Panzano in Chianti: Vino + Pasta + Tiramisu = F*#K Diets
When I first moved to London I spent a couple of months nannying for a family…the coolest family in fact. Just to prove how unbelievably cool they are, I spent a week holidaying with them in Panzano in Chianti, Italy.
Just south of Florence is where you’ll find the Chianti region. Into drinking vino? Well this part of Tuscany is all about producing kick-ass wine with a beautiful view.
If you’re thinking about becoming the next sommelier, then you better get to Greve. Every year, during the second weekend of September, something great happens…The Chianti Classico Wine Festival. You’ll see a mixture of locals and tourists come together to celebrate culture and wine. Unfortunately I was two weeks too early but it’s one to put in the diary for next time.
With Panzano and Greve only a forty-five minute drive away, it’s the perfect day excursion if you can brave the crazy Italian drivers. I was lucky enough that the family I was staying with have come to Tuscany for the last eight years, so they have mastered the Italian roads. Don’t let this deter you from visiting. A great alternative is hiring a driver for the day, that way you can drink the Chianti region dry and not have to worry about a sober driver.
S E E K
The great thing about the Chianti region is that all those winding roads lead to a stunning village.
l only visited Panzano, Greve and Castellina but there are many other villages such as Gradda and Volpaia you could visit.
One of the highlights on my trip was the three fig trees surrounding the property I was staying on. With an abundance of figs, we decided to dry them out to take back to London. The process was easy! We would pick a bag full of fresh figs, boil them for a couple of minutes before squeezing over a bit of lemon juice and then let the sun do its thing.
Just south of Panzano is where you’ll will find Castellina. It’s a fairly small medieval village with great gelato. Head to Gelateria di Castellina for a scoop or two and take a stroll down the main street.
On a Saturday, the Piazza Matteotti completely transforms into a busy market where you can pick up anything from fresh produce to clothing. Make sure you pick up a roast chicken and some local cheese!
More often than not, we would start the day at the new pasticcerie (Italian pastry shop) in Greve for our morning coffee hit followed by a delicious Sfogliatine (a buttery pastry usually filled with cream custard). I was told that the pasticcerie had only been open for 2 weeks before I had arrived and the secret was out. The shop was packed to the rafters with locals having their morning coffee or picking up some la schiacciata (the Tuscan version of focaccia).
It’s hard not to miss the taxidermy boar that greets you as you walk into Antica Macelleria Falorni. Founded in 1806, these guys are no amateurs when it comes to salami.
E A T and D R I N K V I N O
Don’t think you are coming to Italy to lose weight! There is no denying I ate my fair share of pasta, cheese and gelato while I was on holiday…not to mention the large quantity of Chianti wine to wash it all down with.
If you’re not familiar with Chianti wine then you might just think I’m some sort of alcoholic that keeps bringing it up. Chianti Classico is like a pedigree dog – by law you are required to use at least 80% of Sangiovese grapes from the Chianti region for it to be classed as a Classico wine. So how will you know? To show the authenticity of the wine, there will be an unmissable black rooster seal found on the bottle.
This time around I didn’t do any wine tastings….surprised?! If you are thinking of doing a day of wine tastings, then check out Decanter.com ‘Top 10 Tuscan Wineries’ for some inspiration.
From the picturesque gardens to the beautiful wine and olive oil produced on site, this renaissance villa is worth a visit.
If you read through the reviews on Tripadvisor, some people may lay claim to the fact that Mona Lisa was born there. Possibly the confusion is that Lisa Gherardini (Mona Lisa) was born in Florence in a house called Via Maggio? Or that her cousins owned the villa from 1421? Anyway, there is a high chance that she spent a lot of time wandering the gardens.
Want to bring a gift back that is better than a shitty magnet or keyring? Vignamaggio has a small shop in the centre of Greve where you can pick yourself up a gift wrapped bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil for €11.50.
MEAT MEAT MEAT. Did I get all the meat lovers attention? Dario Cecchini is an internationally acclaimed butcher who hails from Panzano. Did you know that Anthony Bourdain said that Cecchini is possibly the most famous butcher in Italy, if not the world. Check out his butcher shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini or any of his restaurants – Mac Dario, Solociccia and Officina della Bistecca.
Want to get your hands dirty and have a spare €200 in your back pocket? Pay to be a ‘butcher for the day’ and get the opportunity to go behind the scenes.
We had lunch at Mac Dario where we ate Dario Checchini’s version of a burger – good quality meat and no bun! This place is certainly a carnivores dream.
This restaurant truly captures what Tuscany is all about…wine, food and stunning views. La Cantinetta Do Rignana has a great terrace that overlooks the grapevines. We just stopped in for lunch but I would highly recommend dining in the evening so you can catch the lovely sunset.
Perched on the side of a windy road, Uscio e Bottega is a hidden gem. Charmed by the simplicity of the food and the friendly service, I went twice for lunch. Definitely order Coccoli, prosciutto and Stracchino (fried dough balls with ham and cheese) I must warn you though, they are dangerously moorish!
Uscio’s is a favourite with the locals and tourists, so be sure to make a reservation.
There is something special about Ristoro di Lamole. After dodging Italian drivers through the windy roads, you are rewarded with the most incredible view. The restaurant is found in a small village at the top of the hill over looking vineyards and olive trees.
One of the owners, Filippo greeted us when we arrived and instantly made us feel at home. I had a delicious poached egg starter with shaved truffle, followed by a basil and mozzarella gnocchi. It doesn’t end here though, the true star of the night was the tiramisu. Being one of my favourite desserts and Italian specialty, I knew I had to save room.
After a week under the Tuscan sun, I’m back in grey old London dreaming of cheese and wine.