Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

If you’re wondering what an agriturismo is, don’t worry. You’re in good company. I had no idea the word even existed before our trip to Italy this summer. In fact, it wasn’t until I stayed in one that I gained a good understanding of what they are and how they can take your Italian vacation to the next level.

Agritourismo businesses area everywhere in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Agriturismo businesses are great places to stay in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Simply put, an agriturismo is a small, family-owned tourism business, like a bed and breakfast, attached to a larger agriculture-related business that produces and sells something. Along the Prosecco Road, you won’t find a Hilton Garden Inn, but you will find all kinds of agriturismo businesses catering to the handful of tourists who have discovered this beautiful area.

Our hosts, Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, arranged for us to stay at the Roccat winery agriturismo business. Beautiful flowers greeted us outside the front door, a sample of the warm hospitality we were about to experience.

Flowers at Roccat winery

Lovely flowers outside the Roccat winery agriturismo inn.

The family renovated an old barn on their property into a six room bed and breakfast in the year 2000. Each is clean, comfortable and has a private bath with toiletries provided. Breakfast, served in a charming, sunlit room is simply wonderful. They serve locally made jams, as well as meats and dairy products from nearby farms. There are cereals, as well, along with baked goods from a local bakery. My favorite was a wonderful cake. I had two pieces each morning. Don’t judge. If you tried it, you would, too.

Breakfast at Roccat

The breakfast spread at the Roccat winery agriturismo. It is included with the room.

Roccat breakfast cake

This homemade cake at the Roccat Agriturismo was the perfect breakfast food.

The rooms provide a cultural experience you won’t get if you stay in a chain hotel, and we liked that. Be aware, though, that the air conditioning is to Italian standards, meaning it doesn’t cool the room as much as Americans might be accustomed to. Also, like most places in Italy, washcloths are not provided, so if you typically use one you might want to pack one in your bag.

What was great about staying at the agriturismo is that after breakfast, we went out the back door and were in the middle of the winery. The morning of our second day there, we met the wine maker, Clemente, and walked about 20 steps to the area where they produce and bottle the wines.

Roccat winery winemaker

Clemente at Roccat winery.

There, Clemente explained to us the process for creating Prosecco and explained how it is different than Champagne made in France. While both wines undergo a secondary fermentation that puts bubbles in the wine, the method used for that fermentation is different. In Champagne, it happens in the bottle. In Prosecco, it takes place in large vats. At the end of the Prosecco process, the temperature in the vat is dropped below freezing, killing the yeast and stopping the process.

Cold fermentation vat

Huge vats of wine are chilled to below freezing to stop the secondary fermentation. The ice on the door to this vat shows that the process is being stopped.

Once the secondary fermentation is done, the winery seeks permission from the governing authorities to bottle the wine. When they have it, they send it through pipes to the bottling machine.

Roccat winery bottling machine

Clemente explains the bottling process.

To learn a little more about the wine making process, watch this video. Massi does a great job translating what Clemente explained.

After our tour, we walked the 20 or so steps back to the tasting room at the agriturismo, a room they call the tavern, and sat down to sample the wine.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings. Photo Credit: Roccat Winery.

It was a little earlier than normal for drinking wine, so I won’t say the exact time that we started other than to say it rhymes with “hen dirty” in the morning. Again, please don’t judge. We were conducting important research so we could share with you, the readers of our blog.

Roccat winery tasting

Clemente pours a generous sample of Prosecco at Roccat winery. It was delicious!

Our stay at Roccat gave us a glimpse into Italian culture and wine that you don’t get at most hotels. Without this experience, our visit to Italy simply wouldn’t have been the same. That’s why staying in an agriturismo is our number two tip for your visit to the Prosecco Road.

Other tips:

#1 Hire a driver and local guide

#3 Get to know your wine


Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own. If you would like to know more about Roccat winery, click [HERE].

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road in Valdobbiadene, Italy. #2 - stay at an agritourismo

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A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Just more than a year after I quit my job as a middle school principal, we’ve made another big life choice. We bought a house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. (No, we’re not having a mid-life crisis, thanks for asking.)

Regular readers of this blog know that we have absolutely fallen in love with Pawhuska (pop. 3,477 3,479) over the past year. In June of 2017, we made our first stop in Osage County. It was a quick visit to pay homage to The Pioneer Woman and her Mercantile on our way to Texas. We enjoyed a chicken fried steak dinner and wrote a few blog posts about our time in town, including this one that listed six reasons husbands should take their wives to the Merc.

We rolled into Pawhuska for the first time in June of 2017 for a quick visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile on our way to Texas.

A couple of months after writing that post, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce contacted us to see if we’d be willing to return as celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships. We felt obliged to call and tell them that we really aren’t celebrities. They replied, “Well, you are to us! Everybody here loves your blog!” We then shared that we knew little about Indian tacos. They told us not to worry and that we should just be sure to pack stretchy pants and Tums.

How could we say no to that?

We loved learning about how authentic Indian tacos are made from our new friend, Margie Williams, of Pawhuska.

We rolled back into Pawhuska early in the first week of October. We wanted to spend a few days getting to know the town a little better before the Indian Taco Championships and like we did for our own hometown of Crete, we decided to write an article on 70+ things to do after you’ve eaten at the Merc

Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships

We saw our first ever Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships last fall and can’t wait to see it again this year!

We figured five days would give us all the time we needed in Pawhuska. We were so wrong.

You see, when you’re in this cowboy town that has just one flashing traffic light, you can’t just walk into a store or museum, take a quick photo and leave. Nope. The folks you’ll find there are just too friendly and welcoming for that. We learned quickly that people in Pawhuska were genuinely interested in getting to know us and many of our conversations pushed well through the noon hour or until after closing. Nobody seemed to care. Relationships mattered more than time. We loved that.

Handy's Martha and Margie, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The day we met Martha and Margie at Handy’s in Pawhuska, they put their spoons down, forgot about their chili, and took time to tell us all about the history of this unique convenience store and the secret to the best fountain pop in Osage County.

It didn’t take long before we began to feel like locals. Though we had a hotel 25 miles away in Bartlesville,  townspeople insisted we should be staying in Pawhuska. By Friday, one had helped us find a room, and so we spent our first overnight inside the city limits. With no 30-minute drive to a hotel, we decided to go to the high school football game to cheer on the hometown Pawhuska Huskies. We met some nice folks as we sat down on the bleachers to watch the game and, as was normal for this town, we felt like old friends by the fourth quarter. It was homecoming that night. We couldn’t help but feel like we’d come home, too.

Homecoming in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Homecoming game had all the pageantry you’d expect in a small town.

By the time the National Indian Taco Championships were over that weekend, we didn’t want to leave and vowed that we’d be back soon. A couple of weeks later we took our moms to Pawhuska. We went back in December for the Holiday Parade of Lights. Starting in January, we found one reason after another to return to the Osage and learn more about its unique history and residents. With each visit, we grew to love the town and the people more and more. We started to feel like maybe we belonged, like maybe we had a bigger calling there. 

A view of Pawhuska at the Cavalcade street dance in 2018.

So, after a lot of consideration, investment planning, and prayer, we contacted a realtor, put the word out, and began looking for a house to buy. We had looked at about a dozen homes before getting a text from a friend a few weeks ago that pointed us to one that seemed just right. It was in a great location, in our price range, and newly remodeled. We knew it wouldn’t last long on the market. So, despite the fact that we’d just gotten home from a trip about an hour earlier and our suitcase was not even unpacked yet, we put our dirty clothes in the laundry, re-packed clean ones, got in the car and headed south. 

It is less than a six-hour drive from Crete, Nebraska, to Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

We spent time looking at the house and talking with the owners and everything about it just felt right. We made an offer that evening around their kitchen table, shook hands, and were under contract the next day. If all goes as planned, we’ll close on the three-bedroom, craftsman style bungalow Monday morning. We can’t wait to show it to y’all (I think we’re allowed to use that word now that we’re south of Kansas) and be a part of the Pawhuska community.

Pendleton Blanket, Clifton's Gift Shop, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We were honored to be given this blanket by longtime Pawhuska residents and business owners Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly.

What, exactly does the future hold for us? We honestly aren’t sure. For now, we are planning to go back and forth between Oklahoma and Nebraska, splitting time between the Huskies and Huskers. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit if you’re in the area. We may even look into becoming Airbnb hosts, someday. We can write about travel from anywhere with internet service, so we’ll do just that as we create a new home while maintaining another one, at least for now. 

What we know for sure is that Pawhuska is a special place, and very soon we’ll be proud to call it home. 


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Five tips for wine tasting in Tuscany

Five tips for wine tasting in Tuscany

I’ve done wine tastings before. You pull into a winery, hear all about their wonderful product while sampling a flight of four to five wines poured out in small, two-sip portions 10 seconds apart, decide whether to buy, and then head out the door. So, when we set out on a complimentary wine tasting tour in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany with our hosts Deb of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, that’s about what I expected. I could not have been more wrong.

Massi, Deb, Steve and Ann

Massi, Deb, Steve and Ann stop for a picture in Tuscany.

The wine tasting tour Deb and Massi took us on in Tuscany was completely different than anything we’ve ever experienced and we loved it! We think everyone who can should taste wine there. And when you go, remember these five tips to help you have the very best experience possible.

1. Have a driver and guide

Having a driver and guide made all the difference in the world. Driving in a foreign country means learning new traffic patterns as well as new road signs. And in Italy it means learning a whole new culture of driving where lane lines and stop signs are often only seen only as suggestions and driving in the wrong parts of town will result in hundreds of dollars in fines. I’m not kidding.

Massi the driver and van

Massi the Driver knew all the best routes and with him driving, we got to enjoy the view.

I didn’t have to worry about any of that, nor did I have to worry about trying to figure out where we were going which it turns out was down lots of winding, hilly one-lane roads with about 2.4 million roundabouts. Instead of arriving white-knuckled and stressed from the drive, I was relaxed and glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy the scenery rather than focusing on the road.

Tuscan hills and vineyards

Looking over olive groves and across the vineyards of Tuscany.

Having a guide was wonderful because we began to hear the stories of the wineries and the wines before we ever arrived at a property. We learned about the natural, organic method used by wine makers in Tuscany, and about how the rose bushes planted at the end of the rows help growers notice potential disease before it reaches the vines.

Roses in Tuscany

Roses like these help wine makers gauge the health of their vines.

We were educated about the grape varietals in the wines, and about the significance of the letters “DOCG” on a label on the neck of a bottle. By the time we got out of the car, we knew something about where we were and what we were tasting. Our experience was so much richer because of it.

2. Take it slowly

Each of the properties we visited were small, family run operations. After arriving, we met our hosts and spent a good amount of time chatting and getting to know them before we ever tasted a single wine. For the owners of the wineries, it felt like it was more about building relationships and showing pride in their work than making a sale. And we liked that.

Wine tasting in Tuscany

Steve and Deb relax on a terrace, enjoying the wine, food, and view.

At one winery, we had a tour of the cellar, seeing the stainless steel vats where the grapes fermented, turning into wine. We then learned about how they use oak barrels to fine-tune the flavor of their wine.

Wine barrels

Wine barrels.

Next, as a bonus, we saw how they press their own olive oil from trees on their farm. As we chatted, we heard the story of how it took 10 years for them to get a permit to build the cellar and their home above, that before then, they had to work out of a shed and constantly move equipment in and out. By the end of the conversation, we actually knew the family and understood the passion they put into their craft.

Steve and Ann with winemaker

Steve and Ann stop for a photo with Sam, one of the wine makers.

When it came time to taste the wine, there were no hurried two sip pours. Instead, the wine maker offered enough of each wine for us to savor, along with heartfelt conversation that made us feel at home on their beautiful properties.

3. Savor the food parings

At each winery, the wine maker offered us food pairings as we sat sipping delicious wines. This wasn’t a plate of cheap crackers or bowl of pretzels, either. Instead, they would pour a wine and then disappear into the house, returning with beautifully plated Italian snacks including prosciutto, bruschetta, cheeses, and olive oil. Every morsel was delicious and served to make the wines even better.

Food pairings for wine tasting in Tuscany

With one tasting, we sere served some bruschetta, as well as prosciutto, salami, cheese, and honey.

At one winery, the owner gave us a sampling of organic jams that she cans from fruit she grows in her garden. We put dabs of these on pecorino cheese from the region and delighted in every single bite.

Tuscan jams

One wine maker offered us homemade jams made from fruits and vegetables in her garden.

4. Stop along the way

Because we had a private driver and guide who knew where we were going and how long it would take to get there, we could stop along the way and explore some locations we never would have found on our own. One fond memory is a stop in a little walled town called Castellina in Chianti.

Tuscan flowers at a winery

Everywhere we looked, we saw beautiful flowers, like these at one of the wineries we visited.

There, we explored the narrow streets, while learning that hundreds of years ago the cities of Florence and Siena constantly fought over control of the town. Today, there is a statue showing how the town has been influenced by both cities.

Castellina in Chianti

This statue, in Castellina in Chianti, shows how the city was pulled toward both Florence and Siena.

Ann has always wanted a big olive wood board to use to serve meats and cheeses at home, and Deb and Massi knew just the place. They led us to a store and said the prices here would be better than anywhere else. I have to admit, we were impressed enough with the price that we bought one, but curious as to whether it really was the best price we kept our eyes open for the rest of the trip. Looking back, I’m happy to report that the board we bought was anywhere from 20-100 Euros ($25-$125) less than any other board we found.

Olive wood serving board

We bought one of these beautiful olive wood serving boards. Deb and Massi knew just where to get the best deal.

And, because we thought it was a beautiful place with a really cool tunnel-like construction along the city wall, here’s another gratuitous picture from Castellina in Chianti.

Tuscany through a window

Peeking out a window in the city wall of Castellina in Chianti.

We had one other unique stop on our tour through the Chianti region, a stop at a Antica Macelleria Cecchini butcher shop that was featured by Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations. We posed for a picture with Don Dario Cecchini, shouting, “carne!” (meat) instead of, “cheese.”

Steve and Ann with butcher

We stopped to pose for a picture with this butcher who was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows.

As we walked away from the butcher shop, Deb and Massi told us they also offer a meat lover’s tour that stops at this place for a multi-course dinner featuring some of the best the shop has to offer. I can’t wait to come back and sink my teeth into that juicy tour.

5. Revel in the affordable prices

While Ann and I aren’t experts by any means, we are pretty up-to-date with pricing of wines because its something we enjoy.

Chianti wine bottles

Chianti wine in the traditional basket. While a decoration today, originally, the wine bottles were round so they were put in a basket so they would stand up.

Sitting in Chianti, drinking some of the best wines the region has to offer, I couldn’t believe how good the prices were. We were shocked to learn that good bottles of wine were available for 10 Euros, or about $13.00. Even with the cost of shipping factored in, the prices were very reasonable and, I daresay, less than we’d pay in the United States for a similar wine. At times I almost laughed when I saw the price list because I thought they had to be kidding. But that’s fair market price in Italy, and one of the advantages of visiting wineries in Tuscany. Get a few bottles, ship them home, and savor your savings along with the wine.

Oak wine barrel

An oak barrel is used to hold wine as it ages. The oak imparts flavors to the wine.

At the end of the day, I reflected that wine tasting in Tuscany was not at all what I expected. The beautiful scenery, the excellent wines, new information, and friendly company made it far better.

Massi and Deb

Massi and Deb. We sure miss these two.

I am so glad we had access to the expert knowledge of Italy Unfiltered to share with us some of the best wineries the Chianti Classico region has to offer, as well as Massi the Driver to take us right to their doors. We will long treasure the memories we made that day, especially in October when the weather is cool enough for safe shipping and the wine we purchased there arrives.


Our wine tour and transportation were provided to us free of charge by Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own.


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5 tips for wine tasting in Tuscany.

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Our incredible private tour and cooking class in Chianti with Italy Unfiltered

Our incredible private tour and cooking class in Chianti with Italy Unfiltered

After spending a day on our own exploring beautiful Siena, Italy, our hosts Deb of Italy Unfiltered and her husband Massi the Driver picked us up at our hotel and we began our complimentary tour of Italian food, wine, and culture in the Chianti Region. As we got in the car, Steve confided in me that he’d already set his belt one notch looser in anticipation of the day.

Deb of Italy Unfiltered and her husband, Massi the Driver.

Of course, our first stop of the morning was for an espresso. This is a very Italian thing to do when you are having what Massi likes to call an “espresso deficiency.” I’m used to my Americano style coffee and still need a bit of milk in mine, so I ordered a caffe macchiato which is espresso with a dollop of foamed milk on top, typically served in a something that resembles a shot glass.

Cafe machiatto was a great cure for our espresso deficiency.

Now with the proper amount of caffeine in our systems, we headed down winding roads and up and down hills into the Chianti Clasccio region of Tuscany. The drive was incredibly beautiful and we were thankful that we had a personal driver and tour guide to not only tell us about the food and wine of the area but to actually get us there as there is no way we could have found this place by ourselves.

The family home where we did our cooking class and explored their winery.

The family home where we did our cooking class and explored their winery.

When we arrived at our destination, Deb and Massi greeted the owners who appeared to be old friends and they welcomed us into their home and winery. Our time with there began with a private cooking class.

Steve and I laced up our aprons and we got right to work. Our first lesson was in making traditional tiramisu, one of my all-time favorites.

We "mostly" separated six eggs for our tiramisu.

We “mostly” separated six eggs for our tiramisu.

We mostly separated six eggs and began beating the egg whites with an electric mixer. Sadly, we had spilled just a touch of yoke into the whites which was enough to ruin it. No worries. We started again and the second time around was successful.

As you can see, the the little bit of yolk that accidentally fell into the white ruined the process.

As you can see, the the little bit of yolk that accidentally fell into the white ruined the process.

Steve beat the egg yolks with a bit of sugar and then we folded the whites and yolks back together along with some mascarpone cheese.

Next, we dipped individual lady finger cookies in cooled espresso and placed them in a small, square dish. Then, we added a layer of the cream filling and sprinkling of cocoa powder before repeated the process again.

Our tiramisu, ready to set in the refrigerator. We marked each our creations with a colored band so we could see which one turned out the best.

Next, our instructor insisted that we take a few of the extra lady fingers and dip them in the left over espresso, then dip in the cream filling, and eat! Of course we had to try, I mean, we wouldn’t want to offend our host.

Then, because we’d worked so very hard on our tiramisu, our host broke out the Prosecco and served it with some fried pizza dough that had been sprinkled with sea salt. Prosecco and a snack? This was my type of cooking class.

Steve got very happy when the glasses of Prosecco and the fried pieces of pizza dough came out for a snack.

Steve got very happy when the glasses of Prosecco and the fried pieces of pizza dough came out for a snack.

Next, we learned to make fresh pasta using semolina flour, farm fresh eggs, and just a touch of Tuscan olive oil.

We kneaded the dough before rolling it into a ball and covering it with a bowl to prevent it from drying out.

Next, we used a rolling pin to roll our pasta out into a long rectangle. Once the dough was smooth and thin, we rolled it like a scroll from the top to the middle, and then up from the bottom so the rolls met in the middle.

After kneading and rolling the dough, we rolled it up from each end until they met in the middle.

Then we cut the rolls into small strips, separated them with our cutting knife, and voila — we have pasta!

Next, we cut the rolls into thin strips with a sharp knife.

The fun part was slipping the knife under the noodles and lifting in the middle to see them all unrolled.

Our third and final dish was traditional Tuscan bruschetta — that’s pronounced bru-sketta–which is an antipasto dish consisting of grilled bread topped with garlic and olive oil or other fresh things like tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

Tomatoes, basil, and garlic are the main ingredients in tomato bruschetta.

I’ve made bruschetta many times before, but a new tip in our class is to leave any extra tomato seeds and juices on the board after cutting the tomato. These hold much of the acidity of the tomato and can make the bruschetta too runny.

After our cooking class was finished, we wandered outside where Massi and Deb told us more about the gardens and vineyards on the property. We had fun checking out 50 year-old wisteria and some 100-year-old grape vines. The property was just beautiful — full of color and life.

One of the 100-year-old grape vines.

The property was filled with beautiful flowers and plants, including lots of fresh lavender.

Then, we walked up a view steps to a patio where the table was set for the most amazing wine tasting and lunch. My jaw must have dropped when I saw the view. It was just incredible.

This view was just stunning.

We began tasting wine, made right there on the property, along with the bruschetta we’d made and some other cured meats and cheeses.

At lunch, we tried the bruschetta we’d made along with other pizzas, cured meats, and cheeses.

Then, two types of pasta arrived, both using the noodles we’d made just a few minutes before. One dish had a mild tomato sauce with fresh torn basil while the other had a spicier red sauce and thyme. Both were delicious.

The pasta we made!

Throughout our intimate lunch, Deb and Massi shared their expertise about Tuscany and tradition. We learned so much about Chianti Classico wine, food preparation, and everything that goes into owning and operating a small, family winery in Tuscany.

The black rooster is a quick and easy way to spot a Chianti Classico wine.

After a long and relaxing lunch which ended with sweet bites of our tiramisu, we headed into the winery where Massi told us all about how the wine is made, stored, and perfected. We had ample opportunities to ask questions and take photographs, things we don’t always have the opportunities to do when traveling in group tours.

Chianti Classico wine.

As we headed back to the car, I couldn’t help but think that this opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Deb and Massi. They knew this family personally and were able to provide us with a Tuscan experience that is not easily found on TripAdvisor or in a Google search. The personalized experience they gave us made our day special, and it was all the more special because we only did things we wanted to do.


While the tour and transport services were provided to us free of charge by Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, the opinions in this post are our own. To learn more about Deb and Massi’s services, email them at dlarsen5@icloud.com.

Watch a video about our day in Chianti with Deb and Massi at the link below.

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How we learned how to cook like an Italian on our trip to Tuscany.

 

How I fell into a Tuscan food coma – Part 2

How I fell into a Tuscan food coma – Part 2

[well]This is Part 2 about our complimentary Tuscan food tour with American, Deb, of Italy Unfiltered, and her Italian husband, Massi the Driver. To read Part 1, click HERE.[/well]

We left the bakery, simultaneously asking ourselves how we could possibly eat more and vowing to try. We walked to the car, admiring Siena’s rather imposing city wall as we set off for our next stop, the hidden farmer’s market.

The city wall in Siena, Italy.

Bricks in the city wall of Siena, Italy

An up-close look at the city wall in Siena, Italy. Can you imagine what it took to build this hundreds of years ago?

Massi drove us down narrow streets and through round-a-bouts that we were thankful not to have to maneuver on our own and within a few minutes, we pulled into what we thought was a vacant strip mall because it had no signs. Ann and I didn’t see a farmer’s market, but that didn’t slow our hosts. They led us through an unmarked doorway and into a fresh food lover’s dream.

Steve and Deb from Italy Unfiltered inside the secret food market in Siena, Italy.

Inside, vendors had set up shop selling chickens, proscuitto, fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, honeycomb, pasta and soap. All of it was fresh and in season and all of it looked amazing. With ingredients like these, we began to see why all the food here is so good.

We got to Siena just at the end of the cherry season. These were likely the last to be sold this season.

Deb, a Texan who herself is a graduate of culinary school, told us that Tuscan cuisine is based on three basic ideas: It’s seasonal, regional, and traditional. In other words, the food served at any point in the year is available fresh, and is prepared according to local recipes in the same way it was prepared hundreds of years ago.

Basil in the farmers' market, Siena, Italy.

Huge bunches of fresh basil were available at the hidden farmers’ market in Siena, Italy.

Pasta from the hidden farmers' market, Siena, Italy

We bought a package of this authentic pasta at the hidden farmers’ market.

We purchased some pasta which will be perfect on a cold October’s night and headed to our next stop – a roadside fruit and vegetable stand that sold some of the most beautiful produce we’ve ever seen.

I have to give props to Ann, she got some wonderful photos. I’ll let them do the talking, but know that everything we sampled tasted even better than it looked.

Fresh garlic and onions at a roadside stand.

Two must-haves in Italy – fresh garlic and red onions hanging at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand in Siena, Italy.

Peaches in the farmers' market, Siena, Italy.

Fresh peaches at a roadside fruit stand in Siena, Italy.

Vegetables at a roadside stand in Siena, Italy

Fresh vegetables at a roadside stand in Siena, Italy.

Fresh tomatoes in Siena, Italy.

Fresh tomatoes in a roadside stand in Siena, Italy.

We paused our tour at this point to make stop at an Italian electronics store where they sell everything from curling irons and coffee makers to televisions and refrigerators. Apparently, they take ironing very seriously here. Check this out:

Iron at electronics store, Siena, Italy

Italians take ironing very seriously. We have no idea what the bottom part of this iron does.

Check out the vast array of irons. But what all do they do?

While Deb and I looked around, Ann picked out a curling iron since she forgot the one that works on European outlets at home, and then we headed down the way to the coffee shop where Massi was waiting for us. There, we saw the most amazing little tarts, and we just had to try get a picture of one.

Tarts in Siena, Italy

These two little tarts were fresh and delicious!

These were so fresh that the blueberries burst in my mouth. Yum.

We hopped back in the car and drove to our final stop for lunch. Antica Salumeria Salvini is a place where they sell cured hams, sausages, and meats as well as fresh salads. As we approached the salumeria, Deb and Massi explained that the owner uses recipes that are several hundred years old and is so protective of them he hasn’t even shared them with his son.

Antica Salumeria Salvini, Siena, Italy

Inside Antica Salumeria Salvini.

When we entered the shop, Deb and Massi were greeted like old friends while Ann and I were welcomed like honored guests. We took a moment and wandered the shop admiring the hanging hams, drying sausages, and beautiful meats on display before heading to our table to settle in.

Salami at Antica Salumeria Salvini, Siena, Italy

Salami on display at Antica Salumeria Salvini.

We ordered a bottle of the house wine. When it came, something about the label caught our eyes. We looked closer and noticed that it was a picture of the owner of the shop lying on his side wearing only a crown of sausages. He did have a prosciutto ham placed strategically to preserve a little modesty.

House wine label at Antica Salumeria Salvini, Siena, Italy

Thank goodness for the well-placed prosciutto ham in this picture on the wine label.

It quickly became obvious that the owners are fun-loving people who are

Drive less so you can drink more.

This says, “Drive less so you can drink more,” in Italian.

full of personality. On a chalkboard was written, in Italian, “Drive less so you can drink more.” They were friendly, quick to share a laugh, and have a strange love of all things Texas.

We sat and chatted with Deb and Massi, by now feeling like they were old friends. Soon, the food began to come. Then more, and then more. It was like the salumeria was trying to beat us into submission.

First came a bowl of chilled pasta with pesto, then a bowl of panzanella, a bread salad made with tomatoes, basil, onion, salt, pepper, olive oil, and day-old bread crumbs.

Pasta with pesto at Antica Salumeria Salvini, Siena, Italy

This pasta with pesto was delicious!

Next came a meat and cheese board. On it were several different types of prosciutto, sausages, and cheeses, each one more delicious than the last. I’m not sure how long we sat eating, chatting, and eating some more, but I know that we felt a sense of relaxation down deep, the type of relaxation you feel when you finally disconnect from the rat race and settle in to a slower pace of life.

Antica salumeria salvino meat and cheese board, Siena, Italy

Who can resist the goodies on this delicious meat and cheese board?

At last our tour came to an end. Stuffed, we headed back to the car and then to our hotel. We got to our room, and I sat down to write about our experience, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I drifted off into a wonderful, relaxing, sleep. When we left the hotel later on that night to explore more of Siena, we did so with a much deeper understanding of the people and culture behind all we were seeing.

Photo with owner of Antica Salumeria Salvini

Steve and Ann stop for a photo with the owner of the Antica Salumeria Salvini.

We are so grateful we had the opportunity to do this foodie tour with Deb and Massi. We went places we would not have known existed, tasted about 30 new foods and wines we wouldn’t have known much about, and had behind-the-scenes experiences we never would have had without their expertise and connections.

Trust me, this is how you immerse yourself in Tuscany – one taste at a time.


Deb and Massi’s Foodie Tour and transfer services were provided to us free of charge, but the opinions expressed are our own. If you are traveling to Tuscany, you can book Deb and Massi’s services by visiting their websites at Italy Unfiltered or Massi the Driver.

 

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