Our meal at this farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside was one of the highlights of our entire trip to Italy. We stopped here on a transfer tour from Florence to Rome and what a huge, and wonderful, surprise it was! The setting--on a hill in the center of an organic farm--was amazing. Our seating--in the shade of a vine-covered pergola, overlooking the farm and the surrounding countryside--was breathtaking. And the food was just spectacular. Everything, including the wine, was produced there right on the farm. And there really is a difference between the food that you get in a restaurant in some big city vs food that was picked that morning. REALLY fresh food is like a whole different food group.
Served family style, the hosts (Ulisse and Sandra) brought out no fewer than 16 separate dishes. So check out this Podere Il Casale version of "lunch" ... fresh sliced tomatoes, grilled eggplant, chickpeas, prosciutto, salami, a huge omelet (from the farm's own henhouse of course), a cabbage salad, spinach, ricotta, spaetzle, asparagus (oh man!), homemade bread, a heaping bowl of pasta with tomato sauce, all served with a wine, and finished with a tasting of Ulisse's own cheeses--two different goat cheeses and two different sheep cheeses (our favorite was the "winter half-aged" sheep cheese).
As amazing as the food was, it was still the setting, the view, and our hosts who really made this a lasting memory. Ulisse and Sandra are warm and gracious, and their story--about the farm itself, and opening up over the years to host hikers and other travelers--is fascinating. Big props to Mateo from Tuscany Car Tours who suggested this place. It's clear from everything that's going on at Podere Il Casale (be sure to check their listing under hotels--some of those reviews describe the food, the cooking classes and other options as well as the lodging) ... clearly the owners have earned the respect of their customers and their community. If you've rented a car, or if you're arranging a transfer tour, you should *absolutely* put this farmhouse lunch on your itinerary!
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