Under the Tuscan Sun

A few slow days in the Tuscan countryside was just what we needed after a whirlwind Florence city tour. There are a TON of small towns in the region, and narrowing down where to stop seemed impossible until I came across this great site for reference. If there aren’t enough towns to choose from, the number of vineyards should really overwhelm you. Fortunately, these three sites (1, 2, 3) helped steer me towards wonderful places to taste.

On the way from Florence and Tuscany, we had booked a tour at Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti. It was idyllic and set a high standard for the rest of our visits. The old monastery dating back to the 11th century was perfectly restored to maintain it’s original charm. The grounds were breathtaking and immediately had us falling in love with the third part of our trip. IMG_8984 0154047fa746ab090074d6c457f62b446e9211cb2301723f67b1c5ef65bb5cda5c2156b3ce8ef0ca3128 IMG_8989

The tour took us through the old crypt, where monks once had their cellar. Bottles of wine dating back to the 1930s caught my eye- talk about patience!!

IMG_8998 DSC_0751DSC_0750Once we’d tasted the lovely chianti, we ventured over to the villa’s restaurant, set outside and overlooking the rolling hills. The setting and food were equally beautiful.IMG_9004DSC_0755Anxious to see our B&B, we headed towards the tiny town of Monticchiello where we’d booked a stay at Affittacamere Maria Gabriella. The big, rustic rooms were a welcome sight and we all unpacked, happy to have three full days to explore the region and relax. 01c42fcfc397cb976f9a6c6418ac82121cecdd2b72IMG_9040IMG_1646DSC_0760 IMG_901201f5f3eddaefdfaba10ea6011675dc3a4602f10f91By sunset, we made our way to one of the three restaurants in town, La Cantina della PortaSmall but mighty, we loved our pasta dishes so much that we went back two nights later!IMG_9039Refreshed and rejuvenated after a windows open, crickets chirping sleeping kind of night, we navigated the dirt roads to Poderi Boscarelli for a tour and tasting. Having lived just outside of Napa and been on countless wine tours, I was unsure of how interesting another tour would be. However, this winery and it’s incredibly sweet staff had us asking questions throughout our entire visit. Even my dad was getting into understanding the Italian wine making process and on board with exporting a case [or two].  IMG_9022 IMG_9027DSC_0770 IMG_1589018b3bc5684e5d717dab8a07159c0c172f7da14bd1Post tasting, we circled back to Montepulciano, a larger Tuscan town filled with Italian boutiques and restaurants. DSC_0776Immediately, we were drawn into a shop for olive oil and wine samplings, but contained ourselves as we knew a delicious lunch was just a short walk hike up the hill. 
DSC_0780 DSC_0790DSC_0785DSC_0782 IMG_9032Apparently the horses were on holiday, so we had to huff it on our own to the top of the town for lunch. It was well worth it though; the view, quiet streets and delicious lunch at E Lucevan le Stelle again had us pinching ourselves. While none of us could get enough pasta, perfectly dressed big salads with tuna were a welcome change.
IMG_9029IMG_1609DSC_0792 DSC_0807 On our drive back, we took in the scenic countryside and didn’t hesitate to stop for photo ops. Our town, Monticchiello, looked much bigger from afar!DSC_0809 DSC_0812 By dinnertime, the sun was doing it’s amazing setting, providing the most magnificent backdrop for our short walk to dinner. I was kicking myself for not having a tripod to really capture the pink and orange hues.IMG_9048 Dinner at Osteria La Porta, the older and more sophisticated sister restaurant of where we’d eaten the previous night, was equally delicious. These people knew how to cook! We saved just enough room for gelato at a little shop around the corner on the way home. I was on a hunt for pistachio as good as what we’d had in Florence, although nothing came close.IMG_9065Our final full day in Tuscany was spent much in the same way as the previous two- there are so many towns and wineries, it just doesn’t get old! After breakfast, we ventured towards Montalcino to learn about and taste Brunello wine. This highly regarded Italian red is produced specifically in Montalicno. Brunello, a male’s name meaning brown, was given locally to what was believed to be an individual grape variety grown in Montalcino. Later, it was discovered that Sangiovese was the same type of grape. Today, Brunello wine is indicitive of 100% Sangiovese wine from Brunello and comes with a pretty [high] price tag.IMG_1655IMG_1656The grounds at the day’s first tasting spot, Il Palazzone, were beautiful, but it was probably our least favorite vineyard. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about Brunello, but wasn’t as warm as some of the others we’d met. The four of us had some good giggles when recanting her scolding of Mark for asking a question she was just about to explain!DSC_0816 DSC_0818 DSC_0821 A short drive down the road was the town of Montalcino, where we had a leisurely al fresco lunch consisting mostly of…you guessed it, pasta! It really didn’t get old! 012d888a1448a9b86555916c5111845fb423cc3039Unsure of our next villa location for a tasting despite the GPS, googlemaps, and road map, I trusted my instincts and miraculously navigated the hubs towards this gem- Fattoria Poggio di Sotto. It was a spectacular property with stunning views. The wine wasn’t too shabby either, but with a 200 EUR price tag, we happily parted ways with our complimentary olive oil.
DSC_0826 Unable to pass up the opportunity to visit the capital of pecorino cheese, Pienza, we made one last stop. Mom and I meandered through the shops (and of course stopped for gelato) while the hubs and Dad talked shop and sipped espresso. IMG_1701DSC_0839IMG_1713 IMG_1702IMG_1714Later that night, we all craved the special local pasta, pici (homemade, of course), with a spicy fresh tomato sauce at La Catina della Porta, where we’d eaten the first night. I quickly called to make sure we could snag a table and got lucky. In meeting some others at the two sister restaurants, we learned that people travel from far away towns to eat there. It was easy to see why, the pasta was pure perfection!

Friday morning rolled around quickly. We [just barely] squeezed all of our luggage and purchases into the boot for a drive to our last stop- Rome!
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