Monday, 22 July 2013

Umbria & Tuscany part 1

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I didn't quite realise just how many photos I took before I began uploading them on here. So much so that I think I ought to split this trip into at least 3 posts. I can't believe just how much we managed to fit into those 5 days and I can't believe how it already feels as though I have been back for ages.

We booked our agriturismo through airbnb (this one) and we found the best priced flights were to Pisa so we hired a car and set the navigation to take us the scenic route. Our first stop was Cecina on the coast for a dip in the sea and although the coastline wasn't the prettiest, it was a much needed stop to cool off and prepare ourselves for the cross country drive.

Our route took us through the rolling hills passing Volterra & Sienna, every turn being a breathtaking view filled with fields of sunflowers, olive groves & vineyards. When we eventually arrived at Citta Della Pieve our hosts Francesco & Luisa welcomed us with opened arms and showed us to our apartment. After a quick unpack we headed to a tratoria 'Serenella' on our hosts recommendation . This place felt like a real locals place and we got stared down when we entered. After nervously asking for a table for 2 we were seated and asked Trattoria or Pizza. We went for trattoria before being told 5 menu options. We went for pici con ragu & lasagna bianco. I think that ragu was one of the best I've ever eaten not overly meaty but the sauce was just incredible. I could have eaten 4 more bowls of it. The lasagna bianco was a mixture of 4 cheeses, incredibly indulgent and the cause of my cheese dreams that night. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of this place as I just wanted to enjoy the moment and I didn't think the old lady serving us would understand. We finished the meal off with gelato at a local gelateria (photo above)

After our meal we headed to the local supermarket & went to town at the deli counter. I love how you don't even have to ask for samples, they are just constantly being offered over to you. After sampling a variety of different aged pecorinos we went home with a bag of spek, pecorino, gorgonzola, tomatoes & the sweetest peaches I've ever eaten.
The next morning I headed out for a morning horse ride around the hills where we were staying. It was one of those moments that will stay with me forever. Riding through olive groves with the morning sun blazing and the sound of cicadas and sheep surrounding me.

On my return we set about making breakfast using eggs from the farm. Crumbling pecorino into a quick omelette & serving with a nice strong espresso & speck. Over breakfast we planned out our day and decided to head to Montepulciano. Being one of my favourite grapes I was eager to get wine tasting.

Montepulciano was breathtaking. A beautiful little town and best of all, not full of tourists. We visited a couple of wine shops where we got to sample there wares. After a walk through one of the wine caves we headed for lunch on recommendation from the shop where we bought some wine. We discovered the most beautiful terrace looking out over the hills below the town where we shared a few dishes.
First up pappa al pomadoro which is made using stale bread, tomatoes & garlic. A delicious stew like dish that I can imagine being really tasty cold too. Next up, a selection of cold cuts of meat. The most melt in the mouth prosciutto and Tuscany's legendary fennel salami. Finally the star of the show, baked baked pecorino drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts.

After being baked by the sun we were relieved to discover road signs to a public swimming pool and with Jo's fantastic idea of keeping a bag with our swimming gear in in the boot we tootled off for a relaxing afternoon soaking up the sun, cooling off with a dip and reading our books.

En route home we decided to pop into Citta Della Pieve to pick up a couple of essentials (read food) and were thrilled to discover a market in full swing. Although the majority of it was pretty disappointing we stumbled by an old chap selling truffles. Jo dug her fingers into my arm so hard that I'm pretty sure I still have indents a week later. We quickly did the deal securing 2 truffles €20 before rushing home to store our wares.
We returned that evening to another restaurant in Citta Della Pieve that we had spotted the previous day. Here we sat on a roof terrace as the sun went down and we got stuck into yet more food. First up some crostini with the delicious fennel salami making another appearance followed by lamb served alongside polenta & radicchio and a bresaola & smoked pecorino salad.


We decided the following day to make the 2 hour drive north to Florence but before we set off we lined our stomachs with a slightly random but delicious breakfast of Tuscan quesadilla which we cooked on the hob with a variety of treats we had bought the previous days.
I had done a bunch of research before heading out to Italy and had discovered the fantastic blog of Emiko Davies. She has lots of great reads on food in Tuscany and especially Florence and I was thrilled to discover her foodie picnic tour of Florence on Every Trail. We used it as a rough guide as we knew we couldn't fit all of Florence into 1 trip. We started off at the Sant'Ambrogio Market where we parked. Taking in the sights & smells of the delicious fruit, vegetables, fish & meat on offer before stopping off for a quick espresso at a stand up coffee bar.







We spent the next few hours taking in the sights that Florence had to offer but the huge mass of tourists scared us off a little so we ran for shelter in a gelateria no less. Caramelised fig & marscapone and a Aztec chocolate gelato was the perfect saviour and energy boost to help us battle through the crowds yet again. This stop wasn't on Emiko's list but the gelato was just too good to pass up.
The next stop of Cantinetta dei Varrazzano which is a cafe come bakery come wine bar. Still full from our gelato but unable to resist their offerings we decided to share a slice of the courgette flower & mozzarella topped focaccia. A deliciously salty snack that I plan on recreating.


The final stop for us was the lampredotto stand. Tuscany is well known for its use of tripe & lampredotto (or the cow's 4th stomach) is a very popular street food in Florence. I had read quite a lot about it and really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The lampredotto is just cooked up in a simple vegetable broth. When ordered, the vendor takes a piece out of the broth, cuts it up into small chunks before placing on a bread roll. He then tops it with salsa verde, a little bit of spice and then dips the top half of the bread roll into the broth before assembling it all. We were both pleasantly surprised with the flavour, something along the lines of warm pate. Just be sure not to look too close at the chunks of 'meat' and just enjoy it for the flavour.

Our last stop that day was to.. you've guess it, another public swimming pool. The perfect way to cool off and relax before our drive home and to a simple home cooked dinner of Pici & a quick gorgonzola sauce.

To be continued....

2 comments:

  1. Love hearing about your adventure! Sounds amazing :)

    ReplyDelete

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