Sunday, 17 April 2016

A taste of Tuscany.

Friday 15th April, 2016

Sarah ever since she was small has been full of energy, ideas and a natural organiser. She arrived with a plan - a day trip to San Gimignano and Siena followed by an evening meal that she had booked in a local Agriturismo within walking distance from the campsite. Borgo La Casetta had excellent reviews for its Tuscan cooking on Trip Adviser. After months of having to decide what to do it was great to simply go with the flow and have a day organised for us. Even better, with Rob at the wheel of the hire car I had a welcome break from being the driver. Given that they don't have a car, so Rob is not a regular driver, he managed the Italian driving experience brilliantly. Certainly, it's hardly the easiest place to hone continental driving skills.

We arrived in San Gimignano a little before lunch, so we had a bit of time to wander its ancient streets, admire the famous towers before finding a sunny cafe.

Afterwards we joined the queue at Gelateria Dondoli which has a string of awards for its unusually flavoured ice-cream. Among the flavours we sampled were raspberry and rosemary (Gill) and ricotta and myrtle berry (Pete). Like everyone else we plonked ourselves down on the steps of the fountain to devour the gelato. The flavours were interesting and intense. I suppose with a postgraduate literature graduate and an under-appreciated poet in the party we should have declared Gelato Dondoli 'The Emperor of Ice Cream'. In fact we were having far too much fun making rude comments about the hoards of selfy-stick wielding tourists to have time for literary allusions.

Next Siena! Tuscany in a day! It is a little sobering to consider that it was almost twenty years to the day that we last visited the city. We have holiday video of Sarah as an almost 8 year old in pursuit of her younger sister Laura ( aged nine months) who had crawled off at high speed across the Campo. Later Sarah struck-up a conversation with some visiting American university students. I bet they still recall the sassy little English girl who engaged them in small-talk in Siena's central piazza.

Timescales like two decades are scary. What it shows, I suppose, is that we have always been travellers, and even then with three small kids in tow and maxed-out Barclaycards, somehow we still managed to travel to the Med every Easter.

The traffic around Florence was horrible on the return journey. We managed to hit the evening rush hour, so, as soon as we got back to the camp site it was time for a quick wash and brush-up and off to the restaurant. Borgo La Casetta was a twenty minute walk downhill from the campsite. For some unknown reason we were befriended by a stray collie-cross who herded us along until we reached the gates of the Agriturismo. Maybe he was on commission. The restaurant had a spectacular position. The sun had just set and the sky above the distant mountains shone a pale golden colour. Beneath on the dark plain the streetlights of nearby cities frosted the landscape in amber. 

Twilight from the Borgo La Casetta terrace
The meal was really a Tuscan tasting menu, with many small courses showcasing local produce - hams, cheeses and meats. The cooked dishes had accompanying vegetables picked from the restaurant's kitchen garden, and the herbs were fresh picked too. Compared to the cuisine of the south the cooking is more meat based and a little heavier, delicious, nevertheless. There were about ten diners in total, and the meal was cooked and served by the couple who owned the place. It was a testament to both the richness and depth of Tuscan food culture and the skill and dedication of Borgo La Casetta's owners. 

An amazing day, and a big thank you to Sarah and Rob for making it happen.


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