Friday, March 10, 2017

Lost in hills of Tuscany not the worst thing that could happen—far from it!

Sometimes the best memories come from the things you find while being lost. Lucy and I were discussing this with our friends Kjetil and Laila while we drove in the Pescia Swizzera hills north of Montecatini. What brought up this subject? We were lost, naturally.

Red persiani (shutters) in stone building at Vellano.
We had taken a hike around the scenic town of Vellano, admiring the typical haphazard arrangement of the stone houses and alleys that we love so much. The plan was to continue north in the car to a restaurant near Castelvecchio for a lunch, but no one had brought their GPS devices or even a good map. I had a general map of the area, but it didn’t contain enough detail to show that one couldn’t drive north of Vellano and still reach Castelvecchio—even though that’s the way any crow with good sense would go. Because of the mountainous terrain, however, the roads didn’t connect, and then we gradually drifted to the west without realizing it until we saw a sign for Avaglio and I located that little town on the map. We were way off course, and starting to get seriously hungry as well.

Vellano before we got lost.
To go back the way we came and then go south and after that north to Castelvecchio would take a long time,” I said. ‟Let’s go south from here towards Marliana. I know of at least one restaurant there.” Except that one restaurant turned out to be only for members of the Circolo della Misericordia di Marliana. Lucy and I had been there during a festa, and it had been open to the public that day, but normally it was not. And Marliana had no other restaurants.

So farther south we went, and that’s when we started talking about other memorable occasions when we had gotten lost and had serendipitously wonderful experiences. Except by now it was nearing 2 p.m., seriously hungry had turned to ravenously hungry, and we all knew that nearly every restaurant in Italy closes around 3 p.m. I have to admit that not every time we’ve gotten lost turned out to be special, and that thought entered my mind as we drove though more small cities that had no restaurants. Ah, ye of little faith.

By the time we turned into the parking lot of the Antica Trattoria Da Marino in Ponte di Serravalle, we didn’t care that it looked less than promising from the outside, nor that the city had little to offer in scenic appeal. It was about 2:15 p.m., and the place was empty. That didn’t look promising, either, but we had no time to be picky. We chose a corner table with a view of a side alley and got down to the serious business of perusing the menu.

When we left at 3:30 p.m., our faith in the wonders of being lost had been fully restored. The meal and service had been incredibly delicious and memorable. I ordered the pici stirato a mano al ragout di chianina and Lucy, Kjetil and Laila each had the gran fritto mare con verdure. No question in my mind it was the best ragout I have ever tasted. The thick pici noodles were homemade, al dente and perfectly suited for the sauce. The superior quality of the meat and the fact that the beef chunks were a little larger than normal but then melted in my mouth made for a delightful sensation. My dining partners, all seafood gourmets, unanimously agreed that the sampling of fried seafood and vegetables was superb, fresh, tender, among the best seafood plates they had sampled.

Our waiter, Edoardo Innocenti, informed us that the establishment has been in his family since 1920, making it the oldest trattoria in the Pistoia area. All of the food is artigianale, hand made, including the wine. The delicious and unique fragolina white wine served with dessert is produced by the Innocenti family from a variety of small wild grapes that grow in the hillsides of this region. We bought an extra bottle to take home. And speaking of dessert—wow! We had a sampler of the homemade delicacies that we learned have made this restaurant famous in Northern Tuscany. To die for!

Later I learned that this is the number 1 restaurant on Tripadvisor for Serravalle Pistoiese. It’s a good thing we got lost and hungry and ended up here. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but sometimes the best memories come from the things you find while being lost. Yeah!


  1. Wonderful!! How I envy you...

  2. Adventure begins where certainty ends!

  3. I applaud your ability to find the sunshine in cloudy situations. I think your guardian angels are terrific!


Comments welcome.