Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bella Tuscany

As we drove from Rome into the long awaited region of Tuscany, we had to pick up our jaws from the dash as we looked out into the rolling hills, in awe of the array of colours and textures weaving into each other like a perfectly sewn patchwork quilt. I had a developed a very dreamy cliché image of Tuscany, gained mostly from films, but this view offered so much more than I had imagined. The Chianti vines showcased all shades of green, yellow and red in the mid-afternoon sun and the autumn leaves danced as they blew gently in the breeze. We approached our B and B where we were staying for the next few days and were so happy to find a classic Tuscan farmhouse perched overlooking the vines. Bliss!

We spent a fabulous week in the Tuscan countryside, much of this time spent driving through the hills, taking in our picturesque surroundings, admiring the locals harvesting their olives and of course savouring every mouthful of Tuscan culinary specialties. We stopped to explore several medieval villages perched high on the hilltops where we would often watch the sunset. We visited the wine regions of Chianti, Montapulciano and Montalcino, where we tasted the top varieties like Brunello and Nobile inside rustic little wine bars or cellars and discovered yet again our partiality to Italian wine. The best wine we tried however, was a Pinot Nero (noir) in a gorgeous husband and wife run restaurant in the heart of Montapulciano. The best feature of the service – we got to try about ten of their wines before we chose the one we wanted to drink. We never would have picked a Pinot Nero to be the best otherwise.

One of our favourite spots in the area was San Gimignano, a tiny walled village with the most gorgeous rolling cobblestone alleys, piazzas and panoramic vistas. It was here we found the best gelato in the world!! No, it’s not just in my opinion! This place has won many awards with this exact title and we could taste why!! Nothing that we had tried up until this point had come close to what we ate in San Gimignano….in fact, if anyone asks me the places not to miss in Tuscany, I would say this little village as number one, based on its gelati alone!! It could not be possible for any other icecream to taste as creamy and so full of REAL flavour as this did. But it wasn’t just the taste that impressed us….it was the creativity of the flavours too!! We ordered what we thought was raspberry and then learned the raspberry was accompanied by rosemary!! Sounds weird, but the unlikely combination completely blew us away! Soooo good! It was the only gelati shop where we felt no guilt whatsoever in going back for a second pot! The walnut and blue cheese flavour did look extremely tempting, but we decided to save that one for next time.

The weather wasn’t completely kind to us in Tuscany, but even the rain and cold couldn’t keep up away from experiencing as much as we could of this breathtaking region. We had been told by a local that we must try the Panini at an enoteca (wine bar) in Cortona and being the home of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ (film/book), we were keen. So we rugged up, pulled out our umbrella and braved the cold, but it didn’t take long before we needed to escape it. The amazing Panini was worth the trip on it’s own though – dough so light, fluffy and crispy all at the same time, with prosciutto and cheese, so simple and yet so yummy! I just can’t get over the way Italians can take such few ingredients and make them taste unbelievably good! Yes, I do enjoy getting myself tied up in knots over food!

Our most memorable experience in Tuscany though, surprisingly had nothing to do with food! It was the few days we spent with a local couchsurfer in his home in Castiglion Fiorentina. More about that in the next post.


Gwen Pittaway said...

beautiful scenery, and food looks very yummy! especially the gelati.

Anonymous said...

Sal and Tim, your adventures just keep getting better and better. Loving the top tips. Am defo considering Tuscany for our anniversary. Catherine xx

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