If you plan to visit Valdera – Tuscany – get ready for intense days, lots of food and excellent wines!
In the Tuscany region, right between the very famous cities of Pisa and Florence, I found Valdera area.
Considering its location, you can already imagine the gastronomic temptation this is! Valdera Tourism office invited me to spend three days in this area to explore some of its potential (I say some, because it sure was a lot left to visit)
Typically an industrial city by the river Arno, Pontedera municipality has been investing in a change of image. The local government invited several artists to create works of art on the streets of the city and thus make it more beautiful.
And speaking of art and beautiful things…. I found out that Pontedera is the hometown of the iconic Vespa motorcycle. It even has a museum where you can see all the models of this bike since the first one in 1946, as well as other models of the Piaggio brand.
I don’t have a motorcycle license, but I confess that I felt like having a light green Vespa and getting lost in the bucolic hills of Tuscany!
In Pontedera I tried two very different restaurants.
This is a good example of a weekend restaurant, to go with the whole family, located right in front of lake Braccini. This lake, in summer, is very frequented by the locals of Pontedera, who enjoy it as their beach!
Amalia Laghi serves Italian food, but with a modern twist. A room full of natural light, overlooking the lake and well-prepared food. I’m sure that in summer, with a less gray sky, the food tastes even better!
A restaurant with a very homely decor, where the walls are filled with wines and the counter also works as a grocery store for those who want to take home cheese, sausages and other delicacies.
This was our antipasto (starter, before the main course). A board with a wide variety of salami, prosciutto, regional goat cheese and unsalted bread, typically served in Tuscany. In this region, the bread is purposely made without salt since the whole charcuterie is already intense in flavor!
And if this were not enough, after the antipasto, the pasta was served. I ordered a classic – tortellini al ragu – because I believe it is in the basics that you can see the true quality of the products and who cooks them. And I was not wrong, it was one of the best pastas I ate in the whole trip, well cooked and well seasoned!
The meal was paired by an excellent Chianti, a wine sub-region within Tuscany and in which Pontedera is also inserted.
Lari was my favorite village! Because despite having few inhabitants, in this medieval village within walls and with a castle of the century. XVII, there is an excellent and varied gastronomic offer.
After climbing the 92 steps to the top of the castle and seeing the stunning view over the Tuscan hills, I went back down to the Martelli pasta factory.
This is a family business that the Martelli’s have run since 1926. Here I learned how to make spaghetti and maccheroni by hand by those who really know what they are doing.
While in Lari, I visited two charcuterie – Ceccoti and Davide Balestri macelleria – both small and handcrafted. I tasted the prosciutto, quite different from portuguese ham because it is cured for a shorter period and this process is done with the help of spices.
I tried salami with truffles, rigatino di Lari – something similar to bacon – and I enjoyed the lardo. The latter is a real sin, nothing less than slices of pork fat cured with pepper, garlic and aromatic herbs!
And still…. yes, even before lunch, we went to Bernardeschi – Il Fornaio di Lari, where delicious Colomba, the typical Easter sweet in Italy, is produced. It is similar to the portuguese bolo-rei and italian panettone, but in fact it was much more fluffy and tasty than both!! I would say that a glass of vin santo to taste it with, would be the perfect match!
Who knew that after a morning of eating, I was still hungry for lunch! We went to Bottega di Confreo. Another traditional restaurant, with a very cozy decor, inside stone walls and vaulted ceilings. The antipasto this time was a selection of different bruschetta followed by a pasta (from the Martelli factory of course) al Ragu, as I like it!
Very close to Lari there is the village of Casciana Terme, famous for its thermal baths. But it was not to bathe in warm waters that I went here. I was there to eat (again!)
Dinner that day was at the Atutt’Antipasto restaurant. It is a place to eat, but in a different way! As the name implies, here the menu is all composed of antipasti that vary according to the seasonality and inspiration of the Chef.
That day the selection went through corvina, salmon, octopus, beef hamburger all served in small portions, as in a tasting menu.
A food trip to Tuscany was not complete without a visit to a wine producer.
In this case, the winery chosen was Tenuta di Ghizzano, a farmstead that has been in the same family for 26 generations. In the eighties they finally started to produce high quality wine, initially from the Italian Sangiovese variety, to which Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were added.
Today there are 20 hectares of vineyard planted around the farm. In addition to the red varieties mentioned, they also produce white Vermentino, Trebbiano and Malvasia bianca. The use of mostly local grape varieties and the proximity to the Mediterranean, give the wines unique characteristics and excellent quality.
I tasted four wines at the end of the visit to the winery Tenuta di Ghizzano. Out of these four, I chose as favorites:
- white Il Ghizzano i.g.t Costa Toscana – this wine, made from Trebbiano, Vermentino and Malvasia bianca, ferment two days with its skins. This makes it very dry in the mouth, with good acidity and also some salinity due to the Mediterranean influence. At the end, as after taste, the were dried fruits flavors that combined perfectly with a good pecorino!
- red Veneroso d.o.c Terre di Pisa – this is the top of the range of Tenuta di Ghizzano, since its first harvest in 1985. It is made mostly from Sangiovese with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked the taste of riped plums with black pepper and cinnamon (it seems impossible, but it’s true!) A dry wine with a long finish that cuts the fat of the prosciutto with which it was served
After a tasting beautiful wines along olive oil, cold cuts and cheese, it was time to literally get your hands dirty!
Fattoria Fibbiano is a 12th century farmhouse that in 1997 was completely recovered by the current owner, gaining a brand new vineyard. In addition to producing wine and olive oil, in this farm there is also a wine bar, wine store, restaurant and agrotourism.
For our group, the suggested activity was a fresh pasta workshop. Amazing how with just two ingredients – flour and eggs – something so delicious is made! First, we mixed both ingredients to form a moist, but consistent dough. Then we rolled out the dough and passed the machine that cut it into thin spaghetti.
We let it dry for thirty minutes and it was ready!
While we were entertaining ourselves with some delicious antipasti and tasting the wines of Fattoria Fibbiano, Paula – our fantastic pasta teacher – prepared a creamy and tasty carbonara with the spaghetti we had just made.
And it was still with the taste of pasta, eggs, cheese, salami and wine still in my mouth that I ended my gastronomic adventure in Valdera! It was really good but just to short…. I will definitely come back and get to know more of this beautiful region of Italy!
Grazie Mille to Valdera Tourism office for providing me with this tasty experience 😊