The next day its off to the train station. I love the ticketing . Adults, kids and dogs. I typed in 1 dog to see what it cost and put the machine into meltdown. We nearly missed the train it took so long to re boot. If we were in Japan we wouldve missed it. Luckily we are in Italia, so it was fashionably late
On offer was a 9 euro ticket that took 90 min to get to Firenze or a 28 euro ticket that took 30 min. We ummed and ahhed and took the 28 euro ticket, assuming the 90 min train was an all stops thing.
Did I mention the trains here are awesome!!!!! 251kmph!!!! Brilliant!!!! Keeps buses and cars off the road and moves at speeds neither can manage.
I can believe installing high speed rail is expensive, but its real infrastructure linking cities. That has benefits. Then, once you get people over the vast distances simple is good to move them around. Italy has some issues in their government, but the public transport works a treat here.
We arrive in Firenze (Florence. Why Florence? Its called Firenze? What tha?) Anyhow, we arrive in Firenze to pick up a car to go to Tuscany.
Clearly, there was some sorta mix up in the bookings. Anyhow……..
Now, we stayed at a place called Tenuta Branca. I cant talk this place up enough. It has gorgeous accomodation, wonderful breakfasts and stunning scenery as well as having amazing hosts in Anna, Stefano and Salvadore’. For brekky theres a bowl of fruit salad. Basically, Anna goes out every day foraging for the berries and fruits served to customers at breakfast.
Then, Stefano chimes in and adds his course. Grappa made from Moscato? Or a grappa made from Prosecco? Or a Vermouth? Sambuca? Yep, a truely wonderful brekky.
First night the question is “wheres good for dinner?”. Stephano recommends Cantinette di Rignana.
You would expect that given you need advanced rally driving ability to climb the mountain then negotiate the bush tracks to get to this place, that it would be quiet there. Nup. Its full. Tables are spaced out, so its not crowded, but its full on a Wed night. It takes me ages to seat our group as they cant help but wander around this beautiful place.
As we walk past the kitchen we look in and see amazing steaks waiting to be cooked. Sadly, tomorrow we have a lunch booked at a butcher shop, so they are on the no list. The pastas are delicious. Truffle seems plentiful here so I order a ravioli that has truffle mentioned twice on its description. Its subtle but flavoursome. Great dish. The tomatoes piled high on the brushetta are rich red but still crunchy. Just so good. We werent hungry and we over ordered by mistake in our enthusiasm to try everything. But everything got eaten.
These guys grow grapes out the front of the restaurant and make their own wines which are excellent!
The next morning its a pre brekky dip (cold and refreshing) before seeing Anna for her foraged foods and Stefano for his grappa. Lunch today is with the famous Dario Cecchini. Dario is a farmer (cattle in Tuscany and Spain), a butcher and a restauranteur.
There is a queue to get into the butcher shop. Once in, a person serving warmly greets us (he doesnt know we are here for lunch) and pours us wine, gives us snacks and asks us how we are and what we are up to. We say we are Australian and the yelling starts. AC DC was already playing when we walked in. A photo of the guy serving us is produced with him and Brian Johnson in it. The music gets turned up. More wine is poured. Its like visiting a close friend. Theres a bowl of herb infused lard the size of a basketball ( they call it Tuscan Butter). We spread it on fried bread and wash it down with Chianti.
We go upstairs for lunch. An open fire is burning. Meat is laying around coming up to temperature for cooking. We mix herbed salt with olive oil and dip carrot, celery and fennel in it. Gorgeous! The meat starts to hit the grill. Theres maybe 40 of us seated at a communal table banquet style.
The round bottle with the flat base wrapped in straw to prevent breakages and damage during transport is called a Fiasco. True story, I kid you not.) Our Fiasco held 2L of house red which was a quite credible Chianti. Brilliant! Wine and grappa are complimentary during lunch. Now it feels like Christmas at a close friends house.
The meat is high quality, flame kissed, cut thick for cooking then served in a doneness that suits the cut. Some steaks are blue to rare and sliced thin at service like a carpaccio. Others are medium and served cut into rough chunks. All are delicious. Steak tartare makes an appearance and is quickly devoured. Tuscan beans (Im guessing confit in herbed oil) hit the table too. Spuds wrapped in foil, topped with Tuscan butter (ok, lard) are delicious. Then an olive oil cake, coffee and grappa. I need to learn more about the cake. I suspect boiled lemons are in it, its a sponge consistency. Anyhow, if I had 3 chunks it had to be good.
As we leave we run into Dario. I think his English is as good as my Italian. My friend Nino Zoccali told me to go to see Dario so I mentioned his name. I could see Dario wasnt understanding what I said to him, then suddenly hes yelled “Pendolino, Pendolino” and turned to his staff yelling and pointing at me “Pendolino”. Then he grinned broadly and shook my hand vigorously. As I left a carving of Dario and a steak watched over me.
When in Panzano go see Stefanos shop. Its a wine academy. Customers sit in lecture hall style seating while Stefano wanders around in graduation robes educating them on Chianti Classico. Its a must. Stefano is not blinkered, we will drink anything and enjoy it , but 80 percent of what he drinks has to be Chianti Classico. I organize some wines he sells and some he makes to be sent back to the land of Oz.
Its been a big day. Nibbles beside the pool will suffice with a bottle of Primitivo.