For a special treat, Michael booked us into a bed-and-breakfast inn in Cortine in northern Chianti for three nights last weekend. We left on Saturday, which was a gorgeous, HOT day, and which turned out to be the last sunny day of the weekend.
We began our trip by stopping for lunch in medieval Montepulciano, which is about two hours north of Rome and in the southern end of Tuscany. We wanted to taste Brunello wine in Montalcino, but by the time we got going, Montalcino was too far, so we tasted Brunello and Vino Nobile, Montepulciano’s local wine, in Montepulciano. Like many Tuscan villages, Montepulciano is a hill town, and hilly they are! By Saturday I’d had hip-replacement surgery just 6.5 weeks ago, and Tuscany really put my new hip to the test! Thank heaven I’d packed my cane!
From our parking lot in Montepulciano, a gravel trail of switchbacks took us to the steep street leading up to the center of the city. At the top of the hill, just above the village square, we stopped at Al Tocco for lunch because it looked cute and had a table outside under an umbrella. What a find! We began with a selection of Tuscan meats—prosciutto, cinghiale (wild boar), and other local pork—and cheeses—two glorious pecorinos and something else that I don’t remember. With our appetizer we drank a glass of nice Vino Nobile. For lunch Michael had bruschetta with a variety of paté toppings, and I had a panzanella salad, in which cubes of stale bread soaked in oil and vinegar are tossed with tomatoes, basil, and onions. Mine was laced with balsamic vinegar and was excellent. With our main course we drank a wonderful Brunello (to the delight of the restaurant owner) and were in heaven. We then walked through Montepulciano, which I loved, stopping at an enoteca to buy a few bottles of Vin Nobile.
On the way north, we drove through field after field of grape vines just putting out their new shoots. Bright red poppies, white Queen Anne’s lace, and the cypresses so characteristic of Tuscany dotted the countryside. We also drove past bright yellow fields of rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Such a gorgeous drive!
We got to Cortine at 5 p.m., just in time for a nap before our dinner reservations at Locanda di Pietracupa, a gorgeous restaurant that we stumbled upon for lunch during a trip to Florence in 2006. We remembered the restaurant as being one of our all-time favorites and were eager to try it again. Not even two miles from our hotel, Locanda di Pietracupa rents four rooms but was full last weekend, so they recommended our hotel, La Canonica di Cortine, which was wonderful! If you’re in Tuscany and want to stay in the countryside, give La Canonica a try.
As for our dinner, Locanda wasn’t so magical as we remember it from 2006, but we had a really good meal, AND we got to eat on the terrace. My favorite course was my appetizer—millefoglie (pastry) filled with chicken liver paté and flavored with Vin Santo (dessert wine) gelées. It was amazing and would have been even better if the gelées hadn’t melted so fast in the unusual spring heat! Michael enjoyed his stewed guanciale with spelt (faro), pepper sauce, and goat cheese. We then shared a pasta of pappardelle with duck ragu—sublime homemade pasta (my favorite) and a rich, meaty sauce. For his main course Michael had a mix of chicken, rabbit, and lamb fried with fresh vegetables, and I had a delicious pigeon flavored with truffle vinaigrette. I was too full for dessert, but Michael had panna cotta, which he enjoyed.
Lovely Tuscany, lovely day!