Our second choice was a vastly different experience. Our pick for exploring the production of the famous pecorino di Pienza was far less commercial and much more agricultural in feel.
We chose Podere Il Casale, located almost exactly half way between Pienza and Montepulciano. While the signage for this location was no better than the first, our GPS seemed more up to the task on this particular day and we arrived with no complications. We were greeted by the resident peacocks and the unmistakable smell of a working farm. Lacking the polish of our earlier meal, we were immediately enamored of the rustic charm that Podere Il Casale possessed.
Owned and operated by Sandra and Ulisse and their many helping hands, the farm and the resulting food is laid bare to your analysis; there is no pretense here. Sandra was enthusiastic in her praise for the slow food movement and verbose on the topic of natural, seasonal and organic farming. She led us through a short tour of the cheese making operations before settling us at the edge of a terrace overlooking Pienza and the surrounding Val ‘Di Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Lunch consisted of meats from their pigs, home baked bread from their grains, an amazing farro salad, pappardelle with boar ragu, house wines and chocolate cake and espresso for dessert. The star of the show, of course, was the wonderful assortment of cheeses. Fresh ricotta and Chianti aged Pecorino di Pienza, a cheese aged for more than a year in the musk left over from Chianti wine production, were joined by the more humble but equally delicious Pecorino di Pienze fresca and others.
When traveling through Tuscany, take a break from the obvious. There are hundreds of small, family run farms that welcome visitors for lunch. Many have simple wooden signs with an arrow and others are more elaborate, do a bit of research and step off of that beaten path and enjoy the authenticity that they offer.
A guest post by Russ and Elke, thank you!