Our culture can be summed up in three colours. Three country towns near Chianciano Terme, three opportunities for hands-on contact with our daily reality, its eating and drinking.
The colour of Montepulciano’s ruby-red Vino Nobile is also the colour of blood, the blood of the earth. It is just a short car-ride away, up on one of the Val di Chiana’s highest points. Below, it is defined by an endless expanse of vineyards along with monuments, churches, palazzi and its beautiful square that marks the division between town and sky. It is as if blood-coloured wine really does flow through Montepulciano’s belly, its stone veins housing vast ancient cellars, which would merit a visit alone, empty of the precious treasure they jealously guard. Yet each visitor to these labyrinths, whose wine reeks of history and tradition, cannot deny themselves a sip of ancient wisdom, a glass of Montepulciano’s Vino Nobile. The first in Italy to be awarded the prestigious DOCG certification.
Perhaps it is significant that Trequanda’s extra-virgin olive oil is the colour of the most precious of metals: gold. Isolated in the countryside far from traffic and noise, the town has everything you need for a long and peaceful life. A small but worthwhile 30-odd kilometre windy journey up gentle slopes is all that is required to get there. A glance at the piazzetta - which seems like a Tuscan replica of Leopardi’s ‘Il Sabato del Villaggio’ – and at the parish church with its unusual black and white façade and then off in search of some of that olive oil. Here the olives are still gently ‘stripped’ by hand, to avoid subjecting the tree to any jerks or bruising. Toil, hardship and time are valued differently in Trequanda, where oil is still produced in the old-fashioned way, even if every unscrupulous dealer makes similar claims nowadays. Let yourself be the judge: all you need is a piece of bread and a trickle of gold from those olive trees.
Instead of milky-white or creamy-white, in Pienza its ‘cacio’ white. A dream-town brought to life by its former inhabitant, Humanist Pope Pius II, who transformed his poor village, with its privileged panorama over the Val d’Orcia, into a small architectural jewel. Today the word ‘cacio’ has been abused by a thousand synonyms of light or creamy cheeses along with numerous other alchemical concoctions unbeknownst to sheep and cows. Pienza’s pecorino ‘cacio’ unimaginatively contains just one ingredient: sheep’s milk. The sole basis of a cheese of countless nuances of taste and smell dependent on time of year - the meadow grass is constantly in flux – its maturity (it comes fresh, matured and even aged like a bottle of good wine) and its method of manufacture, which means it can be served unadorned or preserved in countless other ways such as in walnut leaves, bran and ash. Each unique flavour, pungent or delicate, crisp or scented equally incomparable, as history has clearly proved to its failed imitators.