Wandering in Chianti
What would you do if you had a day to spend in Chianti? You would eat, taste wine and look around, trying to get your own version of this side of Tuscany, a segment that only belongs to you and your memories - like we all do. So, because we wander this land continuously as a consistent part of our job, let us help with some addresses (and let us know if our suggestions were good, in your experience).
The first rule is that of not exchanging exterior beauty with quality, down here, and to have a nice coffee or cappuccino before deciding anything. Please remember that the ugliest of bars could supply the best breakfast one has ever tasted. We rate bars according to how good they are in the art of cappuccino, which means the foam must be compact, no bubbles (ew), no descending volumes, a layer of thick whole milk in th shape of a cloud sitting over a small pond of great coffee. If the bar looks fine, that will be an unexpected and pleasant surprise - so there the Pasticceria Bagnoli goes, where the owners of the multi-awarded villa Il Santo have brought me on a fortunate, cloudy morning. A cappuccino that was pure pleasure, not too hot, not too cold, paired with warm, hand made croissants and pasticcini. Annagloria, Enzo and their family run one of the most successful villas of Tuscany, which we are lucky to represent: they are a testament to this business, with their beloved daughters and son, beautiful dogs, oil, great self-produced wine, you name it.
The second rule is that, as soon as breakfast is finished, one must think about lunch: where, which atmosphere, what menu, how hidden from the mass. We, down here, do not pay a lot of attention to Michelin stars: we listen to locals, we ask without shame <<Where do I go>> - literally - <<for lunch?>>. It’s a heavy responsibility to answer this sort of question, we do it with a hand over our heart. So, here’s what I got from Gemma: we move towards San Casciano in Val di Pesa to reach Ristorante A Casa Mia, which, despite the ugliest website ever seen, is divine. I am talking about portions, ingredients and solid, round Tuscan dishes.
The third rule is that right after lunch is time to think about aperitif and dinner, a slot of time which represents the joie de vivre, the mundane reason why we got up in the first place and our daily gathering with friends, something I missed immensely in London, where nobody seemed to be very pleased by my invitations for dinner twenty minutes after. Wine, and wine only, is involved in the entire process: forget the fancy spritz, the colourful glasses filled with who knows what: this is the land of Chianti (and so much more) so vino, here we come. The choice is vast and of immense quality, at the point that even after 30 years spent traveling Tuscany from top to bottom and back, I still have to try some of these wine destinations in the Chianti Classico.
Our day is ending, we end up remaining in Florence, in Piazza Santo Spirito, where we pair a tray of cold cuts and cheese to our glasses of wine. Skipping traditional dinner to continue discussing profound matters such as soccer, sense of life and what is this person and that person doing is absolutely worth it and something we do on a regular basis.
The secret to understanding Tuscany is, possibly, not to take life too seriously, as nobody gets our alive anyway. So make time for food and friends.