Being a tourist at home
A lovely restaurant in Colle Val d'Elsa | A day trip to Pienza | A rice pudding cake from Massa and Carrara for the Italian Liberation Day
Hello from a Tuesday that feels like a Monday.
After an important deadline on Friday, when I send back the edits of the manuscript, we took three days off for Easter. We spent Saturday and Sunday with the family, eating and napping, and then eating again. On Saturday afternoon we went back to the cinema after more than 2 years to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them with my sister Claudia and her boyfriend Marco. I’m a Harry Potter fan since immemorial times, and it felt magical indeed to be back sitting in a red velvet seat of a theatre, waiting for the movie to begin.
After the cinema, where we had the whole theatre for us, we stopped for dinner in one of our favourite restaurants in Colle val d’Elsa, my home town, Bel mi’ Colle. They use local, organic produce, cheese and charcuterie from local farms, and have a menu with typical dishes that never feel old, or boring. It is the perfect place to have an authentic taste of this corner of Tuscany.
On a side note, we’re working on a Colle val d’Elsa foodie guide for all Letters from Tuscany subscribers, as we feel you would really love to spend your Tuscan holidays in such a quiet town with an incredible food scene (from a Michelen star restaurant to typical trattorias). Stay tuned for more.
On Easter Monday, we did exactly what I always advice against: we took a day trip to Pienza, in Val d’Orcia, in one of the busiest days of the year.
I always recommend avoiding big holidays when visiting the most loved, well known, and crowded towns here in Tuscany: being it San Gimignano, Pienza, or Volterra, if you have the chance, explore these towns during the low season, on a weekday, in the early morning or in the late afternoon to stay away from the mass of tourists. Easter Monday, Pasquetta, is when everyone in Italy has simultaneously the same idea: why don’t we have a walk in [fill thre gap with a very touristic town]? And so yesterday we drove to Pienza.
I felt as a living cliché when I packed a paper bag full of fresh fava beans, knowing that I could buy the best pecorino di Pienza at Cacio di Ernello, right beside the parking lot where we were planning to leave our car (and where, against all odds, we found a spot after just 10 minutes of waiting).
Fresh fava beans and pecorino cheese is THE food you are supposed to eat on a Tuscan Easter picnic, so I abided by the tradition.
In my defence, we decided to have a picnic on a stone bench in a small garden just outside Pienza, we brought everything from home except the cheese, and strolled through Pienza when most of the people were sitting in a restaurant or queueing for a panino.
We had a gelato at BuonGusto, then we left to say hi to our friends at Agriturismo Il Rigo.
Read our Val d’Orcia foodie guide on the blog.
For today’s (paywalled) recipe we go to another area in Tuscany, Massa and Carrara.
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A rice pudding cake for the Italian Liberation Day
I’ve never been to Massa and Carrara, two towns in the northwest of Tuscany, wedged between Liguria and Emilia Romagna. But a few years ago, during a book launch in Volterra, I met Angela, a bookshop owner whose family had moved there from Massa and Carrara. She gave me the chance to get to know her culinary heritage.
She gifted me a family recipe for torta di riso carrarina, a rice pudding cake belonging to the culinary traditions of that area. She told me they bake this cake for Easter or for Italian Liberation Day, on the 25th of April.
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