Gaiole, Chianti was the next stop on our Italian adventure. We stayed at Coltibuono, a 1000-year-old monastery with zen-like grounds and delicious Chianti wines. Coltibuono allowed us quiet, recuperation moments as we jaunted off for fun and unique activities that Chianti offered.
On the top of our must-do list was to have dinner in Panzano, a small hilltop town, home to Dario Cecchini the renowned chef and butcher whom we had previously seen on a Chef’s Table episode and an Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”.
Before arriving in the village of Panzano, our driver proudly showed us the church with art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Then we excitedly headed to Dario’s butcher shop and dinner.
Since Dario is world famous and often traveling, we doubted we would see him. As we drove up the small, cobblestone street, there he was in front of his shop pouring glasses of Chianti to all!
After sipping wine and eating crostini with burro del Chiante, aka mouth-watering lard, we gave Dario a bag of Murphys Beef Rub.
He opened the bag, tasted it and proclaimed it delicious!
Dario then gave us a package of his salt blend that he uses on beef.
At the appointed hour for the family-style dinner, we were escorted to our table and placed between German and Israeli couples, making great international conversations. The menu features five courses of beef, all with numbers coded to the placemat showing where it comes from on the animal.
Needless to say, if you do not like raw and rare beef, do not come to this dinner.
Tuscan beans, potatoes and crudités rounded out the meal with the last morsel being a mouth-watering olive oil cake!
After indulging in the complete Dario Cecchini experience, we were truly captivated by his profound passion for both the animals and the art of butchery.
Dario’s unwavering commitment to sourcing the finest local meats and treating each animal with respect and dignity before it graced our plates was nothing short of inspiring.
With our hearts still warmed by the genuine passion of Dario Cecchini and the exceptional flavors of Chianti’s culinary heritage, we eagerly anticipated our next day’s adventure: truffle hunting in the enchanting Chianti countryside.
The next morning, as we arrived on a hilltop with about four homes, we were welcomed by Christina and Diego, who, in addition to caring for their vineyard and orchard, had been seasoned truffle hunters for years.
The land has been in Christina’s family for generations, and as we hiked through the rolling hills and dales with Christina, Diego, and their trusty truffle-hunting dog, Lightning, we were in for an incredible truffle-hunting experience.
And find truffles we did – large, aromatic and beautiful truffles. At their vineyard, we met Diego’s parents and niece who were working the vines.
As we ventured further, we came across a cave on a hillside. Christina shared with us that it was actually a bomb shelter her grandparents had used during World War II, adding a poignant layer to the history of this family’s land.
Back at their home, Christina prepared a five-course lunch.
Every course had truffles, including vanilla ice cream, although at that point, Jan selected chocolate ice cream without truffles!
Diego made sure our glasses were filled with wine. This couple won our hearts with their warm, open hospitality and passion for the farm and environment.
While there’s still so much more to recount about our unforgettable Chianti experience, from the delightful wine tastings and gourmet dinners to the enchanting sight of fireflies dancing amidst the endless hills and valleys adorned with vineyards and farms, we believe the best way to truly savor this captivating part of the world is to plan your own adventure here.
And speaking of adventure, let’s not forget the mouth-watering olive oil cake we enjoyed as the final course of our family-style dinner at Dario’s.
The combination of flavors and textures in that dessert was simply so divine I had to make it when I returned back home.
If you’re like us and want to create a piece of Chianti magic in the comfort of your own home, click here for the Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake recipe.
Buon appetito! 🤌🇮🇹