Vacations Spring 2018

Worldly Delights

BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE OF TUSCANY ©TIM JOHNSON

CHEESE PLATE AT LA TANA DI UGO ©TIM JOHNSON

I’m deep in the heart of Tuscany, but not the one you might expect – not the labyrinthine lanes of nearby Florence, or Siena and its famous, biannual equine race. This is a hidden Tuscany: unknown villages, riverside hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and small-town chefs cooking some of the best fare I’ve ever tasted. Arriving the previous evening, Carri picked me up in Florence, traversing a dwindling succession of roads of highway to byway, and byway to stone and dirt, finally finishing at his family’s farm. The house glowing, his mother waited with meatballs and wine inside. I awake the next morning in a medieval tower, part of the neighbour’s house, and find myself surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, unseen in the inky blackness of last night. Walking down to Carri’s place, we’re quickly off to the Trattoria l’Pepolino, anchoring one end of the ancient Medici Bridge in the medieval town of Pontassieve. While it helps to have a friend like Carri, it’s not necessary for the casual traveller – the town is less than a half-hour by commuter rail from Florence, with trains running here as often as twice per hour, its cobblestone core easily traversed on foot. Seated at a simple table, we inspect the handwritten menus laying out the courses ahead: primi, secondi, contorni . The items already sold out are simply scratched off. Carri shares that we won’t find spaghetti and meatballs here, not in the

HIDDEN CUISINE IN TUSCANY A taste of the good life in Tuscany.

By Tim Johnson

Nothing about this feels real – in fact, it all seems like something from a classic film, perhaps one by Federico Fellini. The air just feels a little too light, our bellies rather full, the blooms of midday wine spreading on our cheeks. No matter what, we all agree that, for the moment, we’re living La Dolce Vita – the good life. Piled into a 1960s-era vintage VW van, a vehicle purchased from the Gucci family – yes, that Gucci family – I join a

Tuscan friend, Matteo Carri, his brother, Marco, and two of their friends, twisting through the hills of Tuscany. Having finished lunch in a town found in very few travel guides, eaten at a restaurant without a website or much social media, we’re cruising to a vineyard in the long rays of late afternoon. A friend is there waiting for us, most of the day having been consumed with our primary pursuit here: eating and drinking.

56 • Vacations ® • Spring 2018

BOTTLE OF SELVAPIANA, A LOCAL CHIANTI WINE ©TIM JOHNSON

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