Bolgheri in Tuscany
I’ve been to Italy about a dozen times, including several trips to Tuscany, but until this trip had never taken the time to drive up the western coast line of Tuscany. It’s a short drive from Rome, just turning north and traveling through Civitavecchia for a couple of hours. We found the most special retreat in a small agritourismo spot that served as our base for exploring the area.The hotel suggested we venture into Bolgheri, just a short drive away, but we didn’t fully understand how famous this little town is. You drive about 4 kilometers along a cypress tree lined street that was made famous by the poet Carducci before you get to the entrance to the tiny village. The road was completed in 1841 and more than 2500 very large cypress trees line it on each side.Classically, laundry hangs out to dry above the pretty trattorias below.Those chairs and tables are actually made from the wooden wine crates – it seems we had accidentally stumbled into one of the more famous wine regions of Tuscany, home to the Sassicaia DOC, a very expensive red wine made in the Bordeaux style that began as a Super Tuscan IGT wine before gaining a DOC about 10-15 years ago.The town is tiny, just a small circle around two or three streets, but it’s perfect for a Saturday lunch……starting with carpaccio of wild boar with an arugula salad.The bruschetta held us over until our pasta dishes arrived……and when you are in Tuscany in the fall, I’m not sure the is anything more iconic on the menu than the pappardelle with wild boar ragu.After lunch we had to see what all the fuss was about since none of us had ever had Sassicaia, so we stopped into a wine store and shared a single glass between the four of us – and that was a 30 euro single glass of wine I might add.The Sassicaia tasted like you might expect, like a big California cabernet, which isn’t really my favorite style of wine. We also tasted some other wines of the region and ended up buying several to take on to our house in Tuscany for the week.There is a little cemetery in town which we we given a short tour of by an elderly Italian man and although we couldn’t understand much of what he was saying, it seems that Grandma Lucia, whom the poet Carducci was very fond of, was buried here in 1842.They make use of most anything from the winemaking process in Bolgheri, including using the old barrel halves for these pretty flower boxes.Heading back towards our hotel, we wandered around the San Silvestro area where you can find ruins from an old castle and old mining operations.And from up on that hill, you can see back towards the cypress tree lined street that leads up to our hotel, Poggio ai Santi. Everything about Poggio ai Santi is charming. From the small pots with baby pomegranates growing……to the rusty old sign for the reception desk and famous Il Sale restaurant.We stayed in the garden suite rooms which were just lovely, and very spacious.Out the back of the hotel you can see all the way down to the town of San Vicenzo on the water.Pretty much everything surrounding the area is agricultural – olive trees, grape vines, orchards, and farms, including the organic farm that is part of the Poggio ai Santo agritourismo.A patio wraps around the main structure of the hotel, where you can enjoy a glass of wine before before heading in to the restaurant.Il Sale, we found, is a destination restaurant, and although there were only a few guests in the hotel, the dining rooms were filled each night. The chef comes out to personally discuss what you would like to eat, suggesting dishes and wines to try, like the ansonica white wine he offered us to pair with our fish dishes.Poggio ai Santi is a special find, and although you might not be traveling to the western coast of Tuscany as your destination, if you find yourself with a day or two to kill in between scheduled stops like we did, this is one perfect retreat!