Back in May, you may recall that I reconnected with an old friend, thanks in part to Google’s slightly-creepy-yet-in-this-case-helpful ability to find people. Once Dave and I had made our way to Italy (my first time there ever), we thought a trip to try and meet up with Gillian and Brian would be a great way to do a bit of exploring, while also giving us girls a chance to catch up on the last 17 or so years of our lives.
Gillian and Brian live in Naples and were kind enough to drive up to Tuscany to meet Dave and me at the ferry terminal in Piombino the last weekend in July for a quick overnight trip (our “vacation-within-a-vacation”) to Massa Marittima, in the Grosseto province of Tuscany. (Did I mention the only way to get to/from Elba is a ferry? You drive your car right on the ferry, cross the Mediterranean for 30 minutes or so and then drive off again.) Having lived in Italy for around three years or so, they were happy to come up and explore a new food and wine area with us (as we found out through emails prior to the trip, G&B enjoy food, wine and beer as much as we do!).
After picking us up in Piombino, we drove to the agriturismo where we’d be staying. Basically, agriturismos combine their working farms with tourism, allowing them to make a little more income, while the guests can enjoy great accommodations in renovated farm houses, amazing meals (often prepared with items grown at the farm) and some of the tradition Italian farms have to offer. And after staying at Il Felciaione, I will always seek out the local agriturismos when and if we travel in Italy; it was spectacular! Our room was actually a little apartment that was much too big for us; it boasted a kitchen, a huge bedroom and loft with additional beds and a huge bathroom and best of all, air conditioning (a necessity in July).
We dropped our things off then headed to a winery Gillian had scoped out online. They offered a sit down tasting with a flight of six wines and some of their own olive oils with bread, prosciutto and salami…it was all so tasty! Moris Farms was a gorgeous mom-and-pop seeming place up on a hill in Massa Marittima. A very kind Italian woman hosted our tasting, telling us about the wines in Italian…though a little lost, I picked up way more than I thought I would, and Dave was with me to help translate my misinterpretations.
Following our tasting, we asked her for a restaurant recommendation and she pointed us in the direction of a local place where I ate cinghiale (pronounced ching-GYAH-lay) or wild boar, with some fried polenta cakes. The cinghiale was so incredibly tender and perfectly seasoned and now my mouth is literally watering for it, as a I recall the deliciousness. Though the heat was pretty stifling, we wandered into the town center of Massa Marittima where we took a couple photos and stopped for ice cream (my fiordilatte flavor comparison left me wondering why I would even bother to get it anywhere else besides Il Chiosco in Cavo. I should have gone with another flavor. Once you’ve had the best thing ever, nothing else will compare, but I digress.) Shortly after finishing our ice cream we decided the sun had done us all in and a nap back at the room was in order.
And nap in the air conditioned room we did, before getting cleaned up and heading to what would turn into a full-on feast of a dinner (spoiler alert: I did a lot of eating in Italy and I apologize in advance to all the food-related posts. In related news, I’m going to learn to make all these delicious things I’ve eaten and Dave and I will probably be 100 pounds heavier next time you see us.)
At dinner, it was literally plate after plate coming out. We started with a zucchini frittata-style dish, only is was cooked in a muffin tin with a yellow pepper sauce. Then came bruschetta and some tiny “spring-roll” like bites that used thinly sliced eggplant as the wrap. The filling, stuffed inside a piece of prosciutto rolled inside the eggplant, was a delicious mix of herbs, summer veggies and cheese. Next came a ricotta and basil quesadilla, then panzanella salad with beautifully-colored red tomatoes and green bell peppers, cucumbers and pieces of bread. And those were just the appetizers! Our first course was like a cross between a lasagna and a chile relleno casserole that included artichoke hearts, ricotta cheese, egg and noodles and was simply amazing. Our entree was a choice of eggplant or chicken. Dave and I split our choices so we could have bites of everything. My chicken was breaded with a touch of citrus that somehow worked with the dish, while Dave’s eggplant was almost like a veggie lasagna with eggplant as the headlining vegetable. By the time dessert came, we had our choice of a handful of items but Dave got an apple torte, while I went for chocolate cake with the option of warm chocolate sauce drizzled on top (like adding that was even a question).
By the time dinner was over, we had to be rolled out. The four of us shared stories, laughs, book titles we were reading and the whole evening was so much fun…it was nice to sneak back into what was closer to our old “pre-student” lifestyle for a night and it was even better to do it with new/old friends.
The next morning, before heading back to the ferry, we enjoyed breakfast at the agriturismo, then stopped at La Rocca di Frassinello for a tasting. This winery was much more expansive than the day before, and we were led on a tour of the facility before tasting three of the wines produced. Trusting our winery host again that day, we asked for another recommendation for lunch and weren’t disappointed in the food. I once again dined on my new favorite cinghiale, but this time my meal was a bolognese-style dish that boasted the cinghiale in sauce-form over pappardelle. It was tasty and the four of us rotated dishes so we could each taste a little bit of everything.
Bellies full, it was time to return to the ferry back to Cavo, but I was so grateful to hang out with Gillian and meet Brian too. It was a lovely little get-away within a get-away, and I hope we can do it all over again next year in a new city, when G&B get settled in Spain!