Tuscany…ti amo

After getting lost trying to leave the car rental in Florence and a 45 minute white knuckle drive south on the Autostrada, we eased into the stunningly beautiful Valdichiana.

Ralph and I have combed over every inch of Tuscany falling in love with one town after another. We enjoy the larger cities for a couple of days but, then we crave the beauty of the Italian country side. Cortona is our favorite.

You can feel a gentle rhythm. There is a kindness that is omnipresent.

The streets are worn smooth from a thousand years of shoes trodding upon them. The stone buildings stand together creating a streetscape of protection and strength. Then there is the light…

We discovered La Grotta ten years ago. This has become “our” table.

The beef from the Valdichiana is world renowned. I chose a delicate veal scaloppine in lemon. In a very unladylike fashion, I sopped up the last of the sauce with some bread!

Ralph could not wait to enjoy his favorite pici with wild boar sauce. Tuscans take their pig very seriously and we are the better for it.

Every evening, our hotel, Villa Marsili, offered Vin Santo and contucci to their guests to enjoy before heading to bed.

Each day, Ralph and I drove to a neighboring Etruscan town to experience the local seasonings and wine. This waiter was preparing our glasses for a beautiful Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

I rarely order a cream sauce but this gnocchi in porcini and black truffle sauce was the house special so…

Every morning Ralph and I would walk up Via Nazionale to Piazza Signorelli. He read the day old London newspaper and I savoured my morning cappuccino.

Eye candy everywhere…

The butcher’s wife…

The local salamis are incredible.

You can see how thin the pizza crust is if you look at the edge of the pizza in the background.

The fields are being prepared for the winter.

Stunning…

This crostini with wild boar and balsamic reduction was compliments of the chef.

After reading the menu at Ristorante Ambrosia, I realized that we had happened upon something very special. Each dish started with a local base but was lifted to another level by the fearless imagination of chef Matteo Sciarri. This sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi – I just drooled onto my keyboard! – was as light as a cloud. They were floating in a mint infused pea reduction and garnished with oven baked cherry tomatoes.

The slow roasted pork had a cinnamon and star of anise crust – with the apple marmalatta, it was sublime. This kid could cook!!!!!

I could not resist the Vin Santo semifreddo with caramel crunches – sigh

It did not matter where I pointed my camera.

This beautiful plate of on-the-house nibblies are offered, at our favorite bar, to every table that stops in for a cocktail. Every time we happened in, the selection of treats was unique and different.

This dish was so clever. Warm potato gnocchi in a light tomato sauce sprinkled with cold crisp arugula and shards of young pecorino. It is kind of embarrassing to remember how many times I licked my plate!

So simple – pork chop fried in a skillet with a white wine reduction and green peppercorns.

Apparently, I resisted dessert less than I thought!

Pane di Toscano

Every time we leave Cortona, a little more of my heart is left behind.

Thanks for reading.