Places

a quick taste of tuscany

Okay, admittedly, I tend to fall in love with new places pretty easily. However my new grand passion might just be with the landscape and life of Tuscany around Siena. What an eyeful of splendour! Two brief days left me wanting far more. Once upon a time I thought people were exaggerating about Tuscany just a little. From the moment we were welcomed by a committee of wild boar, however, a mother, father and a prodigious brood of 30 surrounding our car at the midnight hour as we approached Pieve A Salti, this became a weekend to remember.

Even an excessively long car trip south couldn’t diminish the delightful nature of this place. Normally we’d have taken the train but it was fully booked both ways. Still we were upgraded to a pretty swish ride so our auotstrada slowdowns and unavoidable delays were more tolerable. However, the train route would have taken about 7.5 hours – and we spent about 12-13 coming from Zürich thanks to traffic. Book ahead. Take the train. Better to appreciate mostly blue skies with perfect billowy white clouds, rolling hills flecked with red poppies, estates perched regally on the horizon. Then there was the food … Mama Mia! as a local at a nearby table exclaimed.

Without a doubt, top honours went to Buonconvento’s Osteria La Porta Di Sotto, and its charming host, Stefano. This is food every mortal being should enjoy: prawn and artichoke salad, fresh pasta with calamari and beans, and baked cod in tomato and basil. Lunch on our first day was so good that we decided to return again for our final evening meal. On both occasions we ordered from the daily menu and were not disappointed. Our host also had an enoteca, so the wine selection was perfectly paired with the food.

Buonconvento in general had a real charm to it, as did the regional centre, Siena. In Italy it can often feel as if the tourists overwhelm the residents. But here there was plenty of local charm and it seemed that there were many boisterous locals enjoying the fine weather, food, wine and company of friends and exclaiming in delight at their good fortune to live in such a truly charmed locale.

One of the reasons we traveled such a distance was not simply to indulge our decadent appetites, but also to see the countryside via some old school transport: horses! For the young lady in our group, this was not a difficult sell. Our hotel, Pieve A Salti, is well equipped with horses and riding tours available. Now, despite having cowboy heritage, I am a beginner on horseback but have an appreciation for equestrian travel. I would have happily documented more of the equine experience, but felt my presence and attention better focussed on Unica, the coal black steed I was given. Now this was quite a horse. Not only a few hands taller than all the others, but constantly diverting me to feast upon roadside grass or flowers. Not only the humans of Tuscany have grand appetites. Still I think by the second day we came to an understanding, which is that I need to learn a lot more about horses.

In the afternoon of our second day we visited the hilltop town of Montalcino. Here we ate some more excellent local food at the Osteria Porta Al Casserio. Service was friendly and efficient despite the vast numbers drawn by its popular appeal. However, the town in general felt a little too tourist oriented. We didn’t linger quite as long as we were keen to return to the splendid surroundings of Pieve A Salti to relax, gaze out at the rolling hills, and let a young lady we know take the plunge poolside. A good decision.

Thank you Tuscany, we’ll definitely be back.

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