Chianti & Toscana
As sad as we were to leave Roma, we were equally looking forward to spending time in our next stop, the Chianti countryside, another new frontier for us! My other half is a big lover and amateur student of wine, and I just love drinking it! Getting there the first week of October meant we could drive along the (crazy) winding roads and admire the deep purple grape-laden vineyards alongside. We stayed on the most adorable agriturismo outside the city center of Greve in Chiante. Our apartment was part of a stone farmhouse at the end of a very long, very pebbly path, which also housed a restaurant, Dondoli. During our seven day stay, we ate here 3 times and once just for dessert... it was that good!! Francesca, the owner, told us their restaurant had only been open a year, and has gotten very popular with the locals all by word of mouth. If you ever make it out to these parts, please definitely put it on your wish list!
When not eating at Dondoli, or enjoying the company of the FOUR cats on the property, we were taking walks through the country, visiting local wineries, checking out the other small towns around us, and just plain doing nothing.
We knew before coming here that meat is a big thing in Tuscany and many parts of northern Italy. Butcher shops are beautiful and busy hubs, and of course, beef, veal & pork are heavily featured on restaurant menus. In fact, we drove past a pig farm everyday on the road out from our agriturismo.
Needless to say, we drank wine like it was water. Once the week was over, I truly understood the meaning of having too much of a good thing. I won't bore you with photos of the million bottles of wine we took, but I must share with you my favorite afternoon pick me up of a simple espresso and ricciarella. Ricciarelli are local to Tuscany, specifically of Siena just an hour north of us, and they are the most delicious and addictive almond cookies you will ever encounter. Finding gems like this make me miss my life in the kitchen. Normally, if I ever discover or taste something that really moves me, my instinct is to try to replicate it on my own.
There was no question that our final meal in Chianti would have to be a lazy lunch at our house restaurant, Dondoli. The epic antipasti platter led us into a beautiful ragu pasta down into a homey chianti beef stew and finished with a bang with a light and delicious plum crostata.
After the past few weeks of gorging, I insisted on making a trip to the very south of Tuscany to visit the thermal springs of Saturnia. Definitely out of the way and in the opposite direction of our next destination up north, I just couldn't bear the thought of having the chance to experience the baths and not taking it. I didn't even know this place existed until I googled "thermal springs of Italy" after seeing the movie, "A Bigger Splash", on the plane from New YorkThe characters in the movie did something similar on an island off the coast of Sicily. Cascate del Mulino is basically a micro paradise on earth. This cluster of rock pools is fed by hot, sulphuric water that leads into a stream amid vineyards and the scenic hillsides. And yes, it does have a faint smell of rotten eggs, but it's really not that bad. We spent an entire morning relaxing in nature's bathtub before heading to the main town to have lunch. After a little siesta, we went back down to have a late afternoon dip to enjoy the waters again and to remind ourselves how lucky we are to be on this journey. And the best and most unbelievable part... it's free!! Just park your car in the lot and hop in!