Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SARTEANO WEEKEND – SOUTHERN TUSCANY


I just spent a great weekend in southern Tuscany, so good that I wanted to share it for those who don’t know this neck of the woods.

Accommodation: I stayed in the abbazia di Spineto www.abbaziadispineto.com for two nights, just outside of Sarteano. It was simply wonderful. The abbey is celebrating their 1000th year anniversary this year, pretty incredible. It was bought in ruins in the 1980s by a couple who have restored it with grace and care without missing any nook and cranny, nor with a penny spared. The church of the abbey is still consecrated and so it is a popular place for weddings as the property is a one stop shop being able to supply the church service and the reception. There are many restored properties surrounding the main complex (villas, smaller houses, etc.), however, we stayed in the abbey proper in a wonderfully comfortable double room. The excellent breakfast was in a small dining room with one of those old fireplaces with seating benches inside the stone frame of the fireplace. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

Towns: we visited Sarteano, Cetona (part of the ‘100 borghi più belli dell’Italia’ category) and Chiusi.

Art:



Sarteano: Saturday mornings it is possible to visit a spectacular painted Etruscan tomb, the tomb of the Infernal Chariot (IV century B.C.). Bookings are essential through the local city museum of Sarteano www.museosarteano.it and tickets need to be paid here in advance. The tomb is located a few kilometres outside the town. Up close and personal without any barrier to the Etruscan frescoes in the tomb is an exhilarating experience. In spectacular condition they show a banqueting scene, a chariot scene with one of gods of the underworld, Charon, at the reins of a chariot being pulled by griffons and lions.

Chiusi: The archeological museum in Chiusi houses a great collection of Etruscan artefacts. The collection is outstanding and the museum is modern, well organised, well lit and well labelled, which makes for a very enjoyable visit.




Cetona: A walk around this small town along all the very narrow streets is lovely. The inhabitants seem all very house proud with many flower pots and scrubbed clean stone flagstones.

Food:

I had three magnificent meals.

Sarteano: Da Gagliano, no website Phone: 0578 268022

This was the second time for me here. The first time was for lunch and we liked it so much that this weekend was largely fuelled by the thought that we would eat here again, this time for dinner. The place was small and run by a couple, hubby on the floor and wife in the kitchen. It is Tuscan fare and all locally sourced ingredients and wine list. Four courses here because I knew that I would feel food envy if I had left one out…..they are listed in the Slow food guide and have been awarded a snail by the guide, which is a symbol of recognition for quality and slowness….. deserved.

Dessert at da Gangliano Sarteano
 
Cetona: Il Tiglio di piazza da Nilo

This was recommended by the owner of the abbey (accommodation). It was excellent. Lovely service, great menu, great wine list. The restaurant was full of locals for an evening of great food in good company. The restaurant is next to a bar / caffe where we had stopped in earlier in the afternoon for a coffee and a sneaky chocolate. There is nothing like the old school Italian coffee bars where the barman is dressed in his uniform and he makes a good coffee and is ready for a chat. Always a pleasure. We stopped in here for an after dinner digestive because we didn’t want the evening to end.

Chiusi: Il Grillo è buoncantore www.ilgrillobuoncantore.it

This was again one from the Slow food guide and also highlighted with a snail…. Again deserved. Three courses later, my only regret was that I hadn’t also ordered a primo to try their fresh pasta. I asked for seconds of the bread basket because their homemade bread was simply perfect. It didn’t come out immediately because she actually was making it for me on the spot (it was a sort of piadina). Again, a husband and wife partnership with the husband on the floor and wife in the kitchen. Every.single.ingredient. was sourced from a local producer. It was really astounding.

 
The antipasto was all home grown
Enjoying the Guinea fowl

This area is known for thermal baths. I didn’t visit any this trip….. I had to leave something for me to come back to. I will not be looking for new restaurants nor different accommodation because I want to go back to the same and start the experience all over again. 

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