Canberra-born cookbook author Emiko Davies tells us of her love for Tuscan food: we catch up during her stay at the historic estate of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco.
Q: What was your favourite thing about Tuscany when you arrived?
A: Everything is steeped in history and tradition; I didn’t grow up with medieval buildings and renaissance paintings. Tuscany is blessed with beautiful landscapes, and so many towns to discover and fall in love with. Each has its own identity, its own food and a different character.**
Q: What is your favourite time of year in Tuscany?
A: Autumn, because lots of regional specialities are autumnal. Truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, wild boar: so many ingredients I associate with Tuscan food are great to eat in the cold weather. Though Tuscany is very warm, so many environments are cosy – as is the people’s welcome.
Q: Any favourite Tuscan recipes?
A: Schiacciata d’uva: a Tuscan focaccia made in September during the grape harvest, when the wine grapes are pushed into the dough. Because the grapes have seeds in them it has a crunchy texture; with sugar on top it’s delicious. And you can only get it at that time of year.
Davies’ favourite places to soak up some culture and delectable produce.
(01) Podere il Casale
Pienza’s pecorino is a much fêted delicacy. At this farmhouse, a Swiss couple have been producing and selling the tangy cheese for years and only raw, organic milk is used. The casale’s goat’s cheese and ricotta are also a speciality – but don’t leave without having tried their oil and honey too.
Note: Come early in the morning to get a look at the method used to make the cheese – and feel free to take your time over the tasting cheeseboard.
(02) Galleria Continua
This cutting-edge space in the middle of the charming walled town of San Gimignano is one of Galleria Continua’s four unusual locations: the other outposts are to be found in Beijing, Les Moulins and Havana. Opened in 1990 inside a former cinema, this gallery brings ultra-contemporary art to a town with a rich history.
Note: Artists from Brazil to Saudi Arabia (as well as Italy) bring their installations to this charming space.
(03) Bagno Vignoni
Most Italian towns revolve around a piazza but not Bagno Vignoni: here the place of a central square is taken up by a large thermal pool. Pilgrims and travellers have been coming to these thermal waters for centuries and though bathing in the pool is not permitted nowadays, there are plenty of thermal-spring spots in which to warm your cockles around town.
Note: Nothing beats a view of the pool at sunrise, when the heat rising from the water condenses in atmospheric steam.
What a trip
Davies’ tour begins at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, among the hills of the Montalcino countryside. In the kitchen of this beautifully preserved estate she tries her hand at cooking with regional produce – and gets a taste of the wine produced in the ground’s vineyard. From there to the charming towns of Pienza, San Gimignano and Bagno Vignoni – all a short drive away. Follow her journey on monocle.com/films/.