@Igerssiena founder and instagramer Francesca de Munari’s Val D’Orcia photos truly capture the essence of this fascinating corner of Tuscany, a green valley that stretches between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto where iconic cypress lined white roads and hidden churches instil poetry all throughout the land.

We interviewed Francesca about her Val D’Orcia photos, her favorite itineraries and suggestions on how to experience Tuscany at its fullest. Let this article inspire you – the Val D’Orcia is but a one hour drive away from Dievole!

#buongiornocosì #goodmorning #alba

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You travel a lot – how do you feel every time you return to Siena? By looking at your Val D’Orcia photos, it’s quite evident that distance rekindles the photographic passion you feel for your land.

This is very true, I love travelling and am curious by nature so every time there’s a chance to travel I seize it! My journeys don’t only involve international destinations: I truly believe that Italy is the most beautiful country in the world and there are still so many parts of it that I’ve never seen!

Returning from a trip also requires that you re-enter in a mindset made of daily tasks (taking care of work, family, the house) that can be traumatic at times, but hey, let’s face the truth: we live in such a beautiful region that offers breathtaking views just a short car or motorcycle drive away and who doesn’t have an hour of time to spare to discover the heavenly corners of our countryside?

Our natural surroundings change colours with the seasons, this has a very strong therapeutic influence on me. I love taking long walks and admiring the ever-changing scenery. Taking pictures is just my way of burning those images into my mind.

#valdorcia#owf2016 #orciadoc #igerssiena #orciawinefestival #raccontamiltuovino

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You have a very special bond with light – how do you manage to capture the essence of the world-famous “Tuscan Sun”?

I really wouldn’t know… maybe it’s just luck or my working schedule that has me up and running from sunrise to sunset… So once I’m driving over of from my office, how could I not take advantage of the two most beautiful moments of the day?

#cypress #valdorcia #skyporn #clouds

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Which are your favorite locations and is getting lost an important part of the experience? Do you have any funny stories you would like to share with us about how you found your most beloved spots? 

My favorite locations are Bagno Vignoni and the areas around Pienza… Being lost is a fundamental part of exploring, also because the Val d’Orcia is so much more than what it is usually portrayed to be, and how could you ever discover its secrets without getting lost? There’s nothing more beautiful than to wander in our region’s nature.

A cute anecdote? The first time me and my husband went off to look for the Madonna di Vitaleta chapel, a sight I had often admired in magazines and postcards but never in real life. We managed to pinpoint the area thanks to Google Maps but couldn’t find the precise route, so we parked in the middle of a field and walked for about 50 minutes in the middle of nowhere hoping to spot our destination sooner or later… and we did! So we found the chapel and a pretty easy way to get there.

#vitaleta #chapel #cypress #cloudsporn #clouds #sky #skyporn

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Do you have any tips for the Instagram community on how to approach the Val D’Orcia territory? Trace an ideal itinerary for all of those brave photographers that wish to discover the beautiful and mysterious facets of this charming stretch of Tuscany.

My first tip is to take your time and take it slow. I often meet people who expect to be able to visit Val d’Orcia and the Crete Senesi in half a day.

I would book a stay in a nice hotel or agriturismo, for starters, in order to really enjoy and savour the peaceful, colourful and fragrant nature and also taste some of the region’s most typical flavours. This should become the starting point of a day of intense shooting.

My suggested itinerary would start from San Quirico’s famous cypress lined path, just under Montalcino. From here, I would head to Pienza and stop by the Madonna di Vitaleta chapel (they recently put up a road sign) and finish in Monticchiello. On the way back, I recommend drivin towards Bagno Vignoni to bring the day to a close by admiring Poggio Covili’s iconic cypress road.

Sognando il prossimo weekend #bagnovignoni #terme #relax #love #ioetu

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Thank you Francesca for sharing your stories and Val D’Orcia photos with us and our readers!

[email protected] su instagram and twitter!

 

As Fall approaches, don’t curb your craving for fresh and crunchy veggies: here’s a simple trick that will preserve Summer vegetables and keep your dishes green and lively even as the year shifts into colder temperatures. La Giardiniera is a traditional Italian peasant food conceived to make the most of nature’s abundance. Its evocative name derives from word “Giardino”, which is Italian for “Garden”, from which the recipe borrows its healthy colours and fresh aromas.

INGREDIENTS TO PRESERVE SUMMER VEGETABLES

300 gr celery

300 gr onions

300 gr cauliflower

300 gr carrots

300 gr zucchini

300 gr mixed peppers (red, yellow and green)

200 gr radish

1 liter of Dievole Chianti Classico Wine Vinegar

750 ml Le Due Arbie White Wine

1,5 liter Water

halved garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

50 gr Salt

600 gr Brown sugar

Black Pepper to taste

Dievole 100 % Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

HOW TO PREPARE LA GIARDINIERA

Wash and finely chop all vegetables. Mix vinegar, wine, water, sugar, bay leaves, salt and crushed pepper in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook each vegetable type separately until tender-crisp then dry with a clean cloth. Once the process has been completed, do not throw out the cooking liquid – stick it in the fridge and let it cool down for 25 minutes. In the meantime, remove the lids and prepare the jars you will be preserving your pickled Giardiniera veggies in: wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well then sterilise them in a pot of boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Let the lids simmer separately in a small saucepan for about ten minutes. Take the clean jars and fill them with the previously cooked vegetables, 2 garlic cloves, the chilled brine and top with a bit of Dievole extra virgin olive oil in order to better preserve the vegetables’ flavour and temper the acidity. Once your jars have been covered and cooled down, put them in boiling water and make sure that they are vacuum-sealed correctly. Store in a dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. We suggest not opening the jars for at least a month, this way the flavours will really set in and you will be able to preserve summer vegetables for up to several weeks!

HOW TO USE YOUR HOMEMADE GIARDINIERA

Its sweet and sour flavour pairs perfectly with fish and meat dishes – at Dievole, for example, we love to preserve Summer vegetables and serve them aside our beef tartare with fresh homemade mayonnaise and green sauce. You can also use your giardiniera to add some color to appetiser dishes and cold cut platters. This delicious condiment also travelled across the ocean and has a spicy sister variant in Chicago thanks to the culinary knowledge passed on by nostalgic Italian immigrants who just couldn’t and wouldn’t let go of this easy-to-make relish… and who could blame them! In this specific part of the USA it is usually used as a dressing in beef and sausage sandwiches or as a pizza topping. There are many recipes and uses for the Giardiniera, so feel free to experiment and share your discoveries with us!

Visiting some of Italy’s famous cathedrals tops many a bucket list. Florence’s Duomo tends to get most of the attention, but you should also strive to visit Siena Cathedral, which offers unparalleled artistic variety. Wondering what there is to see? We’ve outlined the key highlights.

Look down: Siena Cathedral Floor

Siena Duomo Floor

Siena Duomo Floor

As if you needed any other excuse to visit Tuscany in autumn: every year, usually from August to the end of October, the amazing marble intarsia floor of Siena Cathedral is visible to the public. For the rest of the year, it’s protected by carpets, with only a few select panels on display. Walk through the church from start to finish and you’ll find the entirety of the floors elaborate. The intricate designs took several centuries to complete and involved input from dozens of artists – Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni and Domenico Beccafumi, to name a few. Giorgio Vasari famously called the cathedral’s pavimento “the most beautiful, large and magnificent floor ever made”. The impressive panels are noteworthy not just for their technical precision and beauty, but for the biblical narratives they depict.

 

Look beyond: Porta del Cielo

On the porta del cielo tour, visitors get unusual high-up viewpoints like this one

On the porta del cielo tour, visitors get unusual high-up viewpoints like this one

If the marble groundwork “floors” you, the Porta del Cielo will transport you to paradise – or at least offer a showstopping view of the treasures below. Only in recent years have visitors to Siena’s cathedral been able to explore its hidden spiral staircases, which take you to the building’s peak in an allegorical embodiment of the story of Jacob’s ladder (in the Book of Genesis, a ladder toward heaven appeared to Jacob in a dream he had at Bethel). The official Porta del Cielo or “Gate of Heaven” itinerary is typically offered to the public beginning in March, and requires advance reservation (not for those with a fear of heights!).

 

Projected: Divina Bellezza

A moment from "Divine Beauty. Dreaming Siena," a 3D videomapping show

A moment from “Divine Beauty. Dreaming Siena,” a 3D videomapping show

Summer in Italy is a special time of year, and not just because locals look forward to ferie (vacations). The changing of the season is an event in and of itself, and numerous regional rituals celebrate the season, as well as key dates like the summer solstice on June 21. Siena embraces the lightest night of the year not by sipping Spritzes in the squares, but through special openings and events at the cathedral. Past editions of Lux in Nocte have included guided visits through the “Gate of Heaven” and classical music concerts, enjoyed from the pews or while you wander.

Throughout the warmer season, on the other hand, the Opera Duomo di Siena has recently begun offering seasonal 3D videomapping shows projected against the various monuments of piazza Duomo – a cool, contemporary way to explore the city’s heritage. Frescoes, noble figures and government officials mingle in rousing re-tellings of key Sienese stories.

 

Reading: Piccolomini Library

Piccolomini Library | Photo Miguel Hermoso Cuesta (Wikipedia)

Piccolomini Library | Photo Miguel Hermoso Cuesta (Wikipedia)

The crisp chiaroscuro of Siena Cathedral’s marble floors may have left you wondering where to find the cathedral’s “true colors”, so to speak. Peek inside the Piccolomini Library and you’ll immediately have your answer: the golds, reds, blues and greens are almost jarring after the comparatively-subdued nave.  Lavishly frescoed by the Umbria-born artist Pinturicchio, this space highlights key events in the life of Pope Pius II (born Enea Silvio Piccolomini) and houses an impressive collection of illuminated manuscripts. Be sure to study the mythological wonders on the ceiling – craning your neck is absolutely worth it in this case.

 

For more information and ticket bookings, see the official website www.operaduomo.siena.it.

So you know you like wine, and you’d like to get to know more. The first big step is making the choice to refine your palate, training it to learn how to taste wine like a pro. The following are some steps to get you started.

Friends with bottles

Tasting Dievole wine with friends makes it even more enjoyable

Tasting Dievole wine with friends makes it even more enjoyable

Learning to taste wine is a commendable experience, but it ought to also be a social one. Besides not drinking alone, choosing to go down this path with friends will make it both more enjoyable and easier. First, for a practical reason: having more bottles open will allow you to make comparisons between wines (be they between regions, grapes, producers or whatever you choose). Second, because talking through the experience with people at the same level as you will make learning more fun – just like a study group for exams used to make school more bearable. Try to set up a wine study group, or ask about tastings and opportunities at your local vintages shop. Or plan on an intensive self-guided course “in residence” by spending your vacation right in a winery, like at Dievole, which offers both hospitality and of course wine tasting!

The right environment

If you want to truly learn how to taste wine like a pro, you’ll need to dedicate a bit of special time and place to it. Tasting at a late night party, especially if you are eating or smoking, probably isn’t ideal – but neither is a hospital-like setting. You will want to create a pleasant environment with natural light, and possibly approach your tasting mid-morning or mid-afternoon, away from meals. There may also be better days for tasting – some people swear by drinking wine by the lunar calendar, avoiding “root days” (when the moon is in the earth signs). No matter what day it is, ask your guests to avoid perfume and smoke, as both will intrude upon your all-important sense of smell.

Look first, then…

Just like when you were learning to cross the road safely at elementary school and they said “look first, then…”, the same applies to tasting wine. Using a good quality, egg shaped glass with a wide top, pour in the wine, and take the time to consider how it looks. You should observe the wine from the side, held up to natural light, hoping to find a wine that is clear, with a naturally brilliant sparkle.

Tilting the glass will help you better understand its colour – is that white wine hay coloured or more amber? Is the red closer to rust, wood or ruby? Is there a secondary colour you can spot at the edges that might indicate greater age and complexity?

Finally, a swirl will allow you to evaluate the wine’s “legs” – if they hold together well, the wine is generally more corpulent, if they are light and abundant, the wine has a lower alcohol and glycerin content.

Follow your nose

"nose" the wine

“nose” the wine

Some people are more sensitive to smell than others, which may be due to natural proclivity or to different habits – for example, an allergic-type non-smoker will be able to sniff out a smoker’s sweater from across the room. You should be able to start understanding the wine by starting to smell from further away, hovering your nose first above the glass. In this phase you can look for any “off” smells that might indicate a fundamental problem with the wine.

Then you can go deeper, sticking your nose well into the glass – though not for too long, otherwise you’ll lose sensitivity! Certain fruits, flowers, herbs and minerals tend to be discoverable in wines – depending on the grape. With experience, you will get to know what to expect, as well as to better identify what you smell. For example, an annata Chianti Classico like Dievole’s 2014, made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, smells like fresh red fruits, denoting a young, fresh wine.

Train your tongue

Last but not least, we go to the mouth. Experts recommend using the spittoon if you’re tasting wines – you can always go back and drink the one you like best, when you’re finished with the process. Take in a mouthful and swash the wine around, aerating it by slurping in from the sides of your mouth so that the liquid hits all the right spots.

At this point you’re evaluating a few things (beyond “I like it” or “I don’t like it” – which may also be useful!). Dryness vs. sweetness will be one of the first things that hits you, and one that you cannot determine from smell (ever tried to smell a bowl of sugar?). The other important thing to determine is acidity, which balances sweetness and may be defined by when the back edges of the tongue curl up in response. This is awfully close to the response our mouth has to tannins, which make our mouth pucker up – though the issue is rather more complex and would merit an article of its own.

Then, you can see if you can pick out the fruits, spices and herbs you identified through smell, or determine any more fine elements now that you’re combining all your senses.

In the end, with enough practice, you will be able to determine things like country – down to the region – and grape variety in a blind tasting.

Reading material

Although tasting is the most important step in learning to taste wine like a pro, reading a few books in the matter can only increase your knowledge. To write The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil went to the trouble of tasting over 10,000 wines (!), which she describes with always fresh adjectives. Her unique voice makes learning the fundamentals enjoyable too. Another perennial favourite is How to Taste – which is a complete wine course – or really anything by Jancis Robinson, who is perhaps one of the world’s most renowned wine experts.

Tuscany is universally known for its beautiful landscapes and irresistible art. Intertwine these two, and you’ll get an inspiring, multisensory retreat. These four art parks in Tuscany – basically open air museums – could just be the gateway to your latest memorable travel experience.

Our choice of 4 Art parks in Tuscany

Site Transitoire

Site Transitoire | Photo by Antonio Cinotti on Flickr

Site Transitoire | Photo by Antonio Cinotti on Flickr

The landscape art Site Transitoire by French artist Jean-Paul Philippe focuses on the three human positions of “sitting, standing, and laying down.” Its large stone structures subtly add value to the lunar landscape of the Crete Senesi — without overriding their natural beauty. Particularly stunning at sunrise and sundown, this art park in Tuscany is a favourite of Instagramer Antonio Cinotti, who took the photo above.

Visitor Information: This art park is tricky to find, but it’s absolutely free for those who can find it! For more information, see www.jeanpaulphilippe.eu.

Castello di Ama

Castello di Ama (Photo: Wikipedia)

Castello di Ama (Photo: Wikipedia)

In the heart of Chianti Classico territory, just a 20 minute drive from Dievole, Castello di Ama mixes art and wine. Owners Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti have been inviting artists for the past decade and a half to experience and be inspired by their vineyard, and then create works on-site. Works by artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto, Daniel Buren and Louise Bourgeois, among others echo throughout the landscape. One stellar installation is Chen Zhen’s La Lumiere Interieur du Corps Humain, or Internal Light of the Human Body, which was created during his battle with cancer.

Visitor Information: Make a reservation by calling +39 0577/746069. For more information, visit www.castellodiama.com.

Chianti Sculpture Park

Chianti Sculpture Park (detail)

Chianti Sculpture Park (detail)

Our neighbor, just a short drive from Dievole, is the Chianti Sculpture Park. Its 35-acre woodlands and hour-long walking path are dotted with art installations that work in tandem with the land. In addition to its permanent art displays, the Chianti Sculpture Park also hosts concerts and cultural events. It’s the perfect excursion during your stay at Dievole. Check out our previous blog post here to discover more about this beauty!

Visitor Information: The Chianti Sculpture Park opens daily from 10 a.m. to sundown. If you plan to visit during the winter months, we recommend making a reservation by calling +39 0577 357151. www.chiantisculpturepark.it.

Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri

Giardino Daniel Spoerri Seggiano (GR)

Giardino Daniel Spoerri Seggiano (GR)

A bit further afield from Dievole but worth visiting if you’re exploring Tuscany widely, one hundred art installations lie in the Maremma area, on remote Monte Amiata, at the garden of the Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri. The garden includes works by Spoerri himself as well as works hand-selected by him. About 40 artists, including Olivier Estoppey and J.R. Soto, have contributed to the park’s collection. One of the garden’s most famous works is Chambre No. 13 de l’Hotel Carcasonne, rue Mouffetard 24, Paris 1959-65 (1998) in which Spoerri pieced together every last detail of an untidy, open-ceilinged Parisian hotel room. You’ll want to allow yourself about three hours for the park and bring sunblock!

Visitor Information: Admission is €10 for adults, €8 for students, and free for children under eight years of age. Opening hours vary based on the time of year, and during winter months it’s by appointment only. For the most up-to date information, visit www.danielspoerri.org/englisch/info.htm

 

Words by Angela Sanders

Homemade pesto – generally made with fresh basil, though it can also involve other fresh greens – is one of the easiest pasta sauces to make, yet people tend to think it’s complicated and so they buy it packaged. If you have a food mill or blender, or a pestle and some patience, you can easily make fresh pesto at home. It’s one of the best ways to capture the flavour of what nature provides!

The traditional pesto that most people think of is “Genovese pesto”, which is made from basil leaves. Pesto and basil are so closely tied that here in Tuscany, the two words are almost used interchangeably, yet technically this is incorrect: a pesto means anything ground. These ingredients mashed, usually while raw, originally with a mortar and pestle, but most people now use a blender. If you read “pasta with pesto” on a menu just about anywhere in Italy, this is going to be basil pesto. But the word pesto may be qualified with another word: here at Dievole you may well encounter pesto made from any variety of seasonal items.

Homemade Pesto recipes

Genovese Pesto

The most traditional pesto is easy to make. At the end of summer, when our basil plants are so huge we don’t know what to do with them, we cut them down, clean the leaves, and make enough pesto to last ten meals! An important tip: pesto keeps well in the fridge or freezer as long as it doesn’t come into contact with air – when it oxidates. To keep the fresh green colour, use a small jar and fill the top with plastic wrap touching the top of the paste.

To make traditional genovese pesto, simply blend the following ingredients:

Wild Fennel pesto

Lush and green wild fennel is perfect for pesto! Ph. J Biochemist (Flickr CC)

Lush and green wild fennel is perfect for pesto! Ph. J Biochemist (Flickr CC)

Although it looks much like a bright green basil pesto, pasta al finocchietto selvatico or wild fennel pesto does not contain any basil at all. This soft leaf grows wild in Tuscany and can easily be recognized by its smell. This pesto can be used on pasta of any type, or you can use it as a decorative base on a plate with salads, filled pastas… your imagination is the only limit. In this case we blend:

  • 80 grams of peeled almonds
  • 60 grams parmesan or similar cheese
  • 100 grams washed wild fennel
  • A full flavour extra virgin olive oil like Coratina
  • salt to taste

Spinach pesto

Fresh baby spinach makes a brilliant pesto year-round, when perhaps good basil is harder to come by. In this case, we just lightly cook it in salted boiling water before placing it in the blender. Since it’s cooked and wet, this pesto requires less olive oil than the others, making it a light and dietetic option. Blend the following:

  • 80g pine nuts
  • 80g parmesan cheese
  • 250g boiled spinach (the salted water is important)
  • A simple extra virgin olive oil like our 100% Italiano blend
  • Salt to taste

Sicilian Pesto

In the winter, when fresh greens are less available, an easy and unusual pesto is made from dried tomatoes. The original Sicilian pesto involves fresh tomatoes, but we suggest this variant for when the cupboard is almost bare. Blend the following ingredients:

  • 80g peeled almonds (or walnuts, if you prefer it less sweet)
  • 250g sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil (strain first)
  • 150g fresh ricotta
  • optional garlic
  • salt to taste

Kale Pesto

Kale also makes a great base for pesto and is full of healthy antioxidants! Watch this video we made with our chef demonstrating how to make pici with kale pesto.

A sun-kissed evening at Dievole was recently host to a spectacular – and very social – evening that celebrated excellencies in Italian food down the boot. The occasion was the presentation of the book “La Buona Pizza” of which Dievole is one of the sponsors, but the evening was much more than that.

The appointment was for 5:30pm in the resort’s medieval borgo, where the 19th-century pizza oven had been fired up early in the morning by Davide Fiorentini and Matteo Tambini of O Fiore Mio gourmet pizzeria in Faenza. Although the invitees – members of the press, bloggers and some lucky Dievole guests – may well have liked to start sampling their pizza, first we sat down to hear more about the book in an interesting debate led by journalist Andrea Cappelli.

La Buona Pizza is a culinary excursion in Italy by food writers Tania Mauri and Luciana Squadrilli, accompanied by the beautiful photographs of Alessandra Farinelli. Both text and image capture the spirit of 10 pizzaioli in Italy and their recipes. What the authors found is that these chefs of the traditionally “basic” meal of pizza worked hard to invent new recipes and to gather the best ingredients, creating a network of producers whose excellencies can be discovered by eating these gourmet pizzas.

At table, we met some of these producers – Dievole the first among them. Marco Scanu, who heads up the extra virgin olive oil project at Dievole, and Giovanni Alberio, the on-site enologist in charge of Dievole’s wine, spoke about the respect for territory and for the natural ingredients of wine and oil that goes into every bottle here at Dievole.

It was a real pleasure to also host the producers of some of the amazing ingredients that Davide and Matteo use on their pizzas – which, yes, we did finally get to eat! The super flavourful mozzarella from Il Casolare of Mimmo La Vecchia who came all the way from Caserta, specialty preserves from Lazio and Naples areas by I Sapori di Corbara and L’Orto di Lucullo and even craft beer by Lazese based Birra del Borgo. After a “light aperitivo” of pizza made with mother yeasts and ancient grains, the public rested a bit while watching the sun set behind olive groves before sitting down to a long table in the garden at Dievole for a multi-course tasting menu by chef Monika Filipinska. Tartare, pepper risotto with goat’s cheese gelato, and rabbit followed, as well as a light dessert.

We were very proud to be a central part of this convivial evening, during which conversation generally revolved around food, exchange, networks and quality. The authors of the book have described a tradition – not a trend – in Italy of people who value the gifts of mother earth and are proud to share them with anyone who wishes to eat and drink only the best. Who could want anything more?

What does living in Siena really mean? What does this everyday relationship with the Chianti Classico territory entail? Through pictures and words, Dievole has made this kind of unfiltered storytelling its mission. But sometimes its necessary to take a step back, to look at things through the eyes of another person, admire our surroundings from a different perspective. In early June we received a beautiful message from one of our readers, saying that she really appreciated our vision and blog. Her story was fascinating so we decided to interview her on what living in Siena really means.

Thirty-two year old Anna Maria was born on the beautiful island of Sardinia but decided to study in Siena, where she stayed after graduating and now works in the events sector. She loves literature, movies, studying new languages and, last but not least, travelling – this passion has led her to discover the most hidden corners of our land. We enjoyed a nice chat with her, tackling subjects like art, social media, itineraries and, yes, food.

From the coasts of Sardinia to the world-renowned Tuscan sun. Tell us a bit about the choices that brought you here and made you fall in love with Siena and the land of Chianti Classico.

What could ever lead Sardinians away from our beloved land? I made this tough decision and followed my heart’s desire when I decided to pursue my passion in Art studies, after graduating from High School. Choosing the right school was quite easy: Siena’s athenaeum is one the most prestigious Italian universities. My final thesis focused on Iconography, while I specialised in Medieval Art History. I couldn’t have chosen a better setting for this kind of studies.

When people ask me what I love the most about Tuscany, I always quote geographer Henri Desplanques: “Refined people built the Tuscan countryside as a work of art. These were the very same people who in the fifteenth century commissioned paintings and frescoes: this is the characteristic, the main feature that throughout the centuries can be found in drawings of the countryside and the architecture of Tuscan houses. It is incredible how these people built their rural landscape as if they had no concern but that of creating a thing of beauty“. I also love the great awareness and pride that the Tuscans feel towards their artistic and cultural heritage, traditions and longstanding craftsmanship.

How did you discover Dievole and our Blog?

I discovered Dievole quite simply, thanks to a glass of its excellent Chianti Classico wine. I have been “initiated” to the magical world of wine for quite some time now and I started with what I believe is the true essence of Italian winemaking. One of my future projects involves becoming a sommelier. I started reading the blog thanks to Dievole’s social media, especially instagram which is my favorite platform, where I share my passions and pics of my trips.

Siena isn’t only Piazza del Campo and its touristic landmarks. Which are your must-see places? Do you have a suggested itinerary?

Although predictable and very touristic, the Duomo and Piazza del Campo must be visited, but I also suggest perusing Palazzo Pubblico’s museum  with Simone Martini’s wonderful Maestà, Guidoriccio Da Fogliano’s oeuvre and Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescoes portraying the Allegory of Good and Evil government: a sublime example of educational yet topical art.

Col naso all'insù…

A photo posted by The Dreamcatcher (@annamarcis) on

To travellers on the road, I would suggest doing what I have learned after all these years living in Siena: just let yourself go and explore, possibly with a camera by your side. Siena offers unexpected and wonderful niches that no guide will ever be able to show you. When it comes to delving into the Tuscan countryside, I see it more as a state of mind than a geographical area – therefore all you have to do is breathe in all its strength and beauty. So my suggested itinerary is: no itineraries!

For an art lover such as yourself, what was the most surprising element you encountered once you moved to Tuscany?

When I started living in Siena, what really surprised me about Tuscany was the feeling that nothing of its landscapes and architecture was by chance. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing inside a gigantic movie set where everything follows the precise will of a meticulous set designer, down to the smallest detail, as to create that fixed image that we all evoke in our minds when it comes to thinking about Tuscany. After all these years, maybe what really fascinates me about this region is its being magically suspended between reality and imagination.

Last but not least: what is your favorite Tuscan food?

Easy: pici cacio and pepe!

Thank you Anna Maria for sharing your story with us!

Do you also want to tell us about why you love living in Siena and Chianti Classico? Send us a message through our facebook page!

Here at Dievole we have a mulberry tree (known as “Gelso”), which rises tall next to the paved path to our Colombaio house. Its thick trunk gives off an allure of ancient beauty and its full canopy of leaves offers shade during the Summer heat. Thanks to its abundant fruit, we’ve been getting creative in the kitchen, so this July we will be talking about mulberry recipes.

For some unknown reason, its juicy purple-red fruits have been overshadowed by other, more common berries, but our kitchen loves to shine a light on local produce and create unique and creative dishes with what grows lush and bountiful from our land.

Closely related to figs and breadfruit, the mulberry ripens in late summer and its cluster-structure resembles the blackberry’s. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C and can be used to make juice, jam or perfectly healthy dry snacks!

Our mulberry tree is a cascade of green!

Our mulberry tree is a cascade of green!

So many things must be said about this fascinating plant and there are so many mulberry recipes worth discovering. Its tough flexible roots hold the earth in place and were therefore used to contrast landslides on unstable terrain. Mulberry leaves are a unique source of antioxidants and minerals and can be dried to make a medicinal tea which in the olden days was used as a treatment for diabetes.

 

Here are 2 simple Mulberry Recipes

Mulberry Gelato

One of our favorite mulberry recipes: creamy handmade gelato!

One of our favorite mulberry recipes: creamy handmade gelato!

Among our seasonal dessert mulberry recipes, this handmade ice-cream is a real treat! Handmade with mulled Chianti Classico wine, juniper berries, cinnamon and cloves (and of course a good dose of cream), the layered and spicy flavour is enhanced by its fresh and creamy consistency. This gelato can be made if have an ice-cream maker or even without. You’ll want to combine your washed mulberries with sugar, a pinch of salt and a bit of balsamic vinegar for tartiness in a food processor and blend. Then in a pot, mix that with your milk and/or cream, and proceed to freeze, or put into your ice-cream maker, following the latter’s instructions. Serve with a few fresh mulberries and a zesty glass of Dievole Rosato Le Due Arbie IGT Wine.

Braised Beef in Mulberry Chianti Classico Sauce

This sweet and savoury recipe is bound to make an impression!

This sweet and savoury recipe is bound to make an impression!

When it comes to savoury dishes we also like to add the mulberry’s tart sweetness as a finishing twist to our braised beef in Chianti Classico sauce, a renowned Italian recipe which perfectly combines different regional culinary traditions. This might not be the most easy dish to prepare but follow our instructions and you’ll master it in no time!

Ingredients

  • 1 Kg Beef (Chuck tender or vein steak)
  • 1 Bottle of Chianti Classico Wine
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Stalks of celery
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Sprig of Rosemary
  • 3 Cloves
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 1 Handful of ripe Mulberries
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 4 Grains of Black Pepper
  • 1/3 cinnamon stick
  • 40 gr Butter
  • 3-4 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

One of the most important steps involves the meat, which must be drained of all residue and marinated in Chianti Classico wine for 12 hours, together with the finely chopped vegetables and spices. Preserve in a cool area of your kitchen and, once the designated time has passed, delicately dry the meat with kitchen paper. Melt butter in a warmed pan and brown the beef on both sides for about 5 minutes. At this point add the marinated vegetables and spices and cook for about 15 minutes. When tender, cover the mixture and let it simmer on a low flame for 2 hours.

Once the meat is perfectly braised, extract it from the pan and blend the vegetables to make the sauce. Pour the mixture back in the pan and add the handful of mulberries. Cook for a few minutes and garnish the meat with the result. If you want to add some extra flavor, drizzle the composition with fresh Dievole Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP and serve with a glass of Dievole Chianti Classico 2014. Your guests will be absolutely thrilled!

The “La Buona Pizza” (good pizza) is a book by Tania Mauri and Luciana Squadrilli that was recently released in Italy. A gastronomic trip down the boot that tells the tale of the pizzaiolo, or pizza chef, through ingredients and connections with local territory. With beautiful photography by food photgrapher Alessandra Farinelli, the book is published by the prestigious Giunti Editore, and Dievole is a sponsor. We spoke with one of the authors, the food journalist Luciana Squadrilli.

In viaggio alla scoperta della Buona Pizza! Ph. Alessandra Farinelli

Discovering good Pizza book! Ph. Alessandra Farinelli

So, your book is a a food travel story that stops in 10 locations, 10 important places for the world of food, and 10 great pizzerie… Tell us a bit about this adventure.

The idea came from an early piece that I did about a few Italian pizzaioli, where I found that they pay so much attention to their place and to the prime ingredients. They’re chefs capable of creating networks with producers, especially local ones. This was the starting point for the idea of telling a story about Italy through pizza and through their work. We can consider it a kind of taste-itinerary, even if it’s only 10 stops. We wanted to demonstrate the richness of Italy both in products and in traditions, through 10 protagonists of the pizza world and their territories. “La Buona Pizza” is not a “top 10” but ten stories in which pizza, its recipes and multiple formats, is a sort of symbol of the country’s diversity. We also made a point of paying attention to some less recognized areas like Basilicata.

After meeting pizza chefs from across Italy and having tasted their creations, in your opinion, what are the characteristics of the modern pizzaiolo and, on the other hand, what are the traditions they keep or should keep?

Tradition plays an important role in the preparation of pizza, and that is handed down centuries. But even the traditional pizzaioli are constantly searching for new recipes and products. Even the simple and classic Margherita opens up to a world of possibilities by studying new cooking techniques, hydration, rising times… So on one hand we’ve reevaluated tradition, but on the other hand we continue to look ahead and study new methods to make a dish that has, in the past, been considered a simple and poor meal.

In our kitchen we love to use ancient flours, which you often cite in the book. What are the benefits of these in pizza?

In the introduction to our Good Pizza Book, we talk about these when we discuss dough and primary materials, while in the various chapters we mention some small producers who are innovating in the market of ancient flours. Compared to the more common flours available on the market, these ones are not genetically modified, they have less glutine in them and often are easier to digest.

One thing you mention is really important is extra virgin olive oil, which is of course something we feel strongly about!

We get into the olive oil discussion particularly in our chapter about Faenza, where they’re doing some specific research on this ingredient, tasting various olive oils and using different varieties depending on the pizza, in order to bring out the taste. Many pizzaioli are starting to pay more attention to the quality of the olive oil they use in the kitchen, which is an interesting trend because normally pizza is considered a cheap meal and chefs might tend to save money on ingredients. But now it’s more and more common to see special, expensive olive oils used “cold” to dress the pizza after cooking, adding its unique flavour to the dish.

Matteo Tambini e Davide Fiorentini della pizzeria 'O Fiore Mio a Faenza. Ph Alessandra Farinelli

Matteo Tambini and Davide Fiorentini, pizzeria ‘O Fiore Mio in Faenza. Ph Alessandra Farinelli

Let’s address the age-old question of wine and pizza – do they pair?

Generally, pizza tends to be paired with beer, rather than wine. With the new trend of fried pizza, champagne is becoming an important pairing. In some cases, like pizza with tea-marinated fish by Simone Padoan, the dish encompasses such a world of flavours that beer cannot bring it all out. What’s important is to have fun and to play with the discreet flavours of the dish.

Tell us about your collaboration with photographer Alessandra Farinelli.

We’re really happy with Alessandra’s work: the book is beautiful thanks in particular to her photographs, that capture not only the beauty of the dishes but also the personalities of the people we met. We wanted to tell the stories of pizzaioli and producers, and these photos capture them with daily naturalness.