I really miss Italy. It started last week when I saw To Rome With Love (Go see it. Woody Allen is nuts.) and got worse yesterday when I was chatting via Facebook with Bethany, who is planning a trip there. That exchange caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time, neglecting my work and instead reminiscing in my head and looking at the photos of my trip. I know, I’m a model employee.
While I was wasting time, I realized that aside from our lunch in Chianti, I haven’t shared a whole lot else about our four days in Tuscany, which was such a highlight of the trip.
We stayed on an agriturismo—a working farm, with guest accommodations. The owner, Stefano, grows grapes for wine and olives on the farm and could not have been nicer or more welcoming.
Since we stayed in one of the houses with its own kitchen, we were able to shop at the local market and cook our own food. It was a nice change of pace from eating in restaurants and gave us a chance to feel like “locals” for a few days. We noticed that poultry was less expensive than here at home, while fresh fruits and vegetables were pricier. Everything seemed more flavorful and fresh (I’m still thinking about the tomatoes and green peppers, in particular, which were much sweeter and more flavorful than what I buy around here).
The farm was located about five minutes away from the town of San Gimignano, a tiny, walled medieval town. During the day, it’s packed with tourists, so we liked to go into town in the early evening, after the departed for the day. We felt like we had the place all to ourselves.
We had dinner in San Gimignano on our first and last nights in the area, at places which I would definitely recommend if you are in the area.
The first, Dulcisinfundo, is located high up on one of the hills of the city and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The menu is comprised of typical Tuscan dishes and changes with the seasons. Standout menu items on our visit included the sausage with wild mushrooms, over a creamy, cheesy polenta, the spinach lasagna, layered with rich meat sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella and the meatballs. The latter were made with pork, so they had a full, rich (and kind of fatty) flavor, and served an red sauce with a generous helping of saffron, which is local to the region.
The second restaurant, Chiriberi, was recommended by Stefano, and was tucked into one of the little alleyways near the main gate of the city. Its vibe was a bit more rustic and casual than Dulsicinfundo and I got a huge kick out of the host/waiter, who was cranky in a charming kind of way. I really enjoyed the light crespelles (crepes), filled with a mixture of spinach and ricotta and Chester gave high marks to the hearty boar ragu over tagliatelle and the rabbit. The final bill was definitely one of the lowest of our trip. Given the quality of the food, we felt like it was a really good value.
San Gimignano is centrally located to many of the other small towns worth seeing in Tuscany, including:
Pisa, where you have to get a photo, like so. This one took quite a few tries to get just right:
Lucca, which we probably would have enjoyed more if it hadn’t been raining like crazy. Not pictured: Unflattering shot of us in ponchos:
Volterra, located way, way up on a winding hill. Some of us weren’t feeling to great after that drive:
Siena, where they have horse racing twice a year in Piazza del Campo. I would love to go back and see that!
By the end of our stay, we had a nice little routine down, in which we took a drive to another town in the morning, make a late afternoon stop at the market, and then head back to the farm to relax and eat for the rest of the evening. Chester and I decided that everyone else can have the beach. Tuscany–and the farm–is our ideal vacation.