Friday, August 29: Last night Deborah, my son Guy and I flew overnight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa (where we did our 10,000 steps just traversing the airport) and then took a connecting flight to Florence. We had booked and paid for a rental car, which was supposed to be a Volvo but it morphed into an Audi A3, and we drove to Riserva di Fizzano near Castellina in Chianti – gorgeous weather around 27°C. We checked in and they gave us a hand-drawn map to get to Sant’Alfonso, the farm house with six bedrooms which we have rented for six nights.
Starving and sleep deprived, we had lunch in the restaurant at Fizzano: Guy and I ordered pizza and Deborah, grilled vegetables with bocaccini with a bottle of Rocca delle Macie Silva Rosa 2013 from Maremma. Guy had been called out for the Ice Bucket Challenge and he executed it in the vineyard. Perfect weather to pour an ice bucket over your head. Then he challenged me so I’ll do it. Then we drove over to the farm house which, we were told, was 2.5 kilometres away. We got hopelessly lost and had to return to Fizzano for more specific directions.
View from Sant’Alfonso’s terrace
The farmhouse is huge with nine bedrooms and a commanding view of the hills, valleys and vineyards. We put together a scratch meal from food that the housekeeper had bought for us and stored in the fridge: cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes and bread with a bottle of Rocca delle Macie Occhio A Vento Vermentino 2013.
Woke up at midnight and lay awake for a couple of hours before falling asleep till 6 am.
Saturday, August 30th: Can’t get the gas stove to light and there is no toaster or a kettle here, so had breakfast at The Olive Garden restaurant at Riserva di Fizzano. Met an Australian family from Perth and a Norwegian couple.
Deborah, Guy and I drove into Poggibonsi to shop for food. Bought fruit and vegetables from a market stall and then visited the Coop, a huge supermarket that even sells TV sets. Back to Sant’Alfonso for lunch, having picked up a couple of bottles of Rocca delle Macie Silva Rosa 2013.
Then drove over to Il Torrione, another Rocca delle Macie property, to swim in their pool. A young German guy was filling a huge terracotta dish with water from the shower. I asked him if it was for his dog. “No,” he said, “it’s for my hook.” It turns out he has a three-year-old hawk and he wanted to let it have a bath.
The “hook” at Il Torrione
Back at Sant’Alfonso two maids arrived to clean up the place and to show us how to light the gas stove. The caretaker had turned the gas off, apparently. The three of us dined at Osteria al Terrione. I ordered Linguine Marimare followed by beef in a white truffle sauce with shaved black truffles and a salad with a bottle of Fattoria La Pupille Morellino di Scansano 2010.
Sunday, August 31: After breakfast another visit to the Coop to stock up on food. Suzanne, Deborah’s sister, and her husband Richard are arriving tonight in Florence from Parisand we will pick them up at the airport. After lunch Deborah, Guy and I, in one car and Ian, Annabel and baby Declan in another drove to Castellina in Chianti. Where the dirt road meets the highway there is a massive pothole and the front end of the Audi hit the rut and cracked the front spoiler.
Baby meets Balthazar
After visiting Castellina in Chianti and stopping for a glass of white wine we decided to take the car back to Avis at the airport before picking up Suzanne and Richard and exchanging it for another. The problem was there were no automatic cars available and I haven’t driven standard in years. Eventually they found his a small automatic Fiat 500 but when Deborah brought them to the Avis depot in the airport shuttle their luggage was too large to fit in the trunk. Eventually we managed to manoeuvre the seats forward to accommodate the large suitcase and set off to find the A1 auto route to Poggibonsi. It looks like it’s going to cost us $2,000 in repairs!
In the dark, to add insult to injury, it took us a half an hour of circling Florence to find the right direction. We thought we knew the way from Poggibonsi but had arrived by a different route and spend another twenty minutes or so to navigate to the road to Sant’Alfonso. When we finally arrived at 11 pm we found the table in the kitchen set for eight and the wine decanted into jugs (Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2009 and Rocca delle Macie Sasyr Sangiovese Syrah 2011). Ian had prepared black olive tapenade and bruschetta on toast and an amazing spaghetti bolognaise. Turns out I’m allergic to whatever insects are biting me and my body is covered with itchy welts. In the night, a violent storm with sheet lightning and rolling thunder.
Monday, September 1: Richard and Suzanne have brought baguettes and cheese from Paris. We had the baguettes for breakfast before setting off to Castello di Volpaia for lunch with Giovanna Stianti.
The library at Castello di Volpaia
Although Castello di Volpaia looks very near to Castellina in Chianti it takes 45 minutes to drive these winding roads. Giovanna welcomed us into her house and served us Castello di Volpaia Prelius Vermentino 2013 and Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from their vineyard in Maremma with salami on bread and chicken liver pâté. Then we sat down at the table and Giovanna told us about her Sri Lankan cook who, as a Buddhist, is vegetarian but cooks meat beautifully.
Started with eggplant parmigana served with Castello di Volpaia Costasalla 2010 (Sangiovese with 5% Mammolo), followed by escalope of veal cooked in rosemary and garlic with tomato and mozzarella, accompanied by Castello di Volpaia Il Puro Casanova 2009 (100% Sangiovese). Dessert: fresh peaches with mint, served with Castello di Volpaia Vin Santo. We seem to be moving from one meal to the next.
Market day in Radda
Stopped in at the Coop in Poggibonsi to buy a chicken for dinner and then spent time on the phone with Visa to sort out our insurance claim for the damage to the Audi. The replacement car, Fiat 500, is like a toy in comparison and not large enough for our luggage, so we’re going to have to trade in for a bigger vehicle – which means another trip to Florence.
Carpineto winery in Dudda
Tuesday, September 2: After breakfast we drove to Dudda in Greve in Chianti to visit Antonio Zaccheo at Carpineto. There had been a landslide due to heavy rains that had closed one route to the winery but it was now open. Antonio toured us around the winery and took us all to lunch La Palagina in Figline Valdarno, a short drive away from the winery. Apparently, Sting owns most of the valley here.
Carpineto’s Antonio Zaccheo at lunch
We ate outdoors under a large umbrella, starting with a bottle of Carpineto Farnito Brut (Chardonnay). Antonio told us that this was the first sparkling wine made in Tuscany. Huge plates of antipasti Toscana arrived, which we devoured with Carpineto Dogliani Bianco 20013 a blend of Grechetto, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay). Then bowls of delicious pasta with black truffles with Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2009. Then beef filet with porcini mushrooms. After lunch Deborah, Guy and I drove into Florence to change the Fiat 500 for a BMW. What a pleasure to drive a car that doesn’t run like a sewing machine.
Façade of the Duomo in Florence
Wednesday, September 3: Took the 9:26 am bus from Poggibonsi into Florence. We wandered around the market with its pervasive smell of leather. Bought some truffle tapenade and a white truffle spray at Pegna. Deborah and I lunched at La Cantinetta di Dante e Beatrice. Deborah ordered spaghetti ragu and I the trippa alla Fiorentina, with a glass of Luciano Bruni Chianti Classico Riserva 2009.
Trippa alla Toscana
We continued walking around Florence, stopped in at Palazzo Atinori to say hello to Piero and continued shopping. Deborah bought sunglasses, a couple of handbags and some perfume at Profumeria Inglese, an amazing shop dating back to 1843 on the Piazza dell’Olio, served by a very officious English woman.
Handbag shop, Florence
We stopped for a half bottle of Teruzzi & Pothud Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2013 at a small wine bar called Le Cantinetta on Via Borgo S. Lorenzo and eventually made our way back to the bus station to catch the 5:40 pm bus back to Poggibonsi. Shopped for food at the Coop and Ian made a spicy linguine in tomato sauce for dinner. Opened bottles of Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 and Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2011.
Sunset in Castellina in Chianti
Thursday, September 4: After breakfast we drove in convoy to Castiglioni to visit Leonardo Frescobaldi on his summer estate. This was the original Frescobaldi family estate with cellar dating back to the 13th century. The house dates back to the 16th century and was recently renovated to offer hospitality to guests. The Frescobaldi own five estates in Tuscany covering 5,000 hectares (plus Conte Attems in Friuli.) Here at Castiglioni they own 560 hectares, 160 of which are planted to vines. Their top wine is Giramonte, a Merlot blended with10% Sangiovese.
Entrance to Castiglioni’s 13th-century cellar
Before lunch we had a glass of Frescobaldi Salta Guilli Rosato 2013 (a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) with appetizers. With the pasta dish (stracca the size of postage stamps) with a meat and fennel-flavoured salami sauce we drank Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2011 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese). The main course: roast pork, thinly sliced with zucchinis and roast potatoes. Served with the magnificent Frescobaldi Giramonte 2009.
Frescobaldi’s Castiglioni vineyard
We finished with a dessert of apricot tart accompanied by a glass of Frescobaldi Quaranta Altari Vin Santo 2007 (in a 750 mL bottle). Leonardo told us the story of the name behind the wine which translates as Forty Churches. Around 1650, an ancestor, Bartolomeo Frescobaldi, held a party for his friends at his country estate which ended with everyone dancing naked. Word leaked out to the Pope, who summarily excommunicated him. Bartolomeo begged for an audience with the Pope and asked his forgiveness. The Pope offered to reinstate him in the Catholic Church if he built 40 churches on his properties. Leonardo also told us that Frescobaldi oversee the winemaking on the island of Gorgona, which could be called the Italian Alcatraz.
Deborah and Tony with Leonardo Frescobaldi
We drove back to the villa only to find that the road was blocked by a tractor-trailer piled with wood that got stuck on the dirt road. We had to circle around Torrione and come up the back way to Sant’Alfonso. Dinner: roast chicken, green beans, rice and salad with Rocca delle Macie Moonlite 2013, Rocca delle Macie Occhio a Vento Vermentino 2013, Castello di Pomino Pinot Nero 2009 and Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina 2010.
Friday, September 5: Up at 6:55 am to pack and drive Richard and Suzanne to Poggibonsi, where they will take the bus to Florence and fly back to Paris this afternoon. Somehow we could not get the coffee percolator to make coffee – the stove-top, screw-together type – although it worked every other morning. I still don’t understand the principle how the water boils up the spout, percolates through the coffee and then rises to the top of the device, ready to pour. Anyway, it didn’t happen today for some reason. Sorry to leave the villa Sant’Alfonso but I won’t miss the mogul ride to get to it.