it’s been a few years since we were in italy but, after our week in croatia, we caught the overnight ferry from split and headed to tuscany. the reason for this visit was a family wedding in san gimignano (pictured above in the distance), but first we had my birthday to celebrate, which we decided to do this in florence.
some generously provided local knowledge meant that we had the perfect evening, which kicked off with cocktails at se.sto. this is a rooftop bar which is on the river arno and has fabulous 360 degree views over the city. we then walked over the river to il santo bevitore, for supper.
wow! we had such a lovely evening here – delicious and very affordable wine plus really fabulous food and friendly service. the restaurant is large and buzzy and we quickly settled in with a couple of glasses of franciacorta, an italian sparkling wine from lombardy which knocks the socks off prosecco.
onto food. we decided to start with pasta - david chose riccioli pasta with spicy nduja and pecorino and i had fresh maccheroncetti with rabbit ragu, green olives and lemon zest. both dishes packed a flavour and, as we finished eating and pondered licking the plates , we talked how we could adjust our travel plans the following day so we could return (no chance, sadly!).
our secondi were equally delicious. stuffed (baby) calamari with acqua pazza, mussels, clams and tomatoes was my choice – the calamari filling was a rich combination of breadcrumbs with the sort of flavours you find in a bouillabaisse, which contrasted nicely with the rest of the dish’s light flavours and fresh taste of the sea. david’s choice was richer but equally lovely – veal belly (similar texture to pork belly but with a greater depth of flavour) with sweetbreads and rosemary potatoes. we finished with a pistachio crème brulee to share, served with boozy malaga icecream (a grown up take on rum and raisin, i think). we walked slowly back to our hotel, enjoying the views over the river and of the floodlight ponte vecchio, feeling very full and very lucky to have such lovely times to share.
the other highlight of our time in florence was wonderful ice cream - perche no! (which means why not!) was a particular favourite; strawberry, peach and lemon sorbets for me while david had pistachio, tiramisu and coffee ice-creams.
the wedding was obviously wonderful and the following day we had a great meal at fattoria la vialla, which was arranged by david’s sister (the beautiful bride). we ate under a fig tree, seated at long tables, covered in red and white checked tablecloths. doesn’t that sound heavenly? it really was.
i could obviously stop there and you could create your own italian fantasy in your mind, but i think it’s worth sharing a little more.
the tables were set out at the top of a steep path and when we arrived (a little late and slightly flustered) everyone was tucking into the aperitivos, which were served buffet style – a selection of their cured meats, cheeses, olives. we also tried some of the la vialla sparkling wines - i really recommend the unfiltered rose.
we then sat down, were provided with a mix of their red and white wines, and were served a selection of antipasti. mixed crostini (i remember versions with chicken livers and artichokes), panzanella, strips of a light herby omelette plus wonderfully fresh ricotta. linguine al pesto with mozzarella followed and then there was slow-cooked lamb, herby roasted potatoes and salad. pudding was a selection of biscotti with la vialla dessert wine. there was so much food and it was all delicious – a perfect way to showcase the range of food and wine sold by la vialla.
the plan was then to take a tour of the farm but i stayed at the table, with an abundant supply of biscuits and sweet wine plus plenty of friendly cats (in case i felt lonely).
however, i’m very pleased david went on the tour as he learnt something wonderful – la vialla mostly sell their products via mail order(this is how we have previously tried their food, christmas gift food parcels courtesy of david’s sister) but they have one shop. in frankfurt. oh yes! needless to say, we have visited and stocked up, so we can recreate tuscany in germany, whenever we feel like it.