On this last day, we were guests of the third arm to the 500 Touring Club's trio of sister sites, Caper & Co. We were to be whisked out into the scenic countryside of Tuscany, to take a slightly modified tour: firstly of a vineyard, and then to a world-famous restaurant run by the 'Rock Star Butcher'...
First stop was the Villa Carfaggio in the rolling hills, with vines stretching out at all angles.
Today's outfits come from Puttin' On The Ritz (me) and The Past (Naomi)
We were given a private tour of the whole facility, marvelling at the 1960s barrels and signage, and having every aspect of the fascinating process pointed out to us...
Loved these old vats and the huge barrels with the green glass gadgets on top - beautiful as well as functional!
The vineyard is organic, and produces a range of wines as well as the most delicious olive oil.. all of which we then got to try in a few different incarnations.
From a traditional glass of wine to sample and sip (none of that slurping and spitting out malarky, we definitely imbibed it all!), to the most sensational wine jelly to try with wedges of parmesan cheese... and to finish we had the above chocolates. They might look like ordinary confections, but the squares were made with olive oil from the vineyard and tasted indescribably delicious; and the tube shaped ones were filled with wine! It sounds very strange, but it was very nice indeed - and eating them was an exercise in caution - you have to tip it up and nibble the end or risk a chocolatey wine explosion. I can't explain the taste of these either, but I think everyone should try such a strange concoction at least once (or twice or more... sadly we only had one each!). The Villa's wines themselves were of course wonderful - my favourite was the Chianti Classico Riserva from 2007, though the Cabernet Sauvignon Cortaccio was a close second. Cabernet Sauvignon has only been widely made in Tuscany for twenty years, fact fans, and only as a result of the hugely restrictive rules around Chianti wine-making. I am a fan of each... an equal opportunities wine guzzler, if you like.
One more photo opportunity later, and we headed off for lunch. This was quite possibly the highlight of the trip (the actual Fiat 500 driving experience aside), both because of the food and the characters at the restaurant! But first, a little bit of scene-setting.
Dario Cecchini is, as mentioned earlier, known as the Rock Star Butcher. He's mates with Jamie Oliver and other such celeb chefs, and is flown round the world to talk meat at conferences and events everywhere. He also runs his own butcher's shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, in the small village of Panzano. Outside there's a tongue-in-cheek memorial plaque, commemorating the 'death' of the traditional Florentine steak - the extremely rare slab of meat that I sampled on our first night - which was threatened with extinction during the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001. Luckily, it didn't die, and is still going strong!
Inside the shop, there's a spread of food - herb-infused lardo (basically just fat), spread on bread and olive oil, as well as Dario himself manhandling a giant rack of ribs. But we were ushered into the back, where a concealed button opened a secret door... tiled wall sliding back to reveal a hidden staircase which we climbed to the Restaurant. Excited was not the word!
There are lots of trendy London restaurants using very similar graphics to the above, but somehow they felt much more authentic here! We began with pinzimonio (raw garden vegetables) dipped into extra virgin olive oil and Cecchini’s Profumo de Chianti (sea salt with bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary), a massively unusual taste but one that Naomi and I enjoyed (being fans of weird and extreme flavours)! But we then followed with ALL the meats - a marinated pork, a delicious meatloaf and, the big one, a platter of Sushi del Chianti, basically beef tartare with a generous splash of Tuscan olive oil, sea salt, and lemon. It. Was. Amazing. I can't even recommend it enough.
But we weren't the only ones filled with admiration, because one of the chefs fell for us as well!
He hardly spoke any English, but enjoyed kissing our hands, then, not satisfied with one photograph, he returned with these hilarious goggles! Apparently they use them when barbequing, but I think he could have a new career as a steampunk model any time. We didn't actually realise what face he was pulling at the time of this photograph, or we might have been LOLing a bit harder... as we did afterwards. Brilliant.
After that incredible feast, we wended our way back to the Villa Le Piazzole, via a traditional Tuscan leather makers (which was a bit expensive for me but an awesome place to visit), before having a final relax and heading home later that evening.
The whole trip was like a wonderful dream, and the memories will stay with me forever - the generosity of Andrea and Beppe from the 500 Touring Club (and the cuteness of baby Nina), the fantastic Villa and the amazing tours around Florence and Chianti... every moment was a winner.
Thank you a million once again A & B & adorable N, we'll be back at some point soon, I just know it!
And readers, I hope that if you haven't already, you'll check out my photos and witterings about Day One and Day Two ... excitingly enough, you'll hopefully be able to read a summary as an article in a rather large publication as well... fingers crossed on that, but no more details until I know them!
Anyway, until next time, ciao!