During the Easter holidays the whole of Italy was classified “red” from 3 – 5 April. In a red zone it is prohibited to leave your hometown except for work and health reasons.
Over the Easter period we were allowed to visit friends and families in their homes with a maximum of two visitors at a time.
Tuscany will remain under the heaviest restrictions until April 20, as I read in a newspaper. The infections are not declining.
Last Saturday I went for a bike ride and pizza dinner with my friends. It’s been weeks since we met. We’re not seeing each other often these days because we do not live in the same municipality. I live in Montepulciano. My friends have a house in Montallese and in Chiusi. Two towns in Tuscany.
Pizza is a social food. A food for family and friends. I never make a frozen pizza at home. For me a pizza is to be eaten at a pizzeria. It must be eaten immediately after it comes out of pizza oven and must be made by an expert!
Our friend in Montallese has recently installed a wood fired pizza oven in his garage. He prepared for us a variety of pizzas. Gianfranco is an Italian pizza chef!
I had a great dinner and I really enjoyed the pizzas. It has been a long time since I have had a so good pizza. Too long…
Pizza with spinach
Pizza with truffle
Pizza with anchovies
Pizza with wurstel
The nationwide curfew from 10 PM till 5 AM is still active. In Italy we usually eat late, around 8 – 9 PM. With the current rules we eat a little earlier.
Online wine tasting
I have celebrated Easter at my home in Montepulciano.
I’ve had a fabulous evening with American people. Together we’ve tasted -virtually- some nice Tuscan wines from the winery Gattavecchi.
Alberto Giorgi is a local farmer and a small producer of aglione. He grows fruit, vegetables and aglione -garlic- in the Valdichiana valley.
His farms are located in Montepulciano and Chianciano.
Every Wednesday and Friday morning is a farmers’ market in Montallese. Alberto is always there with his market stall to sell fresh vegetables and fruits. His prices for the local food are good value for money!
Montallese is located in the province of Chiusi. It is a small village along the road.
Aglione “giant garlic”
Aglione is a giant garlic variety from the “Valdichiana Senese” area. The aglione is also called the “aglio del bacio” (kissing garlic). This garlic is mild, odourless and easy to digest.
The weight is about 50 gram to 1-2 kilos. But 1-2 kilos is more the exception rather than the rule.
Every year the seeds of the aglione (which are about 4-5 cm in size) are sown in September. The aglione bulbs are ready to harvest in June. Climate plays a crucial role at harvest time of the aglione. Many rainfall, pests and diseases can affect the garlic crop.
After the harvest time the garlic should be left out in the sun. The giant garlic is still green. Subsequently store your aglione in a dry and well ventilated place. You can last aglione for one year after it’s harvested, on the condition that the garlic is being kept in a dry and shady place.
Note: humidity can lead to damage of the aglione.
Flavor for foods
You can use aglione as a normal ingredient in all kinds of food dishes, such as sauces, dressings, vegetables, stews and meats.
The two most famous local pasta dishes from the Valdichiana are: Pici all’Aglione (pasta i pici with tomato-garlic sauce) and Pici con le Bricciole (pasta i pici with breadcrumbs).
This is excellent food you need to try when in Tuscany!
I pici all’aglione
I pici al ragù
I pici ai frutti di mare | il Convento wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
Pici pasta are thick homemade spaghetti. In Italy it is a first course. The pasta is also known as Pici Senesi. They are originally from southern Tuscany around Siena. Hence the name Pici Senesi.
In Montalcino they are called “i pinci”. Montalcino is a hill town and comune in the province of Siena.
It is not difficult to make fresh pasta i pici. Still me, as a foreigner in Italy, I am not used working with flour and water. I don’t have the technique of pasta making, unfortunately. I prepare more easy, healthy and quick meals.
The ingredients of the pasta dough for i pici are simple: flour, water and olive oil.
Homemade pasta i pici
With your hands flat you roll the pasta from the center outwards.
Pici is a fat and rough pasta. There are many varieties to choose among i pici:
Pici all’aglione –tomato and garlic sauce- Pici ragù –meat sauce- Pici al ragù d’anatra –duck sauce-
In supermarkets you can buy fresh pici. The pici from the supermarkets are delicious as well. I eat them often with “ai frutti di mare” (fish) or with fresh made Pesto Genovese.
Of course fresh pasta tastes better, but with a little creativity and flexibility you can make the best pasta dishes at home!
Restaurant La Solita Zuppa
The owners of restaurant La Solita Zuppa are Andrea with his wife Lorella Casagni. Andrea is a top chef and sommelier. La Solita Zuppa is a Slow Food restaurant in Chiusi città, the old town.
La Solita Zuppa offers traditional dishes. On the menu you can choose from many pasta dishes with typical and local ingredients.
Every morning they make their own fresh pasta. When I visited La Solita Zuppa Andrea had prepared the pasta dough for me to roll out.
It was a nice thing to do! For a moment I felt like an Italian “mamma” with many pasta making experience.
Having dinner at restaurant La Solita Zuppa is perfect for an evening of typical Tuscan plates. The atmosphere is cosy. The service is friendly and professional.
I pici al tartufo bianco
The dishes they offer are delicious and based on its long history and location. And if you love wine you should check out their wine list. Most of the wines are local and match excellent with the food they serve.
After weeks of lockdown they have opened their restaurant since May 27. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance. La Solita Zuppa is closed on Tuesdays.
La Solita Zuppa is famous for their Lampredotto sandwich. Lampredotto is a local Tuscan street food specialty. It is the fourth stomach of the cow. Tuscany has a tradition of eating internal organs. They use these organs to create delicious dishes with a strong and spicy flavor.
Personally I don’t like Lampredotto. It has a rich fatty texture.
But the tradition of food is important for the locals. It is a way of life and history. Most of the people in Tuscany love eating Lampredotto.
Chiusi – Siena
Chiusi is near Montepulciano. In a relaxing countryside sits the ancient city of Chiusi. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Val di Chiana valley and the Umbrian hills.
Chiusi città is the old town and Chiusi Scalò is the modern area.
The story of the Tuscan town Chiusi is closely linked to the Etruscans. In every corner you can breathe in the Etruscan presence and there are many details that refer to king Porsenna.
The burial place of the legendary Etruscan king Porsenna would have been beneath the town of Chiusi. As we know now, the underground routs, the labyrinths, were part of a water supply system dug by the Etruscans.
Chiusi is an appreciated city by visitors. In the ancient town you find a number of historical and archeological sites. One of the most interesting museums to visit is the “National Archeological Museum”: Museo Nazionale Etrusco. The museum reconstructs the history of Chiusi and its territory through numerous finds from the Iron Age to the Lombard age.
It is one of the most important museums in Italy for its knowledge of Etruscan art.
How do I reach Chiusi
There are different ways to get to Chiusi. By car and by train. Chiusi Scalò is an important train station. Operated by Trenitalia, from Rome and Florence are several train services.
It is very easy to find a taxi in Chiusi Scalò. There are also busses that take you from the station to the centre of Chiusi.
One of my favorite gelateria in Chiusi Scalo is Green Bar in Via Cassia Aureli I, 107. This gelateria is at walking distance from the train station.
Lago di Chiusi
Chiusi’s Lake is only 5 minutes drive from the centre of Chiusi città. You can bike and hike in this wonderful nature area. For food lovers I recommend restaurant Pesce d’Orco. They offer traditional fish “pesce di lago brustico” from the Etruscan civilization. Yummy!
Il brustico “pesce del lago”
Every year in September is a run and walk around the lake: Giro Lago di Chiusi. It is a 18k run. A nice run experience! And if you don’t run you might participate to the organized walk.
Frantoio means olive oil mill or olive oil press. Many olive oil producers rely on an external frantoio. Il Frantoio di Montepulciano is established in Montepulciano and counts 600 members. It is a farmers cooperative that supply members various services for the production of extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil production in Siena
The olive groves are cultivated in the province of Siena. The gently rolling hills around Montepulciano are suitable for cultivating olive groves. The altitude of the hills are about 300-650 m above sea level.
In the province of Siena are many small producers who cultivate olive trees. The farmers take care of the plants by pruning and harvesting for having good olive oil every year.
After harvesting by hand or with mechanical shakers the farmers bring the olives in boxes to the olive mill “frantoio”.
The olives are washed to remove dirt. When ready, the olives will be crushed and pressed cold (26-28 degrees) in a modern machine.
Thanks to the cold press the olives keep their properties for a high quality extra virgin olive oil.
After the extraction of the oil, the olive oil will be soon packed in bottles, cans or in small tins.
Different types of olive oil
Il Frantoio di Montepulciano produces different types of high quality olive oil. Olive oil extra virgin from il Frantoio di Montepulciano is obtained from the olive varieties Leccino, Frantoio and Moraiolo.
Olio extra virgin di Oliva 100% Italiano
Oil produced with a range of traditional Tuscan olive varieties and other Italian olives (Puglia). This extra virgin olive oil presents a bitter taste.
Olio extra virgin di Oliva DOP Terre di Siena
DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) guarantees the area of production and qualitative characteristics of the olives. Olio extra virgin di Oliva DOP Terre di Siena is a very high quality olive oil.
The olive oil is green in colour. It has a strong taste. An excellent olive oil for dressings.
Olio extra virgin di Oliva IGP Toscano
IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) is similar to DOP. IGP olive oil extra virgin is obtained with olives grown in Tuscany. This oil is quality guaranteed.
Olio extra virgin di Oliva Biologico
Organic extra virgin olive oil is olive oil produced following the European regulation on organic production and labeling on organic products. The olive oil must be obtained from locally grown organic olives. These olives are not treated by chemicals.
This organic oil has a smooth flavor and a soft taste.
Information olive oil
All products mentioned above have different flavors. But the fresher the oil is, the better it tastes. Above all extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and consumption of olive oil may benefit your overall health in several ways.
Throughout the year you can visit the mill “Il Frantoio di Montepulciano” and taste the oils that are produced.
A video of the production process
From harvest to olive milling to hand-bottling: extra vergine olio d’oliva.