As I’m living in Tuscany, Italy, right now, there’s a lot to see, a lot to do, a lot to experience – and a lot to eat all the time. Although I enjoy the privilege of being able to explore new places every weekend in this beautiful country, I have the tendency to get stressed out by the sheer endlessness of possibilities.
So today, instead of making big decisions about where to drive, what road to take and where to stop, me and my workmates just did what’s easiest and (therefor) often the last thing to be thought of: we explored our immediate vicinity.
Living in Prato, a not too nameable city of 200.000 centrally located in Tuscany, we are surrounded by rocky green hills that basically start right behind our doorstep. The street in front of our house is as flat as can be, but following it around just one corner, things get really steep. The narrow path we take right uphill is lined with olive groves, the November-sun feels worthy of at least September and the lookouts get more and more stunning as we walk upwards.
After a while, we reach a little village, the few houses are nestled up against the hills’ rocky spine. Only the church, in the centre of this tiny cosmos, sticks out above them all, the golden ornaments on top seem to be held up particularly high, as to let them shine even more in today’s endless sunshine.
I feel really caught up in contemplating this place – but still I can’t deny that I am starting to feel a bit hungry from our hike. As I said, here in Tuscany (or let’s face it, everywhere in Italy), food is a really important aspect of cultural and social life.
I should have gotten used to the miracles of the Italian cuisine by now, but I really haven’t. The next thing we see on our way, really just 20 more metres down the road, is just the most wonderful restaurant I have ever had the luck to come across. From the outside, you can’t see much, but what you see is already promising. It basically looks like you’re about to walk into a small family farm, the entrance way is overgrown with red grape-vine, there’s kids playing around and the tiny old Fiat Cinquecento helps with the atmosphere as well. What’s most important though is this absolutely fascinating colour of the light that no camera can really picture and I can only and insufficiently so describe as: golden.
There’s a beautiful large terrace that is surprisingly crowded with people, but not in a bad way. We find a table just by the balustrade and get to sit in the amazingly warm afternoon sun while enjoying the panorama stretched out beneath us.
And the food… well the food is just everything I love about Italian food: it’s simple but it’s genius. Because if you have all these products right from your backyard, when vegetables have a real taste of their own, when everything is homemade and fresh and feels like an epiphany for your taste buds – you don’t need fancy, elaborate recipes: you just put some fresh bread on the table and offer some homemade olio nuovo (olive oil that is bottled right after the harvesting, without further processing) and your guests will simply forget that there’s still waiting for a main course! Seriously, this oil… it’s just glorious.
So yes, we had a splendid afternoon in this wonderful place that we would have never discovered if we hadn’t slept too long to take the trip we originally planned. Sometimes it’s best to do things the simple way – I seem to realize that more and more nowadays. Sometimes driving a full hour to do a hike somewhere because it said on the internet that it was nice isn’t the best idea. Sometimes – it’s doing the hike that lies right beneath your feet. Maybe it’s too much to say but I feel like this tiny village and especially this restaurant were somehow the push I needed to really start writing things down. Because when we were walking down the hill again I thought: if I don’t write this down, maybe no one will. And this beautiful place could go unnoticed by so many. I don’t want that. Maybe it’s ridiculous to think that someone will visit Prato and find this restaurant because of what I wrote about it (especially when there’s so many other stupendous places around) – but hey, I did what I could. I had an amazing experience in this place, and that’s why I shared it. So if anyone cares to see this Tuscan heaven, feel free to ask me for directions!