What better way to welcome in the autumn months than by taking part in the wine harvest season in Italia! Heading towards the end of summer we still didn’t have our car back from the repair shop so many of these excursions have been tours (or done by taking public transport). So we stomped our way over to the recreational offices and signed up for a tour that would let us live out one of everyone’s Italian dreams: crushing grapes with your bare feet. While mechanization was still waiting to happen some time ago, the harvest was carried out by whole families, pressing grapes with their feet inside huge wooden vats. And let me tell you, nothing is more surreal than stomping on grapes in a wooden vat under olive trees on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius! An absolute dream!
However, if I’m being honest, I have never had a tour or excursion that I was unhappy with here. Yet, this one just did not make the cut. The grape stomping itself was very cool but the rest was a disappointment. Let’s start from the beginning. This tour bus took us to Cantina del Vesuvio on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in Naples. We have been here before, and we enjoy their wines and hospitality, but this was more of how the experience was carried out that would make me not return for this particular festivity. Our bus picked us up on one of the bases and was the lucky one to have to go to another base as well to pick up more people before heading to the winery. By the time we got there, it was almost an hour and a half later (the winery is no more than 40 minutes away). We were taken off the bus and walked very quickly through a small section of their winery. It’s a good thing we’d been there before because I could barely hear anything due to people having private conversations while the host was explaining. We then briskly walked through some of the vineyards to reach the area where we were supposed to help pick grapes off the vines. We got stuck in the back of the line and could not hear the host speak at all, let alone see him in the front anywhere. We arrived at a small building in the vineyards where they had everything set up for us to help with the harvest. They pointed out the bathrooms and then showed others who didn’t have to use it how to begin the grape picking. My son and husband both had to use the restroom so I patiently waited. It was no more than 5 minutes (right after they came back from the bathroom) that they moved everyone from the grape picking over to the stomping area! We didn’t even get a chance to pick grapes!! I stayed an extra 2-3 minutes to grab pictures of the tools, vineyard, my son cutting some of the grapes, but I was so worried that they weren’t going to let everyone do the stomping that we hurried over to everyone else. At that point, I was kind of pissed. We had the longest bus ride (out of two buses), received a fly-through walk around of the winery, and so far didn’t even get to participate in the harvesting process! So I hung back to make sure that all 3 of us got to try the grape stomping, both by ourselves and together. This was an expensive tour and I wanted to make sure I actually got to participate! We were the last ones to complete the stomping. Everyone else was already seated for our lunch and wine tasting. After stomping, we heading over to the eating area with another two groups, and the three of us were without tables. We had to wait for them to set up extra tables. At this point, there was another large group sitting on the other side of the building but you would have thought that they would have an area big enough for all of our group since this was pre-planned and reserved. My kid was starving, they seated us last after all the grown ups, and what do you know- our table was put in the sun and right at the top of the walkway ramp leading up and down the patio… I mean come on… I tried to enjoy myself but I was just so irritated at how it all played out. Another little caveat, Cantina del Vesuvio always has the same menu. It never changes. I wasn’t blown away by the food the first time we visited- it’s not bad by any means- but having been around Italy a little now, having the same foods just added to the “not an exceptional experience” day. YET, while it wasn’t the best experience, it still beat sitting home on a weekend and wasting away a day in Italy!
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!