First up was the U.S. Cemetery south of Florence. I know it is an unusual first choice in Tuscany, but it made sense on our route as a respectful rest stop on the way. Connor found her flag right away...
It always amazes me that visitors are allowed right on the pristine grass in military cemeteries. But you know I guess if I was buried here the thought of children learning and smiling right above is pretty great.
We ventured further into Chianti and couldn't get over that harvest time was overlapping perfectly with our visit! The Tuscan hills and vineyards were as if they were right out of a postcard. We motored on through Greve in Chianti and to the tiny town of Panzano. It was here we found the Antica Macelleria Cecchini which may be the world's most dramatic butcher shop. Here, amid classical music and lively conversation, owner Dario Cecchini holds court: while quoting Dante, he serves samples of his very fine sushi di Chianina.
As described by Fodors, Dario loves meat. At the half-century mark and standing more than 6 feet tall, he could be a poster boy for the beef industry. He breathes health, vitality, vigor. By trade, Dario is a butcher, but his is not your typical butcher shop. From its intimate confines at Via XX Luglio 11, he holds forth behind a counter teeming with luscious meats. Opera plays in the background; sometimes customers sing along. Dario quotes Dante as he offers up samples of his wares. His shop has been in the family since the late 1700s, and his father trained Dario in the craft.That's Dario pictured below....no opera the day we were there but he DID quote Dante for us!
Dario's grandmother is responsible for his habit of offering wine to customers. "She said a glass of wine brings people together, and I like to bring people together." We partook in the Chianti and gaped at the eccentric butcher.
In Tuscany we rented two cars. Standard manual for Eric and Adair and expensive automatic for us. If there is one lesson I wish we had taken care of before moving to Europe - I wish we had learned to drive manual cars. Every time we rent in Italy we get the same crazy car model. The transmission barely shifts and it grinds midshift as we hold our breath hoping the car doesn't stall. We had to take a photo to remember it by. It was such the antithesis in Tuscany where everything was smooth and simple. That darn car was cranky and difficult! I mean what kind of automatic looks like this?!
We pulled into our villa early evening. We stayed in a lovely 2 bedroom apartment at Borgo di Pietrafitta. It really was idyllic right in the middle of the Chianti region (closest town was Castellini in Chianti). While we really loved staying here, it was a little off the beaten path and that realtor's motto of location, location, location rang in our ears. No complaints, just that I spent hours trying to find the Fattoria I read about in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. But the link to it was nowhere to be found despite my research efforts. I have since learned via a friend who happened upon it that Ms. Kingsolver stayed at Fattoria Poggio Allor as described in her book. Next Tuscan trip I would be sure to stay there, as my friends absolutely loved it with the organic ingredients, scrumptious nightly meals and the authentic agriturismo. Plus its location appears to be an A+ overlooking San Gigmignano.
But as I said, no real complaints. I mean you can't go wrong with Borgo di Pietrafitta with an infinity pool and overlook like this.
...and fresh rosemary growing all over...
And a real thrill were the deer hiding all over the property. Imagine the surprise and shock of our little ones as we peered into the adjacent woods and saw this...do you spy Bambi?!?
Tuscany took hold of us and nourished our souls from the very start. The food, the views, the history of the place. And we were right there in the middle of it all. Lucky, lucky us.
If you want to know more about Dario Cecchini and his acclaimed butcher shop, here is a good piece done on him by the Travel Channel.