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Another day with a good chance of rain, but after a leisurely breakfast, we headed out for Panzano right on schedule at 11:00. We had a 1:00 PM reservation for lunch with the ‘Butcher of Tuscany’, Dario Cecchini, and they suggested arriving 15 minutes early to enjoy a glass of wine with bread and olive oil at his butcher shop.
A 1.5 hour drive took us on a roller coaster trip up and down through the mountains into the province of Chianti, where the town of Panzano is located. What a scenic trip it was, through towns, past vineyards with incredible looking homes on top of hills overlooking their vast fields of ‘baby wine’, as Bonnie calls them. I could do that trip over and over….but only if I was driving! Sitting in the back seat, I have to look directly out the front window to minimize the chances of being struck down with motion sickness. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of places to pull over on the mountain roads, but we did come upon one spot in a particularly scenic area where I got a couple of shots and reestablished my equilibrium.
We arrived in Panzano right on schedule, found a place to park and made our way back down the hill to the town centre and The Butcher’s shop: Antica Macelleria Cecchini. A lot of people were gathered on the street and in the shop drinking wine offered freely by a couple of girls inside. People were watching and taking photos of Dario as he did what butchers do….cut meat.
Before I go on, I should mention that, before we came to Italy, C&C sent us an email asking if we’d like them to make a reservation with ‘The Butcher of Tuscany’ and suggested that we watch the 2nd episode of a Netflix series called ‘The Chef’s Table’ featuring Dario Cecchini and his story of how a young man set on becoming a veterinarian became a butcher, but one who still honours the animals. As the prelude says, “Now he’s out to change how the world thinks about meat”. If you subscribe to Netflix, you should watch it.
On with the day. After being in the shop for a few minutes, we went across the street to the restaurant to meet the others who would join us at the table for our family style lunch. We didn’t all arrive at the same time, but, in the end, there were 16 of us at the table: a couple from Holland, Willem and Lia, Renée and Sophie, a lovely mother and daughter from Holland, 6 Asians who have lived in Italy for 20-some years and were tour guides, and an Italian couple from Toronto, who are in the food business and were there with their friend, a chef, from Firenze (Florence).
We were offered about 9 different courses, all beef, which included a broth, fresh bread, ‘Rosemary Up the Bum’, which was a partially cooked meatball tartar with a sprig of rosemary stuck in a hole, vegetables with pieces of beef, slices from a beef roast and, my absolute favourite, a fabulously tasty braised beef. The way it worked out, with the group not all arriving at the same time, the plates kept coming, so if the 4 of us ran out of one particular course, there were 3 different rounds of servings, so we sure didn’t have to go without. I, for one, made a pig of myself eating this delicious beef.
Cheryl had left the table at one point and, when she returned, told us that she had seen Dario outside our room and got a big hug from him. Not long after, he came into our dining room to greet us.
Oh, did I mention that there was lots of red wine served with lunch? Then, before we left, we were served shot glasses of Grappa. I’m not a big fan, but I threw it back along with most of the others with a hearty “Gambay” from the Asian contingent.
We left the restaurant and went back across the street to the butcher’s for a few photos:
Then outside for some shots with the cow.
We also went into the butcher’s gift shop, where we met his wife, Kim, hard at work on the books. Kim is from Northern California and met Dario when she went into his shop to buy a steak.
We continued up the street toward the church, taking photos and enjoying the views along the way. At the church, we met up with Willem and Lia again and the 6 of us went to a cafe to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink on the patio overlooking the valley.
Someone had fun painting on the walls here and there throughout the town.
We made our way back to the car and began the drive back to Marciano Della Chiana, arriving about 6:30. A long, eventful, thoroughly enjoyable day. Needless to say, no activity tonight other than watching another episode of ‘Northern Rescue’. Not a bad series, but it does get a bit silly now and then.
Tomorrow’s forecast is 100% chance of rain, so we went to bed resigned to staying at the villa for the day.