Boom! Here’s part deux of my European food extravaganza. (Psst.. click here in case you missed part one). This is a long one (that’s what she said), so let’s dive right into it, shall we?
SECOND STOP: TUSCANY
The best part about traveling is how easy it is to be opportunistic: walk into a hole-in-the-wall wine shop for a tasting, gorge on gelato, imbibe recklessly in fine wine, take a break for a cappuccino or three… Needless to say, I have a lot to share from this leg of the trip. Stay tuned for several photos of grub, scenic views, & foliage.
Our home base for this substantial leg of the trip was a gorgeous, isolated villa in Chianti, just a short drive to neighboring towns like Siena and Florence. I’ll keep it short and just let these pictures do the talking:
I know right?
Our first day trip landed us in beautiful Orvieto, home to quaint residences and family-owned stores congregating around a main plaza dominated by an ornate church. We decided to take refuge from the 95-degree heat under shady umbrellas on the Cantina Foresi patio. The simple menu included antipasti, panini, salads, and drinks. I opted for a vegetarian panino on crusty bread, while the rest of the group chose caprese (duh), tuna salad, and mixed antipasti of marinated veggies and tapenades. We made sure to stop for gelato (duh) in town while popping into pottery shops and wine tasting rooms.
One of my most indulgent experiences in Tusancy was a group outing to Badia a Coltibuono for a wine tour followed by dinner. The immaculate gardens were obsessively landscaped, featuring square hedges, lush fruit trees, and ultra-green climbing vines. After the wine tasting (there’s nothing like combining education with alcohol, am I right?) we walked up to the dining room, where we were startled to see a wild boar basking on the patio, awaiting table scraps. We kept our wine buzz going with rosé and, of course, that good Chianti Classico. I started my meal with a dish of velvety ricotta topped with asparagus and a coddled egg yolk – seriously, one of my favorite plates the whole trip! I rounded my meal off with buttery trout while stealing bites of my neighbor’s black garbanzo soup and leek risotto. Oh, and the flourless chocolate cake just about put me over the edge – I swear my mom had to roll me to the car before strapping me into my booster seat.
Ok so don’t be fooled into thinking all the best food out there is in the restaurants. The grocery coops sell tons of incredible produce and Italian goodies (ex: I found gluten free lady fingers for my homemade tiramisu, which was obviously out of this world). Not to mention, we had a real live chef and some serious foodies traveling with us. We were well fed between the endless antipasti platters, caramelized fennel, spicy eggplant, French omelets, brown butter gnocchi and branzino, mushroom risotto, pork loin, blistered pepper penne, & cheesy bucatini (to name a few).
For our stop in Siena, our friend suggested we pause for lunch at Ristorante la Torre (AKA the Tower restaurant, named after the plaza’s main attraction—for good reason). The menu was presented in the form of the waiter casually mentioning different kinds of pastas and sauces. It’s possible there was more variety available, but I stopped him at “gnocchi with porcini mushroom sauce”. I will say, the sauce was MUSHROOM-Y — like, not for the faint of heart. I’m still deciding whether I actually liked it or not. The gnocchi though! They were like an encapsulation of the life I needed to sustain me in the form of fluffy potato pillows. My mom got the house special: pappardelle with wild boar ragù. Oh yea, and we had a cheeky gelato too.
I absolutely have to make a shout out to the tiny panini shop at All’antico Vinaio in Florence. They whip out a hot n’ steamy focaccia square and let you customize your sandwich to order. I packed mine with sun-dried tomato pesto, artichoke tapenade, zucchini, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, basil, and pecorino (seriously, this picture gives the illusion that it was super bread-y, but it was PACKED with goodies in the center).
That’s all for now! Thanks for reliving this indulgent experience with me. Now go eat some caprese!