As mentioned, I recently traveled to Tuscany with my best friend Kristen and her husband Steve. it was a fairly relaxing trip which mostly consisted of visiting different Tuscan towns to sample local wines and indulge in pasta, pizza and gelato. It’s amazing I didn’t gain five kilos while away!
Our trip itinerary essentially consisted of arriving in Florence and wandering around for a few hours before heading to Tuscany for four nights, and then finally driving to Rome where I would then fly back to Paris and Kristen and Steve would continue their Italian adventure. Here’s a brief synopsis of our itinerary, with links and addresses at the end of the post. A grand merci to Kristen for organizing this trip!
With only a few hours in Florence before driving to the Umbria part of Tuscany, our first stop was to visit the centerpiece of the city – the Duomo. Unfortunately, the tour we had planned on taking wasn’t occurring that day and the long lines that wrapped around the Duomo weren’t conducive to an interior visit. So after taking a few photos, we headed to the Mercato Centrale market for lunch. I have to say – this was the worst meal of our trip. Talk about dry sandwiches! Ugh – what a waste of calories. So on that untasty note, off we went to Umbria to check into our agriturismo (a working farm that rents out rooms/homes) Casa Rondini in the small hillside town of Montegabbione.
As you can see in the photos above, Casa Rondini is definitely a farm, complete with an adorable donkey named Gilda, a noisy rooster and a flock of chickens who supplied us with fresh eggs each morning. It’s no easy feat taking care of this farm and every morning you can see Sicilian owner Franco tending to the animals, his garden or working the land on his tractor. Oh – and did I mention he even makes his own wine AND is the chef for different dinner-themed nights? Incroyable! The night we arrived, we signed up for “pasta night” where we got to learn how to make fresh pasta – ravioli and tagliatelle – and then headed to the outdoor dining table to enjoy prosecco, Franco’s homemade wine, delicious fresh sides like tomato garlic salad and artichokes, and then four courses of pasta. Four courses! As if that weren’t enough, Franco then served us homemade panna cotta, followed by a shot of limoncello. This was all for a mere 18 euros and was well worth it.
After a filling first pasta night, the next day we woke up bright and early to drive to a wine tour and tasting at Avignonesi Winery…at 10am. It’s never too early to drink wine, right?? About two hours later, we headed to the classic Tuscan hill town of Cortona, which was made famous from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. All that wine had made us pretty hungry, so our first call-to-action was to find a spot for lunch. Off the main Piazza della Repubblica, we ended up lunching at Trattoria La Grotta‘s courtyard and I have to say…that might have been my favorite pasta dish during the entire vacation! Newly reenergized, we followed Rick Steve’s Cortona walking tour, did a little shopping and then visited Montepulciano and had a delicious pizza dinner there. (I can’t remember the restaurant’s name – désolée!)
The next day, we decided to continue the trend of drinking first thing in the morning and drove to Castello Banfi in Montalcino. This winery was incredibly hard to find and what should’ve probably taken an hour and a half, took more than two hours. Let’s just say our chauffeur and our human GPS were not happy campers. With literally only 15 minutes to wine taste, we chugged three glasses of Brunello wine before rushing to our next destination: lunch at a small organic farm called Podere II Casale. The view of the Tuscan hills during lunch were wonderful, the salads delicious, the pasta decent and the cheeses “meh”. (And no, I’m not being a cheese snob because I am surrounded by heavenly French cheeses every day, as I was not the only one that felt this way.) My favorite part about this place though was being able to head to the farm right below the dining area and pet the donkeys. What can I say? I have a soft spot for asses.
After getting my donkey petting fix, we headed to the small Renaissance town of Pienza where we took in the breathtaking views of Val d’Orcia, which is listed on UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscapes. Well-known for having the best pecorino cheese, we ended up only tasting some cheeses at one shop before settling down for some wine and sweet snacks. One of the snacks we sampled were “ossi dei morti” cookies AKA “bones of the dead” cookies that were basically crispy, light sugar cookies. After a full day of wining, eating and driving, we capped the night with…you guessed it, more eating! At least this time, we took advantage of our apartment’s fully-equipped kitchen and made a homemade meal of mushroom risotto and store-bought hazelnut gelato. Delizioso!
Tuscany days 4 and 5 to come this week!
Des Addresses Pour Vous
Trattoria La Grotta
Piazza Baldelli 3
52044 Cortona Arezzo
**I loved the simple pasta dish with tomato sauce and ricotta salata.
Plan di Faiolo 28
**Our two-floor apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms (one shower) = 95 euros per night.
**Dinner theme nights include pasta, saffron and pizza.
Fattoria Le Capezzine, Via Colonica, 1
53045 Valiano di Montepulciano
**Wine tour and tasting = 15 euros
Castello di Poggio alle Mura s.n.c.
**Basic wine tasting = 15 euros
Podere II Casale
Podere II Casale 64
GPS Coordinates: N 43° 04’51” E 11° 42’41”
**Lunch = 25 euros