Where to eat in Tuscany
Needless to say, food is a crucial part of Tuscan life, and you´d be missing out if you weren´t to experiment and try as much as you can while you are here. And don´t think that means you have to spend a sack-full of cash on glam restaurants either. There must be over 20 good restaurants within a 15 minute drive of Patrignone, literally 100s within 30 minutes!
All guests will receive a copy of The Big Book before they set off. It's a mini guide-book cum Tuscany FAQ, and one of it's most important functions is to list all our favourite restaurants, bars, and wineries, so our guests know all our favourite places to eat. We keep The Big Book updated on a daily basis, but we'll give you a brief guide to some of our favourite spots here.
For my list of favourite wineries in Chianti, try here.
Eating on a budget
The cheapest way to eat in Tuscany is to cook for yourself. And with the super-high quality of the produce you can buy here, that´s a great deal easier than you might think. Buy some fresh bread, some fresh tomatoes, a chuck of pecorino fresco (fresh sheep's cheese), some olive oil and salt, a good bottle of wine or some locally brewed beer, and you have a lunch fit for kings. Honestly, you won' believe how much better the tomatoes are compared to what you are probably used to at home. Worlds apart.
Many Tuscan dishes are quick and easy to prepare. It´s the quality of the ingredients that makes all the difference. Even supermarket food here is extraordinarily good, especially fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. If you make the extra effort to buy from smaller stores, butchers, grocers etc, you will be even more surprised at just how good a piece of pecorino and a couple of sliced ripe tomatoes can taste.
The open-air markets are another great source of tasty fresh food. This is such an important part of Italian living we've got a whole web page on the subject. Don't be afraid to ask to taste before you buy, and don't be afraid that your pidgin Italian won't cut the mustard – the locals are used to English speakers and are always happy to help. In any case the daily markets are your best route to cheap and tasty food, so you'd be crazy not to go.
There are also lots of small inexpensive restaurants you can try. Here is an excerpt from my current list:
- Footballer's Pizzeria, San Donato - run by the local football team to during the summer to help raise funds for the team…at least that´s how it started. Open air, trestle tables, no pretensions, but very good pizza indeed, and very busy. June-Sept only. A must!
- La Torre - in Siena, just off the Piazza del Campo, small restaurant, extremely busy, but superb pasta, and very reasonably priced.
- "Truckers' Cafe" Poggibonsi - a long-standing haunt of ours always busy with workers during the day, and packed with locals in the evening. Cheap, and excellent.
There are lots of restaurants that fall into the €25-€40 per head bracket, but here are a couple of our local choices:
- Ristorante Pestello – just around the corner, this family-run restaurant offers a wide range of Tuscan dishes in very pleasant surroundings…and only a 30 minutes walk from Patrignone…quite fun in the dark after a bottle of wine! This restaurant has improved a lot in the last three years and is now one of our favourites in the region. How lucky is that! Good roasted meats and fabulous artichokes.
- Solociccia - a restaurant in Panzano run by Dario, the famous sermon-preaching Dante-quoting local butcher. 6 meat courses for €30 including wine. Expect to be seated at a table with others. Great fun and great value.
- Tre Porte - Castellina in Chianti, good pizza and wide range of primi and secondi if you don't want a pizza. Good steak.
- La Torre - also in Castellina. Traditional Tuscan cuisine in nice setting in the medieval square. Family run, everything is fresh, and great food.
A bit more
Again, ask us when you get here, but try:
- Ristoro di Lamole - lovely place perched on top of an isolated hill-top village in the middle of the hills just past Panzano. Good food, lovely setting, and superb service with multi-lingual staff.
- La Galleria, Poggibonsi - another spot not on the tourist trail, but really excellent seafood and just 20 mins away.
- La Fattoria, Tavarnelle - excellent food, very good roasted meats, steaks etc.
- Albergaccio - Michelin Star restaurant run by the owners Francesco & Sonia. Pricy but good.
- La Bottega del 30, Villa a Sesta - not exactly close, this one, a good 50 minutes drive. But some of the best food we've eaten in the area, and well-deserving of its Michelin star.
We have a comprehensive list of restaurants we recommend to all our guests. It's called The Big Book and we email it to all our guests before they set out, so they always have the latest information. If you'd like a copy, drop us a line.
But don't worry too much about going 'off-piste' and finding your own favourites. Just try to avoid eating in the really busy tourist thoroughfares, like the main-street in San Gimignano, for example. Most restaurants cannot survive on summer tourism alone and Italians are extremely fussy eaters. So no restaurant would survive the winter here unless it was good.
You can also see some of our recent recommendations here on Google+ bit.ly/eatingoutTuscany.
There are more wineries around us than restaurants, and they all offer tastings and wine-tours. We have our own favourites, and here are a few that we regularly recommend. Again, a more complete list will be sent out to you before you leave home. They all speak excellent English, and many have different tours depending on whether you want snacks.
- Setriolo – stunning wine (possibly one of the best CC's I’ve tested, ever) from a small, out of the way fattoria near Castellina. Usually needs booking 48 hours in advance. €10 gets you a generous tasting of their wines. It's the kind of out-of-the-way place you'll be glad you discovered. Susanna is lovely and their place is beautiful. English spoken. T: +39 0577743079 Email email@example.com
- La Ripa - Close by, very entertaining and thorough explanation of La Ripa's wine-making methods by the charming owner, Sandro, or his son Nicola. And excellent wine! You will need to book: €10 per head . English spoken. T: +39 055 8072948 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Le Filigare - a new discovery for us in 2009, but they've been making wines for 150 years. Hard to get to but some great wines, including two excellent and reasonably priced Chianti Classico's.
- Casa Emma - just down the road. Excellent wine, and a good wine-testing lunch available. You will need to book.
Tuscany wine tours
We know several guides who will be happy to take you on a wine tour of Tuscany, whether it be the Chianti Classico near us, of the Brunello di Montalcino a little further off. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Emily from A Tuscan Table does lovely wine tours from around €120/head including transport, tastings, and lunch
- Nathalie does custom sight-seeing and wine tours that our guests have raved about. Email her here email@example.com
- Giorgio organises similar custom tours, again, well liked: firstname.lastname@example.org