Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.”
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Friday, March 10, 2017
Lost in hills of Tuscany not the worst thing that could happen—far from it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!