

Oveight Borgo
San Felice, Località San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Fri, 10 October, Tuscany

After a moing of leisure, we will depart for a private tour and lunch at Casali di Bibbiano, which is owned and operated by successful restaurateur, Alberto Guadagnini.  He worked throughout Italy for many years before arriving in the USA and starting a successful group of Italian restaurants.  Today, diners enjoy Alberto’s famous hospitality, authentic Italian cuisine and Casali di Bibbiano’s super Tuscan wines at his restaurants Teca (West Chester, PA) and Salute!  (Sarasota, FL).

SienaThe eighteenth century Casali di Bibbiano country estate operates as a luxury villa and full-production winery making highly-rated super Tuscan wines and superior-quality olive oil.  We will luxuriate in its splendid wines and enchanting views of Tuscany.

After our idyllic day in the country, we will retu to Borgo San Felice stopping in Siena en route.  We will explore what is arguably Italy’s loveliest medieval city, including its central piazza, Il Campo, known worldwide for the famous Palio, a horse race run around the piazza two times every summer.  There will be time for sight-seeing, shopping, and, should the need arise, an encouraging glass of wine or three.

Oveight Borgo
San Felice, Località San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Sat, 11 October

The tour ends
on Saturday moing.  We will arrange for a luxury-coach transfer back to Rome
for those departing Italy. 

Grand Hotel de la Minerve Rooftop, Rome


5-7 October :: Rome

Grand Hotel de la Minerve
Piazza della Minerva, 69

T: + and  F:

7-11 October :: Tuscany

Borgo San Felice
Località S. Felice, 53019
Castelnuovo Berardenga (Siena)

T: + and  F: +39.057.735.9089

Tour price includes all five-star accommodation in Rome and
Tuscany (5-11 Oct), all meals, all designated excursions, and all ground
transport in Italy.  We have very limited
suites available (suite supplement applies). 

more information
, please contact Nicki Lynch at nlynch@irlfunds.org or IRL 011-353-1-662-7878