Michael’s colleague who told us about Pienza also suggested stopping in Certaldo, so after we dropped Al and Mitch at the train station in Florence, we meandered slowly southwest and stopped in Certaldo for lunch. Certaldo has two parts: the medieval walled city at the top of the hill (Certaldo Alto) and the newer residential and business area below. The walk up the hill to the medieval city is steep, but if you know about it, a cable car eliminates the climb. We learned about the cable car only after we climbed the hill. It was a good thing that we walked up and burned some calories, however, because our lunch was sensational— and bounteous.
Certaldo Alto looks like many other medieval Tuscan hill towns. It is charming and we enjoyed strolling through the tiny streets. At least three weddings were held there the Thursday we were there, and one just-married, glowing, older British couple sat behind us on the terrace of the restaurant.
We ate lunch at Osteria del Vicario, where the view from the tables on the terrace was magnificent (we could see all the way to San Gimignano), the Tuscan food was delicious, the dinnerware was beautiful, and the waitress was helpful and lovely. We decided to make this our main meal of the day, since everything sounded so yummy. We divided an appetizer of ciaccino with sausage and cheese. Ciaccino is a Tuscan flat bread, so our appetizer resembled a wrap.
For my primi I had the most amazing pumpkin soup with pecorino—I could have eaten that soup all day—simply divine! Michael had scrumptious pasta, probably with cinghiale.
For our main course we ordered Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is Florence’s most famous dish. It’s a T-bone or porterhouse cut of meat from Tuscany’s Chianina cattle, which are known for their flavor and tenderness. Bistecca is simply grilled, usually quite rare, and this steak was so tender that I could practically cut it with a fork. Bistecca alla Fiorentina comes in only one size—HUGE—and portions are typically split between two or more people. Our server recommended a local Chianti red wine—La Pieve—which paired perfectly with our meal. I vaguely remember that we had dessert, but I have no idea what it was. I thought I’d never eat again, but of course I have—funny how that goes!
If you’re in Tuscany, Certaldo is definitely worth the drive, and don’t miss the cable car or Osteria del Vicario.
P.S., Many thanks to Michael’s colleague for recommending Pienza and Certaldo.