Although Umbria has many fun activities and day trips within its borders, this year when my daughter and her family visited we decided to venture over to Tuscany to spend a couple of days. My eldest grandson turns 14 years old this week and when asked what he wanted to do on his vacation this year, his only request was to visit Panazano to see Dario Cecchini at his butcher shop Antica Macelleria Cecchini. We first brought our family to Panzano a few years ago, and Dario made such an impression on our grandson that he wants to return every year. Gabriel was dying to eat a “MacDario” sold at the Cecchini restaurant and is described as “a 250 gram crumb crusted burger served with roasted potatoes and three house sauces”. They now also offer a Super MacDario which comes with a side of Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup) and Tuscan beans. As well as his casual Dario Doc restaurant, Dario also has one called Solociccia which takes you from the muzzle to the legs and tail, traveling from the frying pan to the grill, oven, pot and skillet. If you love a great steak and have a big appetite, you can also visit his Officina della Bistecca restaurant for a steak tasting. We did the steak tasting a few years ago and it was unbelievable.
While in Chianti, we also wanted to visit Raymond Lamothe, a friend we met through Facebook who owns Casamonti Estate outside of Castellina in Chianti who raises Cinta Senese pigs. We have been trying to get to Raymond’s farm for the past few years and decided it would be an experience the grandkids would enjoy. We ended up planning two full days and one night in Chianti after deciding to also squeeze in a visit the Chianti Cashmere Company owned by Nora Kravis, yet another Facebook friend.
We headed to Chianti early one morning, arriving in Greve in Chianti with dark grey clouds overhead. We walked around the small town, did some shopping, and basically wasted some time until lunch when we headed over to Panazano. The Chianti towns are all relatively close to each other, and it is a beautiful winding drive to visit each one. It is impossible to miss Antica Macelleria Cecchini once in Panzano, as it is the only shop in town where folks are overflowing the shop onto the street, all with a glass of wine in hand along with a slice of bread slathered in lardo. I am pretty sure that it is the only butcher shop in Italy with loud music playing and a continual party atmosphere happening all the time! As always, Dario came over to warmly greet us and we enjoyed a sampling of his salami along with a glass of wine in his crowded butcher shop before we headed upstairs for lunch. Due to the weather we decided to eat inside and were seated at a long table by the fireplace. We all thoroughly enjoyed our MacDario burgers, Gabe in particular, along with an order of my favorite Cecchini offering, a plate of Chianti Sushi (beef tartare) to share between us. Read more about Antica Macelleria Cecchini……See photos below!
After lunch, we headed to Castellina in Chianti where we explored the town, window shopped, and enjoyed an afternoon gelato before heading over to Radda in Chianti to meet Nora Kravis on her cashmere goat farm. Nora, who is now a trained veterinarian from Long Island New York, moved to Chianti back in 1972. She ended up falling in love with the region, restored an old farmhouse and began collecting animals. Over time, Nora built her herd of cashmere goats from two goats to many, and her herd of cashmere goats are now recognized nationally and in other countries of the EEC as the first privately owned Cashmere goat herd in Europe. Nora also breeds Abruzzo guard dogs who are well known to protect herds of sheep and goats with their lives, and when we arrived at the property before Nora, a group of these magnificent large dogs let us know they were not happy with us.
Nora soon arrived, and after introductions were made she shared her fascinating story with us, sharing all the trials and tribulations she has been through building the herd of cashmere goats that she has today. Nora kindly allowed the children to cuddle a two week old goat who has been kept close to home due to an infection in its joints, and we all admired the sweet little thing while her Mother kept a careful watch. We then headed into the studio and shop where the cashmere yarn and products made from the yarn are made. As a knitter myself, I found the entire process of turning the undergrowth of the goat’s coat into the luxurious, soft yarn we were able to feel amazing. The fluffy undercoat is removed by hand combing each spring before it is sent off to mills to be turned into cashmere yarn. I ended up buying a gorgeous multi shaded blue cashmere shall, and three skeins of cashmere yarn that I will knit into something soon. Having finished our cashmere experience, we bid Nora goodbye and headed off to our hotel for the night. See photos below!
The next day we are up early as usual, and after enjoying breakfast at the hotel we decided to head to Monteriggione, a short drive away. Monteriggioni is a well kept, medieval walled town, located on a natural hillock, built by the Sienese in 1214. It was my first visit to this great little town, despite having visited this region many times and I highly recommend visiting it if you are in the area. We explored the town for an hour or two before it was time to head to Casamonti Estate outside of Castellina in Chianti.
Casamonti estate has been owned by Raymond Lamothe’s family for three generations and they now raise the famous Cinta Senese pigs as well as produce their own Chianti wines and olive oil. The Cinta Senese breed is very unusual in appearance as it has a black coat with a white sash (called a cinta in italian) that runs across its shoulders, sides and front legs. This pig is medium in size (adult pigs run between 160-200 kgs in weight), has sturdy limbs, long ears that cover and protect its eyes from branches and a long snout with a very thick grout that allows it to dig in the dirt at ease. These characteristics allow it to live as a free range animal in the woodlands of Tuscany. Unfortunately, this breed was on the endangered species list in the 1990’s although now the Consortium that was created to protect these pigs has restored the breed, so they are now off the endangered list. In fact, these Cinta Senese pigs and their meat have now been award a D.O.P. classification from the European Community as a product of high quality.
When we arrived at Casamonti we were greeted by the charming Anna Rita, Raymond’s wife who sent us off to admire the breeding pigs in their fenced areas while we waited on another group. The pigs were really nervous about having us admire them, although a few came close to the fence so we could admire them. When the other group arrived we were taken on a tour through the laboratory where the meat from the pigs is turned into traditional cured Tuscan salumi, as well as a tour through the olive oil room. We soon headed back to the house used for the tastings and settled down at tables set up outdoors. The meal we were served was a delicious multi-course affair, with the Casamonti meats being the highlight. The courses were served with a tasting of wines produced on the estate, and it was a lovely, long, typical Tuscan lunch. We bought a few products produced on the estate to take home with us, said good-bye to Raymond and Anna Rita and headed back to Umbria. See photos below!
It was a fun filled, informative, and thoroughly delicious Tuscan experience that we all truly enjoyed that had something for all of us although after two days on the road in Chianti, we were all happy to head home to our tranquil property in Umbria.
Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Via XX Luglio 11
Panzano in Chianti
Ph– 39 055 852020
Farm and Direct Sales – c/o CASHMERE GOAT FARM
Azienda Agricola La Penisola -53017- Radda in Chianti (Siena) ITALY
Ph – +39 0577 738080
Facebook: nora kravis
Facebook: capra cashmere italiana
Contact for Cooking Classes, Tastings, & Tour
Loc Podere Casamonti
53011 Castellina in Chianti
Ph – 0577 740380