The second week of the trip involved a lot more moving around and a return to driving. Note: Don’t drive in Italy. If you are behind the wheel, you will likely never feel comfortable, whether you are a cautious or aggressive driver. Signs are also confusing. Anyway…
We were happy to leave the crowds of Cinque Terre behind and head to Chianti for a bit more small town life. Upon our arrival in Gaiole in Chianti, we were greeted by our landlord Lorenzo, whose family runs La Macelleria Chini, a family-run butcher shop that has been open since 1682. After quickly determining that we weren’t vegetarians (whew), Lorenzo took us into the shop to slice us a free sampler platter of his shop’s finest salami and prosciutto.
The few days in Chianti were spent doing what one does when anywhere in Tuscany: eating and drinking. We did those things nowhere better than at what was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip for both of us, our cooking class at Toscana Mia.
This was a not a typical industrial kitchen filled with rows of stoves, pans, etc. Sisters Paola and Simonetta host people in their beautiful country home for a day of cooking, learning, eating and fun. We had hoped to be taking the class alone, but we were joined by sisters from Australia, who only added to the enjoyment. We spent the entire morning making a four-course meal, and then sat down for a two-hour lunch to enjoy the fruits of our labor. It was a truly special day.
Happy Hour complete with meat from Macelleria Chini
333-year old butcher shop.
Gaiole in Chianti
They also eat a lot of pate in Tuscany, except it’s served warm. Still awesome.
Risotto that was way more filling for Erin than the picture indicates.
Pici (a local pasta) with boar sauce. This was very good and immobilizing.
Biscotti with some vinsanto for dunking.
Getting hands dirty at Toscana Mia.
The view from Paola and Simonetta’s kitchen.
Beans cooked in a chemistry flask with herbs and oil. Probably the best beans I’ve ever had.
Crostoni with heavenly white beans and black cabbage.
Like my third helping of Gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.
Pork loin and sausage.
Biscotti for dessert
Our wonderful teachers.
The rest of our time in Chianti was spent eating and drinking more. We visited a few vineyards, including Castello di Ama, which we discovered on a PBS show about Italy. It’s a unique vinyard, in that the owners are also modern and contemporary art enthusiasts. They commission artists to do installations tailored for specific spots throughout the vineyard. After the tour and tasting, where we had some fun talking Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, we had a lunch that did not disappoint.
Olives were plentiful on the trees, but there was no oil to purchase because the 2014 crop was decimated by some kind of fly.
Castello di Ama
Artist in residence Ron Paul?
Pappa al pomodoro: A Tuscan bread and tomato soup. Truly transcendent.
Baccala: salted and dried cod rehydrated.
Tuscan Moon Boost
Had to grab pastries on our way out of town.
Moped rally. Because Italy?
We departed Chianti for a short drive to Florence, ditching the rental car for good. While we loved our rural getaways, we were both craving some city life. I’ve never been to Florence, and I found most of the superlatives people use to describe it to be fitting. It was walkable, picaresque, welcoming and enchanting. Highlights were climbing the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset, eating brain-meltingly good tripe and sharing way too much wine with some Canadians (uncomfortable encounter with a Neo-Nazi notwithstanding).
Two rental cars, no damages. Suck it, Italy!
Selfie game on the opposite of fleek.
People who have life figured out.
Apparently the higher gelato is, the less fresh it is. Remember this.
Not the real one.
We skipped the famous museums and their famous lines for the Museo Bargello, which includes some early works of Michelangelo and Donatello.
Bacchus by big Mike.
Ye Olde Knyves
Some dude by Don.
Where we stopped for happy hour. A great place in any city.
Tuscan soppressata (uncured, made from the head of the pig, SO GOOD) and cheese.
Vassari Corridor, which the dipshit, incestuous Medicis built so they could walk through the city without having to mingle with other incestuous dipshits.
Feeling good after meat, cheese and wine.
Ponte Vecchio. I had no idea it was lined with crappy jewelry stores.
Selfie game shows mild improvement.
Gusta Pizza and beer. Bomb.
Trippa Fiorentina from the central market. Just awesome.
Looking and trying not to ask for free samples.
Inside of a bigass arancino (fried riostto ball).
We liked La Prosciutteria so much we went back the next day.
The owner (in purple) is a king among men. He remembered us from the night before and gave us a lot of free meat and cheese.
Got nasty drunk with some friendly Canadians. A perfect cap to our time here.
Fighting off hangovers just long enough to get to the train station, we headed back to Turin for our final two days. Unheralded as a destination compared to Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, we found Turin to be our type of town. Bustling restaurant and bar scene, accessible and reliable public transit, lots of young people, walkable, and neat museums. We also stayed in a great apartment owned by a recently married couple who gave us some delicious chocolates as a wedding gift. Additionally, it’s the heart of the Piedmont, so were able to enjoy a little more Piemontese cuisine before heading back to France.
And, oh yeah, I got to go to a Juventus game. Luckily, Erin had fun too.
Much needed foccacia upon arrival.
Parco Valentino, near our apartment.
So much pasta to choose from at Eataly, a giant supermarket establish by the Slow Food collective to highlight the best of Italy. We spent a good amount here.
Plin and caprese, accompanied by Netflix and soda (we were really hungover from Florence).
A preserved papyrus (how, I don’t know) at the Egyptian Museum, one of the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world.
The eyes on the side aren’t creepy at all.
Inner coffin, because it’s necessary.
Mummified alligator. For real.
I unknowingly ordered a lunch entree that came with coffee at the end. First coffee in at least 10 years. With a lot of suger, it was ok.
Mole Antonelliana, the tallest museum in the world. We found it to be profoundly ugly. Like someone cut the top off of the Empire State Building and turned that into its own structure.
Oh yes. Ohhhhhh yes.
Only Gigi Buffon I got to see that night, as the real one sat the game out 😦
Italians actually do a good brat w/ kraut.
We sat next to the visitors’ fan section, which is separated by high walls and lots of security. When Frosinone tied the game late, we saw why the barrier was necessary.
And now, back to the “real” world. Five stars out of five. Would go back.