As a foodie who has remained forever inspired by the regions of Tuscany, I’ve always aspired to live like an Italian. And just as Proust’s memories were inadvertently triggered by a madeleine, my desire to return to Italy intensified when a friend sent me a new snack, Pasta Chips, inspired by the shape of semolina crackers. The adventure began with a flight into Milan, where I hopped into a darling little Fiat, and hit the open road. Staying in Tuscany, which is so centrally located, enabled me to take so many day trips to visit well-loved towns and cities. I ate and drank my way across the region, and now have a new appreciation for the bumper sticker, “Italians do it better”.
By Stephanie Steinman
FONTE DÈ MEDICI Located in the heart of Tuscany, this breathtakingly beautiful property, surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, is the perfect home from which to set out on your daily regional travels. There are tennis courts, a beautifully-situated swimming pool, and bicycles at the ready for short journeys. Charming stone cottages dot the grounds, each uniquely decorated in a wonderfully rustic style. Breakfast is served daily in the small trattoria, and the options each morning are endless. Picturesque in every way, the place looks the set of a Bernardo Bertolucci film.
OSTERIA DI PASSIGNANO Located in an ancient wine cellar, dinner at this restaurant owned by the famous Antinori family proved to be one of the most sophisticated meals in recent memory. Surrounded by effortlessly-chic Italians, I instantly knew that this was the place to eat in Tuscany! From risotto to rabbit, the creative menu truly offers something for everyone and each plate was available with a heaping side of truffles. Crisp, white linens, elegantly prepared cuisine, and a wine list that will knock off your Tod’s loafers, this place is a must on your next visit.
ANTICA MACELLERIA CECCHINI + OFFICINA DELLA BISTECCA The owner of this famous macelleria is known as the Michelangelo of beef—and let me tell you this is not your grandmother’s butcher! Dario Cecchini, wearing his signature red pants and white apron, puts ACDC on the stereo—cranks up the volume—and starts slicing. Guests who visit the shop are served various meats to nibble on, and the Chianti instantly begins to flow. Inside the private dining room (Officina della Bistecca), I had one of the most incredible meals. Like to butter your bread before adding slices of carpaccio or cured meat? Nope, not here. Instead, glass jars full of bacon lard are placed tableside. A five-course meal of beef, ending with the famous Tuscan Bistecca alla Fiorentina will leave you, happily, in a serious meat coma. Dining here is more than just a meal—it’s a show. Dario and his staff cook in an open kitchen and announce each course at the top of their lungs! Mamma Mia!
FLORENCE It’s easy to take a day trip to Florence, which is only 30 minutes away from Fonte Dè Medici hotel. There is so much to do in this famous city: walk through the Uffizi Gallery, gaze at Michelangelo’s interpretation of the perfect man (I’m talking about the famous statue of David, of course!), ride the merry-go-round in Piazza della Repubblica (you’re never too old), or enjoy the perfect photo-op at on the Ponte Vecchio. A visit to the original Farmacia Santa Maria Novella is also a must, and you’ll want to spend some time looking through the perfectly packaged products in one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Europe. Food lovers will get giddy at the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo where every type of delicacy is available—fruit, ham, fish, candy—it’s truly a culinary heaven! And of course there’s also plenty of shopping at boutiques including Gucci, Ferragamo and Prada (just go easy on the gelato—or stick to shoes and bags, which always seem to fit).
SIENA This beautiful town surprised me with its mix of old and new. There are hundreds of small, modern shops to explore on long winding streets, all leading to the very heart of the city, Piazza del Campo. It’s the setting of the famous centuries-old summer horse races, known as Palio di Siena, but it’s also the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon lunch at one of the many outdoor restaurants. Make sure to stop and see the Duomo, which is overwhelmingly huge and impressive, in such a compact town. My favorite discovery was the Consorzio Agrario di Siena, an incredible gourmet shop, filled with everything from giant tins of olive oil to the most beautifully boxed breakfast cereals you’ve ever seen.
SAN GIMIGNANO I visited this walled, medieval town on a Sunday and stumbled upon a darling little outdoor flea market. There was also an enormous pig being carved in the square, and I had an incredible pork sandwich (I guess that little piggy didn’t come home from market). Two dueling sweets palaces, Gelateria Dondoli and Gelateria dell’Olmo, are located about 15 yards from one another, and each claim the title of gelato world champion. Both had lines out the door. Ever the intrepid foodie, I tasted both. The verdict: equally perfetto!
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Pictured: The Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy.
Photo by Stephanie Steinman