Our Tuscan Summer Holiday
We arrived at the large gate which opened onto a cypress tree-lined drive leading up to the vast 17th century villa. Set amongst a vineyard, an olive grove, and a small forest complete with pheasant, rabbits, and orange mushrooms seemingly from outer space, this was to be our home for the next couple of weeks. It was dark, musty, and cool inside and as our children ran in exploring every corner, the house was suddenly filled with life and laughter as we claimed the house as ours.
Our first order of business was stocking the refrigerator with local gastronomic treasures. We loaded into the car and drove along the scenic country roads which parted the patchwork of sunflower fields, neatly spaced vineyards, and newly culled land dotted with rolls of hay. We marvelled how this perfect scenery was created without a master plan.
Our first stop was Macellerie Neri in Bettole to befriend the butcher and sample his local Chianina beef and cinta senese pork. Loriano Neri, the butcher, removed the beef rack, distinctively red due to natural lack of marbling, from the display case to neatly hack off with a cleaver a three finger thick slice of fiorentina for us. He wrapped up the fat cinta senese sausages for our children while someone else sliced paper thin our prosciutto Toscano and finocchiona salami. Then we spied the freshly made thick, chewy pici pasta, ragu made from Chianina beef, and the pecorino di fossa (cave-aged) cheese. As these delicacies were being totalled, I noticed a farmer’s market in the square and went to take a look.
In the market I found rosy hued peaches, juicy flattened doughnut peaches, tiny flavourful purplish plums, speckled borlotti beans, and sweetly perfumed canteloupe melons. Heaped in piles were glossy corno peppers, pristine zucchini flowers, and fragrant tomatoes. All went into my bag to be enjoyed later that night.
As the children were being bathed, my husband and his father were building a fire in the stone fireplace next to the pool with wood we procured on our way home. The steaks grilled for a few minutes in each side to ensure they were rare were then rubbed with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary and allowed to rest to ensure they would be perfectly juicy. We dined by candlelight under the stars, the air scented with citronella and grilled steak. These are the memories we hope our sons remember from their childhood.
Macellerie NeriVia Cassia No 1-3-5, Piazza del Popolo No 11/A, Bettole (SI), Tuscany
Macellerie Neri has been a family business since 1922 selling Chianina beef, local salami and prosciutto, cinta senese pork, local cheeses, local olive oil, honey, fresh pasta, and Chianina beef meat sauce.