FOOD AND WINE OF VALDICHIANA


The Valdichiana (Valley of Chiana) region of Tuscany lies south of Arezzo, following the path of the Chiana river as it heads toward Montepulciano. This area of rolling hills and plains encompasses several wine growing regions, including the Chianti Colli Aretini region west of Arezzo and part of the Chianti Colli Senesi region around Montepulciano. Maureen and I stayed in 1996, again in 1999, and most recently in August 2002 in the charming medieval town of Lucignano, located halfway between Arezzo and Montepulciano. Lucignano is less than 30 minutes away from Montepulciano, one of the great wine towns of Tuscany.

Tuscany villas

Lucignano is conveniently situated for exploring Tuscany, located near the A1 Autostrade connecting Florence and Rome, and near Route 326 connecting Siena and the A1 Autostrade. From Lucignano it is 40 minutes to Siena and the Chianti Classico region, 1 hour to Florence, 2 hours to Pisa, and 4 hours to the Leonardo da Vinci international airport in Rome.




Five minutes south of Lucignano, heading east toward Sinalunga on Route 326, is the cooperative winery for the surrounding growers. It is a large modern facility with no character, but don't be put off by the stainless steel tanks and the gasoline pumps that dispense 'vino sfuso', or open wine meant for immediate consumption, by the liter. The Cantina makes excellent wine and the prices are very reasonable.


In addition to open wine sold in 3 liter glass bottles with screw tops, the Cantina's wines are also sold in corked bottles. There were three wines available for free tasting and purchase:


The Cantina is open from 8 a.m. - 12 noon and from 3-7 p.m. every day except Sunday and Monday.


With Luigi at the Cantina on our most recent visit

CANTINA VITICOLTORI SENESI ARETINI, LOCALITA OSTERIA N. 54/A, SINALUNGA


WHERE TO DINE

The town of Lucignano has several moderately priced restaurants serving typical Tuscan food. Our favorite is La Tavernetta, run by the Salvini family, located steps away from Il Cassero where we stayed. There is outdoor seating in a pleasant garden setting as well as a spacious indoor dining room.


Looking at Il Cassero's tower from the garden at La Tavernetta

On each of our three visits to Lucignano we've dined twice at La Tavernetta. In 1996, we enjoyed the roasted meats and fresh pasta, including several pastas prepared with truffles. Our meals were accompanied by Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG from the Fattoria Del Cerro.

In 1999, for our first dinner, we enjoyed a primi piatti of pasta with truffles and a main course of roasted pork and lamb. We also enjoyed again the Vino Nobile from Fattoria Del Cerro. After watching other diners enjoy La Tavernetta's special seafood offerings, for our second dinner we decided to try the seafood. Our first course was spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), with an abundance of succulent baby clams in their shells. For our main course we enjoyed a delicious whole roasted fish. It was probably the best meal of our whole trip!

On our most recent visit in August 2002, we went to La Tavernetta once for dinner and a few days later for lunch, which we enjoyed in the outdoor garden. This lunch was one of our best meals of our trip, and was enhanced by a chilled bottle of Vernacchia di San Gimignano. We started with appertizers of insalata mista and a hearty soup with mussels and clams, then had two delicious pastas: the spaghetti alle vongole, and pici with asparagus and truffles. As always, the meal was made even more pleasurable by the friendly service.

La Tavernetta, Via Roma 15, Lucignano

On our most recent visit we also enjoyed dining at Il goccino restaurant, which also has an enoteca and wine bar where a diverse selection of wines from Tuscany can be tasted by the glass. Il goccino's dining room is very handsomely decorated and the restaurant has a more formal feel to it than La Tavernetta, but it also has an outdoor dining area that is laid back. The menu features typical Tuscan dishes but has some more inventive preparations. We had delicious bruschetta and salad to start, and an appetizer portion of rich risotto with asparagus. For our main course we enjoyed fried lamb medallions, roasted quails and grilled vegetables. To accompany the meal we had a wonderful Vino Nobile from the Poliziano winery.

Il goccino, Via G. Matteotti 90, Lucignano

For a more casual dinner in a very cozy setting, we recommend Hosteria Pizzeria Lo Schicchero, located just a few doors away from La Tavernetta. The restaurant is located downstairs in spacious rooms with vaulted ceilings, giving the feeling of a wine cellar. We enjoyed delicious antipasti and freshly prepared pizzas accompanied by carafes of the house red wine.

Lo Schicchero, Via Roma 11, Lucignano


WHERE TO STAY


We highly recommend staying at Residence Il Cassero in Lucignano, owned by Luigi and Antonella Moriani. The Morianis have six lovely apartments for rent in their villa next to a 14th century tower. On our first visit in 1996, we climbed to the top of the tower (a 250 step climb), where we enjoyed the panoramic view of Lucignano, which is a medieval walled city laid out in a series of four concentric rings.


Atop the tower of Il Cassero in Lucignano

All of the rooms at Il Cassero are handsomely decorated with period furniture. On our first visit in 1996 and on our most recent visit, we stayed in the Antico Talamo and Duke rooms, which both face into the town and look onto the Collegiata, or cathedral, built in 1594. On our second visit in 1999 we enjoyed staying in the Tower Room, which has terrific views of the countryside and the tower.


Enjoying vin santo with Luigi and Antonella

Il Cassero is located just steps outside the walls of the town, and one of the things we liked most was the close proximity to numerous restaurants and cafes in town. In addition, Luigi is a very gracious host and is eager to give tips on restaurants and sites to see. He also turned us on to the Cantina Viticoltori, which is where he buys his wine.

On our most recent visit, we were able to enjoy the brand new pool that Luigi has built on a hillside just outside of town, less than a five minute drive away. The views at sunset were truly spectacular! One week (or longer) rentals of one- or two-bedroom apartments can be arranged by contacting Luigi directly. Rates are quite reasonable. If you speak to Luigi, tell him that Maureen and Bernie say ciao!


VIA ROSINI 7, LUCIGNANO








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