Borgo di Vagli – A Feast for the Senses

A view of the Tuscan valley

Our magical part of Tuscany is where the weather doesn’t seem to matter to our enjoyment of all its charms.  We arrived in the midst of a rare fall wind and rainstorm.  After a two hour trip savoring the pleasures of rediscovering shopping in an Italian grocery store, I had a pot of my Ragu simmering on the stove while Colin was deciding which bottle of Rosso di Montalcino we should try – a new purchase waiting to be discovered or an old favorite from Casanova di Neri (one of the greatest wines this area offers).  The rain continued, Il Volo played on the CD player and we sampled salumi and parmesano reggiano.  We were home!

That night the wild boar paid us a visit  and as we lay in bed we heard their snuffling and grunts of pleasure as they discovered the black walnuts and figs that had fallen to the ground from the trees outside our window.

Morning arrived and with it, bright blue sky and warm sunshine.  I had been intrigued by an article I had read about a tiny chamber in the Palace of Urbino, a Renaissance town in the Le Marche region.  We headed off to discover this part of Italy about two hours northeast of Cortona.  The tiny room is by all comparisons, a veritable feast for the eyes but was only one part of the huge castle of marble and stone. The chamber, or Studiolo, a room of contemplation for the Duke of Urbino in the 15th century, is composed of intarsia.  This woodwork technique creates the illusion of 3 dimensions in 2 dimensions and apparently only a handful of these rooms were ever built.  Incredibly beautiful and a must see for anyone in the area.

Fruits of the Region

In the center of Urbino, the restaurant Antico Osteria de la Stella did not fail us either.  As usual, lunch was a two hour affair replete with Carpaccio of beef, gnocchi sautéed with pancetta and pistachios, tender beef filet and gianduja (combination of hazlenuts and chocolate) ice cream accompanied by whipped chocolate cream and almond brittle.  As much as I love cooking I also enjoy being cooked for and this was an unexpected treat!

Days for us in Tuscany pass quickly as we are caught up in the spell of the area – in the rolling hills that lie on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, and the mountains overlooking Lago di Trasimeno where Napoleon defeated Hannibal and the bones supposedly of thousands lie.  Walks in the hills gathering the fruits of the season have become a favorite pastime of mine.  This year I am happy to discover plums, apricots, cherries, berries, and of course overladen trees of figs and walnuts.  Ripe for the picking and oh so good! Beautiful sunrises and sunsets combined with warm sunshine and a nip in the air delight us.

A visit to this area however is not complete without a visit to Ristorante Walter Redaelli, the best in Tuscany if not all of Italy. Walter is the former head chef at Locanda Del Amorosa and his current restaurant is located at a charming B&B La Leopoldina in Bettolle just off the A1.  Fresh local ingredients serve as the inspiration for both imaginative and traditional seasonal cuisine prepared by the chef himself. Great value, impeccable service, and an outstanding wine list make this a must go to and a favorite of mine.


Next on our list was a visit to Poliziano a winery located just outside of Montepulciano for our yearly tasting of their latest vintage!  We were not disappointed!  Fabio met us as usual and Jennifer (American expat and author) did our tasting with us regaling us with her latest anecdotes of life in Italy and all the information on their latest releases including a fabulous Vin Santo of which only a few hundred cases were made.  In addition, we were treated to a new taste treat, their 2008 Mandrone di Lohsa.  I understand Wine Spectator has just given it a 92.  We were lucky enough to be able to buy a couple of bottles and one bottle of the vin Santo.  We intend to share them at Thanksgiving this year……… What fun that will be!