"People Who Love to Eat are Always the Best People” - J.Child.
Those who know me well know that to me, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and because Tuscany is a food lover’s dream come true, I’d been wanting to tour the region for ages. I convinced my little sister Mia to tag along and we hopped on board a Ferrari 458 Speciale A and travelled through Siena, Montalcino, Maremma, Montepulciano, Lucca, Pienza and San Gimignano eating, drinking and cooking.
We started our tour in Siena, a stretch of countryside lying among Chianti vines, chestnut forests and cypress trees. We arrived at the Castel Monastero, an exquisite country house resort located in a small but intact medieval village just outside of Siena, where we would be staying. We had an early start the next day, and because the hotel is home to a marvelous restaurant (the chef has a personal collection of 10 Michelin stars), we decided to stay on the property for dinner. It was a great opportunity to begin tasting the classic flavours of Tuscan cuisine, with the chef’s creative touch, of course.
The next morning, bright and early, our ride was waiting to take us to a cooking class at a nearby farm. We climbed on our horses and rode through lush green hills, over pilgrim trails and through olive groves and vineyards. There is nothing like tasting a sangiovese grape straight from the vine as your Italian horse grazes calmly. We arrived at a rustic and charming farm around mid morning and were warmly greeted by Nonna Ciana. She gave us a tour of the farm as we harvested the ingredients for our class. Farm’s own eggs, home grown vegetables, herbs and cheeses and olive oil produced by a neighboring farm. Once in the kitchen, Nonna Ciana let us in on her secrets of traditional Tuscan cuisine. We learned how to prepare tagliatelle and gnocchi with two different sauces. For main dish, we prepared a chicken fillet in Vin Santo and for dessert, a delicious tiramisu. We then sat down at a big rustic dining table and enjoyed the food we had prepared.
The next day, we went truffle hunting. Castel Monastero’s nearby fields and woods are famous in Tuscany for its black and white truffles. We were led by an expert truffle hunter and his pack of dogs and took a nice amount of truffles home. After a hearty lunch, we hopped on a different kind of horse, our Ferrari rental, and drove through the most scenic route in Tuscany, the famous Crete Senese. We visited a winery in Montepulciano where we learned about the winemaking process, visited the cellars and of course, tasted the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Our wanders around small villages were incredible fun. Mia and I went nuts at the outdoor fresh markets buying a lot more than we could ever eat. The smells and colours of the produce are amazing. We bought vinegars, olive oils, cheeses and dried meats to take home and to munch on the way from one town to the next. Mia is as thin as they come and she can eat a whole cow and not gain a pound. Me on the other hand, my trainer is going to have some fun with me when I get back.
Our last day in Tuscany we arranged a tour of a saffron farm and an organic winery near San Gimignano. We arrived in the stunning town early so we had time to stroll around, visit the churches and museums and do a little shopping. We then drove out to the countryside and had a delicious pasta lunch on the farm’s patio. The farm produces olive oil and herbs in addition to saffron. About a half an hour drive out from the farm, we visited the organic Vernaccia winery, where we got to taste some of the top rated Vernaccia wines.
Packed with a dazzling array of culinary treats, like fresh Ricotta di Pecora, Pecorino cheese, olive oil, truffles, salame di cinghiale, a few bottles of fine Italian wine and a few extra kilos, we finished our tour of Tuscany and headed back home.