After consulting with the Saturday receptionist at our B&B, we planned to visit Siena Sunday because the wineries in Chianti would be closed on Sunday. When we asked the Sunday receptionist for a lunch recommendation in Siena, however, she said, “No! You can’t go to Siena today because there’s a football [soccer] match, and the town will be crazy! Don’t worry—the wineries will all be open today.”
So off we went to see a few nearby medieval hill towns. It was spitting rain when we left, but we stayed dry while we wandered through beautiful Castellina. Michael was smitten with an old man who was all dressed up and sitting on a bench watching the world go by. We have about a million pictures of him, and he IS pretty cute. If you go to Castellina (and why wouldn’t you if you’re in Chianti and you have time?), the receptionist recommended La Torre for lunch. We didn’t eat there because it wasn’t time for lunch, but one of her other two recommendations looked great and one was great.
After Castellina we drove a short distance east to Radda. My goal for the day was to stop in each hill town and have a drink—coffee, soda, wine, whatever—and watch people. Nothing interesting was open on Sunday morning in Castellina, but a bar was open on the main square in Radda, so we had a glass of sparkling wine. The wine would have been excellent if it had been cold, but it was served at room temperature and was just okay that way. We then wandered through the rest of the village—about one block!—and bought an apron (one of my favorite souvenirs, along with Christmas ornaments and art), just as the sky opened up. We raced back up the hill to the car (I was getting so good at climbing the Tuscan hills by then!) and headed north for Volpaia, where we intended to eat lunch.
We got to Volpaia ahead of the rain and scurried to La Bottega, another lunch recommendation, and it would have been fabulous! The terrace of the restaurant sat on a cliff looking out over the mountains, but just as we reached the top of a LOT of steps, a party took the last table under the umbrellas, and the rain began in earnest. We thought we might find a dry table under the trees, but after several large raindrops fell on my head, I nixed that idea, so we left, wandered a tiny bit through town, and headed north to Greve, our final destination.
How fortuitous that we couldn’t have lunch until we reached Greve. Our receptionist recommended Nerbone di Greve [now named La Terrazza], which was sublime. We took the last available table and placed our order. I drool when I think of my lunch at Nerbone! Michael had wonderful crostini with guanciale, honey, and goat cheese, and I had amazing crostini with lardo (cured pork fatback—melts in your mouth!), radicchio, and pecorino. My crostini were so rich that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat my main course, but you know me better than that. For my main course I had stewed rabbit with olives—out of this world—and I ate every bite. Michael had sausage cooked in white beans and tomato sauce, and his sausage was the best we’ve had in Italy so far. We tried a couple of the Chianti wine blends that were very nice.
After lunch we crossed the square to a butcher shop that we had visited in 2006. During that trip, we bought several vacuum packs of cinghiale, prosciutto, and other Tuscan treats, only to have them all confiscated when we went through customs at Dulles! A word of advice: no matter what ANYONE says, if you buy meat from Italy to take back to the United States, it will probably be confiscated. Bummer! Anyhow, Michael was determined to replace those confiscated packs and thought it might be restful to have a light dinner of meat, cheese, bread, and wine in our room. Alas, we were too full to eat ANY dinner, and the meat, cheese, and wine are now waiting patiently in our refrigerator!
We then walked across the street to Le Cantine di Greve, which claims to sell wines from all over Tuscany, but which now mostly specializes in Chianti wines. We’d discovered the store during our 2006 trip and had shipped ourselves a case of wine, some bottles of which are still waiting to be drunk in the next couple of years. We must have been full from lunch because we tasted wines for only a half hour or so, bought six bottles, and drove home.
Another great day in a wonderful part of Italy!