italian jaunt: siena
moving into tuscany, siena (another hill town with escalators!), was our next stop. siena is a beautiful, albeit very busy and touristy, city that was wonderful to explore. il campo (pictured above) is the star feature - a medieval piazza with gently sloping red-brick sides and an abundance of space to sit back and enjoy the late summer sun.
if you are in siena you must visit the palazzo publico and explore its art (particularly the chapel and the famous fresco allegory and effects of good and bad government) . if you’re feeling energetic (david was, i wasn’t) you can climb the bell-tower (see below).
despite my lack of exercise i was definitely in need of decent food which siena provided in abundance. il carroccio (via casato di sotto, 32), a member of the slow food movement, is worth booking if you want to guarantee yourself a table.
our shared first course was incredible, full of earthy flavours, and i will be attempting to recreate this at home – bruschetta di cavolo nero, fagioli (black eye beans) con l’occio e porcini. i followed this with gnocchi with tarragon, artichokes and a sundried tomato garnish which sadly wasn’t as exciting as david’s pasta with an intensely tomatoey ragu of herbs, tuscan salami and grated ewe’s milk cheese, which i kept stealing mouthfuls of.
we decided to have pudding. ricciarelli (a local speciality and not to different from my own attempt) served with a meagre thimble of vin santo for me and an enormous chocolate and pear cake for david. however, i was quickly distracted by the wonderful smelling soup that had arrived at the table next to us - according to the menu it was la cipollata del conta dino (onion soup) with shaved parmesan and orange rind. sadly i was too full to round my meal off with it but again this is one to attempt to make at home.
we had another fabulous meal at antica osteria da divo (via franciosa, 29). this was another lonely planet recommendation and while the food was lovely and the setting gorgeous (rough-hewn walls with lower levels that are etruscan tombs) i don’t think that any of our fellow diners were local.
on arrival we were presented with a complementary glass of prosecco and small amuse bouches. we both started with pasta – pici (a local speciality of thick hand-rolled noodles) with fresh porcini, thyme, sundried tomatoes and a pangritata f rosemary bread for me and a divine lasagnetta au gratin with pork ragu, fennel seeds and pecorino di fossa cheese. i will definitely be attempting to recreate the flavours in the lasagne. in fact, the pork mince is already in my freezer waiting for me.
for the first time during our trip we decided to follow the pasta with meat dishes. david chose rolled pork stuffed with swiss chard, fresh pecorino and summer truffle with caramelised spring onions and mash. he thought this was great but i couldn’t get beyond the taste of truffle which i really dislike, so can’t comment. however, my lamb medallions encrusted with almonds were gorgeous as was the salad i had instead of the mash that should have accompanied them.
dessert amuse bouches (there must be another term for this, fill me in if you know…) followed and david finished with a rich semi-freddo in a vanilla basket. coffee and chocolates finished us off!