A Travellerspoint blog

Tuscany based in Arezzo, a wine & food experience

Relais LaTorre, Cortona, Chiassa, Montipulciano,

This was to be the final 4 days of what has been an amazing food & wine tour with Ben Cleary and the Benfatti Foods group.
Could we keep finding more amazing experiences in this wonderful country . Lets see what unfolds.
Arezzo sits in the heart of four interconnecting valleys, the Valdichiana to the south, Valdarno to the west, Valtiberina to the north west, and Casentino to the north/west. Its a perfect base from which to explore Tuscany, and although we only had 4 days, i could have stayed here for 4 weeks, and still not seen everything. We shall return, you will read why later on.
We are heading for Relais LaTorre, 7 klm from Arezzo, ( 14 klm fro the motorway, and 70 klm from Siena & Florence , the complex located in the fortified part of the small village of Chiassa Superiore , the various buildings are structured on a fulcrum of a paved internal space, this manorial system connects the main residence with the farm annexes, where the five suites are now located. There are two other accommodations , the Torrino, an old towerused in the very early days as a prison. Now a very romantic shelter for 2 persons. Then there is the Baiellina, the farm managers house, perfect for longer stays, with 2 bedrooms, and this could be a base for future trips back to this amazing place.

Relais La Torre , has been bought back to life as a full Agritourisimo, run by the Marcelli family. Tulio is away when we arrive but we are warmly welcomed by Linda , Tullio's wife who will be hosting us as we settle in at this amazing property. www.relaislatorre.it
As its a late arrival we opt for a visit to a little Pizzeria del Borgaccio in the village at the base of the hill. Great little place that turns out all the daily bread for the village of Chiassa . We have one of the 5 suites l'Aia , and like the other 4 , all have been converted to very solid apartments, with very good bathrooms, very rustic finishes, and very fitting of the 17th century building.

We are up early to explore the area before a full inspection of the property including the winery
Breakfast is served in a huge room originally part of the stables with a great selection both from the farm, and breads from the local bakery that we ate at last night. very delicious
We are meant to be meeting up with their winemaker Christian who we met on the first night in Rome , the former rugby player, Christian Bertone, but something has been lost in translation, so he will be here tomorrow.
Its a great time to be here as today is the last day of vintage, and tomorrow we will celebrate with all the grape pickers and the winery team at a long lunch hosted by Tullio's family.
We are taken through the property , down the hill to the winery, still using traditional techniques, fully organic, and run on their self generated power grid. !!

There is one other area above the main house where they ripen the grapes used for the Vinsanto del Chianti, , something we certainly wouldnt see in Australia, so the winery is used for the majority of the fruit, Sangiovese, then the selected fruit sits until its almost botrytised, then crushed before going into wood.

we are then invited to have lunch with the family at the family table as Tullio gives us the history of this amazing place. We are treated to the local steaks, from the cattle only grown in this area. Name escapes me, but great quality beef. there is a selection of pasta's, and we try the first of 6 wines we will taste over the next few days.a superb Chianti riserva 2011, & I lastricheti from 2012, and we get to try the Vinsanto dunked in Biscotti. Unbelievably delicious, lucsious, and morerish.

After lunch its time for a siesta before we venture out for the famous town of Montepulchiano and this will be the next chapter before returning the La Torre for the harvest celebration tomorrow.
No rest for this mob.
as a footnote, the reason for the Olive trees having 3 or 4 main points from the ground level was due to severe freezing of the trees in 1975, which killed the main trunks which were then cut back and the new "arms" then commenced. Im sure you noticed that in the photo's !!

Posted by Bruco 00:44 Archived in Italy Tagged food italian cortona tuscany montepulciano..arezzo. wine. agritourisimo Comments (0)

Home cooking then Michelin dining in Romagna

Markets in Modena, cooking classes Sassuolo , and a final dinner in Castelvetro

In preparation for todays cooking class with the bubbly Caterina at here casa we had actually visited the central markets in Modena yesterday to get the ingredients needed.
In the heart of the old city we tested our language skills and negotiation skills, so now we head to Casa Caterina to meet her family and prepare pasta and other dishes for our lunch.By the way here is a few of yesterdays dishes where everything was done with differnt styles of vinegars including the dessert

Back to the present, more cooking lessons, this time with the produce we bought from the Markets in Modena yesterday. We are at Casa di Caterina, a beautiful home in the hills above Modena. with a local expert on the cuisine of Emilio Romagna, its another family day and prior to preparation for lunch the boys are given the tour of the mansion including the attic where the Balsamic is maturing.5F33E1E19F9F65DA18DDFCF5489A05AF.jpg5F32174DA919A087DD540108F196E861.jpg5F366653E447D1FA90B9F5F7FD7C1FD1.jpg5F377F2ABA7C2F1C5B224625A5113EA7.jpg5F3897C8B93336E9DD9DD79FE8BCA22B.jpg5F3AA951E4882EC4B738396477AC8F90.jpg5F398DE9A047369C04EA076D6880DDE0.jpg

We are somewhere between Sassuolo & Modena and after inspections in the attic and an amazing garden of fruits & vegetables its back to the kitchen where I am under starters orders to produce a pasta just like Nona does !! Talk about pressure. Luckily the rest of the team take the attention away and the outcome is pretty good. Everyone has duties in the preparation and its coming together .


the food of the Romagna region includes some classics , Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Catechino Modena, Emilio Romagna pears, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Salamini italiano alla cacciatoro, Sour Cherries of Modena, & Zampone. Thw wines of the rgion are dominated by Lambrusco'splus the Bianco di Castelfranco, and the Emilia. All delicious and very different from the Lambrusca's of my younger day pallete.


another feast is consumed with passion, knowing we all did our bit in the preparation , the aprons are packed away and we head back down the hill to our little hamlet of Castelvetro for the final dinner in the Michelin star restaurant at the Hotel Locanda Fuedo.
Its a pretty hilltop village, with some great walks, and lots of local wineries and produce outlets in the village its self.


Tomorrow its Tuscany, and after a superb 5 course dinner, just what we needed we head off for a good nights rest in he tiny hotel that we have to ourselves.

Posted by Bruco 05:05 Archived in Italy Tagged food wine romagna emilia Comments (0)

The best of Parmigaino Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar

two incredible family businesses we visit the Pedroni's & the Panini's

We travel only 20 minutes just down the hill from our village of Castelvetro to the property known as Hombre, one of the most significant Parmigaino producers in all of Italy. We are taken on a guided tour of the dairy, These comments from Wikipedia sum it up perfectly;
It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna (only the area to the west of the river Reno), Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova (in Lombardia, but only the area to the south of river Po), Italy. Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled "Parmigiano-Reggiano", and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation "Parmesan", as a protected designation of origin. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma and Reggiano that for Reggio Emilia. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cow's milk. The whole milk of the morning milking is mixed with the naturally skimmed milk (which is made by holding milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening's milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats (copper heats and cools quickly). Starter whey (containing a mixture of certain thermophilic lactic acid bacteria) is added, and the temperature is raised to 33-35 °C (91-95 °F). Calf rennet is added, and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces (around the size of rice grains). The temperature is then raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. There is 1100 L (291 US gallons or 250 imperial gallons) of milk per vat, producing two cheeses each. The curd making up each wheel at this point weighs around 45 kg (100 lb). The remaining whey in the vat was traditionally used to feed the pigs from which "Prosciutto di Parma" (cured Parma ham) was produced. The barns for these animals were usually just a few yards away from the cheese production
The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant's number, and month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves that can be 24 cheeses high by 90 cheeses long or about 4,000 total wheels per aisle. Each cheese and the shelf underneath it is then cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every cheese. The cheese is tested by a master grader whose only instruments are a hammer and his ear. By tapping the wheel at various points, he can identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Those cheeses that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio's logo.
Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings.

Its worthwhile going to Wikipedia to read the story of this chap , Umberto Panini. The Umberto Panini Classic Car Collection is one of the most fascinating exhibitions dedicated to Maserati. Cars that have made Maserati history and that have been lovingly gathered over the years are housed in a typical building in Cittanova, Modena.

Originally the brainchild of the Maserati brothers and expanded by Omar Orsi, the collection has remained more or less intact to the present day. It is now run by West (a company owned by the Panini family) and includes 23 cars on display and three that are currently undergoing restoration.

After experiencing the end product of this amazing cheese, and wandering through the car museum we depart via the tree lined driveway, and travel only 10 minutes to find our next adventure. This time with the Pedroni family and their prized Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
We are shown the process with the grapes coming in whilst we were there, the heating and skin extraction, through to the barrel maturation.


Then we dine with the Pedroni's enjoying a selection of local anti Pasta's, their own wines and a selection from the region followed by local Grappa.


we have also done the markets in preparation for tomorrows cooking school,however i will save that for the next episode.

Posted by Bruco 16:47 Archived in Italy Tagged food wine romagna cheese balsamic Comments (0)

travelling to fast car country of Maranello

Ferrari's, Prosciutto, and the village of Caselvetro

We are heading north back on the coast before moving inland at Rimini and along the motorway toward Bologna. and into Maranello, the home town of Ferrari. every minute or so there is a test driven car passing us at some amazing speed, regardless of the 60 zone we were in.
By this stage we had had the opportunity to visit the Consorzia del Prosciutto di Modena. I have never seen so many hams being aged in one area. Parma is the well known Prosciutto producer, but this place rivals the quality.


After a tasting of the aged produce we move to meet those who have been test driving Ferrari's in the heart of Ferrari territory before heading to Ristarante Montana in the heart of Maranello for a wonderful lunch including some amazing salads, pasta's of course, and desserts to die for. Photos with Michael Schumacher and all the Ferrari sales people , very nice. The village of Maranello would be nothing without Ferrari. Having said that there is a very big area dedicated to the Ceramics that are world famous from this area.
We then head to the village of Castelvetro, where our home for the next few nights is the Hotel Locanda del Fuedo, located in a beautiful little hilltop town not far from Modena (not modeena we are reminded)


For some of us its an early night, time to explore this little village before retiring to bed. We have the whole hotel booked, all 8 rooms, its very cute, and boasts a Michelin Star restaurant which we will be trying out tomorrow night. But before that we have a a day of Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, Motor cars, and a lunch of all things Balsamic.


Posted by Bruco 07:06 Archived in Italy Tagged romagna vinegar prosciutto parmigiano emilia reggiano balsamic Comments (0)

A Day in the Olive Groves

organic olive oils, and a long lunch in the grove

Another perfect day unfolds in Monterado, and an early morning walk discovers deer on the hillside below the Castello di Monterado, grazing in the clearings of the forest that surround the castle.
After another breakfast prepared in the ancient kitchens we gather for our Olive Oil masterclass. Time for some education, time to taste. The class is led by our guide and olive oil grower Andreas who is joined by Giordano Galiardi who shares his organic philosophy on the very local industry. We are blessed to have two of the best to guide us through the process, and the history, in this special place.


From the field to the frantoio >>the oil mill>> there is a specific process to make olive oil beginning with the shaking of the trees to gently release the fruit from the branches during the harvest season ( which was about to start in 10 days time) between October and Dec, depending on variety.
The olives are then cleaned put into the frantoio which presses and crushes the fruit, then separates the liquid, the water from the solids , and the oil.
we are then shown how to pick the good from the ordinary, the old from the new,


The oils from Cartoceto are all good, but Galliardo's are superb. His estate is currently being transformed into an Olive Oil destination, equipped with a full processing plant, and like his products his buildings are constructed with care, using natural cork , from the region, stones from the nearby mountains, so history is being used to recreate. Giordano Galliardi is working to transform Catoceto's olive oil industry and with his passion he is certainly achieving. His oils are not yet widely available but definitely take time to visit if you travel through this region.
After the tasting workshop its time to head out to Andreas' grove, to meet the family, and kick back for a fun afternoon of wining and dining>>> again. I think i will let the pics tell the story. Suffice to say we had a wonderful afternoon, not one that could be bought as a normal traveller, so thanks to Benfatti, this is what we enjoyed , some more than others !!

A great afternoon, thanks to Andreas Tomasetti & family and friends.
We head back to Monterado for a quiet night. Our final night here before heading north again


Posted by Bruco 23:40 Archived in Italy Tagged food wine oil olive monterado Comments (0)

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