Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garantito IGP: Locanda del Viandante - Paradise Found

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

My wife and I live a few kilometers from Rome, in a neighborhood that was considerably quieter a few years ago, where the air was clean and in the evenings we could enjoy dinner outside in the yard. Things have changed surprisingly fast; the population has doubled, as has the number of houses, while there is much less green, the views have lost much of their beauty, and the air is no longer that different from Rome's. Noise, artificial light, traffic, and smog.

Every now and again we thus feel the need to get away from it all, to find places to our measure, and they are ever further away. This time we had an excuse to get away: To see Piero Della Francesca's Madonna del Parto at Monterchi, in the Province of Arezzo, a trip we had put off several times, knowing full well that we were missing something great in doing so. On September 10 we set out with a strange feeling of euphoria, the same we felt as kids when our parents took us on vacation.

As is my well established habit, before going I looked for a place to dine at our destination, and recalled that near Anghiari there's an inn where one can also sleep, surrounded by the haunting panoramas of the Riserva Naturale dei Monti Rognosi.

The Locanda del Viandante is located in Cerreto, just outside the beautiful town of Ponte alla Piera, about 10 km from Anghiari. The first thing we noted was the silence, a peace we were no longer used to; even the birds and the cattle in the nearby meadows seemed bent on respecting it. We were greeted by Martha, who serves at the tables, all outside because it was a beautiful day, warm but with nice breezes.

"We work with local, no-carbon-footprint ingredients, and all it takes is a look around to see we lack for nothing -- things from the vegetable patch, meats, cheeses, cold cuts, and water from a nearby spring. Everything from unspoilt countryside, that's our philosophy," she said. "In the kitchen are Fiorella and Daniela, who make pasta completely by hand, without the aid of any machines, using simple ingredients to make local dishes following tradition and the seasons."

Just what we were looking for, before going to enjoy Piero della Francesca's masterpiece in nearby Monterchi.

We were unable to resist Panzanella, crudité in pinzimonio e fettunta con olio extravergine IGP Toscano Bio, an absolute treat, a dish both disarmingly simple and stratospherically good.

Laura and I then took different paths: she opted for Ravioli di erbe al ragù di Chianina, while immersed myself in Bringoli al pesto di aromi della Locanda (bringoli are made with water and flour, and are a specialty of Anghiari). Mine was excellent, but I'd have liked a drop less oil (as you can see in the picture), whereas the ravioli were perfect, very tasty, and made with excellent meat.

The second course couldn't be but meat-based; we opted for Tagliata di Chianina accompanied by first-rate baked potatoes for me, and a delicious seasonal vegetables sformato for her. Perfectly cooked, with just enough blood to make it succulent. Though we were already full, we decided to share Vanilla Ice Cream, served in bowls with brushings of melted dark chocolate, and we weren't at all sorry because we could taste the quality of the ingredients, with sweetness that was not excessive and vanilla without the contrived aromas one often encounters in even the best gelaterie. The wine list is adequate, with about 50 wines, mostly local, with a few from Chianti and Montalcino, etc; we selected (primarily with the splendid Chianina in mind) La Pelvaccia's Origine Nero 2006, a Sangiovese that was very nice, silky thanks to the roundness that came from barrique aging, but enough acidity and enticing licorice notes supporting a fruity, spicy weave.

The Agriturismo has 5 large, airy rooms that are sparingly but well furnished, and it goes without saying that the views were beautiful. Prices? Our lunch cost 75 Euros, including water and coffee. The rooms are offered following the B&B formula, i.e. night and breakfast, and run 60-80 Euros for the doubles and 90-110 for the triples.

Hikers will be in ecstasy because the Locanda del Viandante (my note; Viandante means wayfarer) organizes treks in the surrounding mountains (an extremely popular one, which departs from directly in front of the Locanda, is called "Following the wolf's tracks"). The nearby hamlet of Ponte alla Piera and the beautiful town of Anghiari are also well worth visiting.

And once you're there, you cannot miss the Museum of Monterchi, where you'll find Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto, a fresco of rare beauty that is striking both because of the subject and the symmetries, emphasized by the angels who flank the Virgin and hold up the flaps of the tent. If you haven't seen it, you must.

La Locanda del Viandante
Località Cerreto - Fraz. Ponte alla Piera - Anghiari (AR)
Tel. 0575 723016 - Cell. 334 7956056
E-mail: locandadelviandante (at) anghiari (dot) it

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti. We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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