Mostly about Miky and Pistoia, Tuscany:
My lovely friend from Twitter Michela Ricciarelli turned out to be a real expert and her help to us made our trip to Tuscany very special. She’s a professional tour leader and in addition to working for some of the leading food tours operators in Tuscany, can be hired to help you plan your own holiday or to lead gourmet, art or fashion tours of the area. I have to say, her skills and knowledge of the area meant we had several experiences that just wouldn’t have happened without her help. And, I am genuinely grateful for her support.
Pistoia itself, her home town, is a very good example of the sort of thing you could easily miss as a visitor to Tuscany. The outskirts of the town are quite industrialised and it is not particularly well known as a destination. And yet there are some fabulous sights to see in the old town – together with a level of culinary excellence that reminds me a little of Lyons in France.
Once you reach the city centre, the food shops and markets are impressive. And, this is a real working town in Tuscany, where what you see is there for the local people. Very excellent it is too. From local fungi to fabulous chocolates to one of the most extensive ranges of pork products. Miky was keen to show us some of Pistoia’s specialities.
The architecture is fine, with the Duomo taking one side of a piazza, where buildings include the Palazzo del Comune and the Palazzo del Podesta. Pistoia is also home to Italy’s third dome at Chiesa della Madonna Dell Umiltà – the first being in Rome and the second in Florence. I have no photos because it’s currently being restored and is covered with scaffolding, but, the other pictures of the city centre speak for themselves.
Miky’s husband runs a great pizza restaurant but it is only open in the evenings, so for lunch she took us to another of Pistoia’s hidden gems, a fabulous family run restaurant in the middle of one of the industrial areas of Pistoia and consequently perhaps not as well-known as the food and wines on offer deserve. The Restaurant, Rafanelli,is clearly well known by local people, but it’s a short drive from the old town centre. Run by Daniele and his family, it offers a mixture of traditional Tuscan food with some contemporary twists, with Daniele working front of house and matching some excellent wines to the food his wife and mother prepare in the kitchen.
We started with a simple basket of bread and some parmesan biscuits which set the tone for the entire meal.
We enjoyed a whole range of local specialities, after the antipasti focussing on options which didn’t involve meat so that we could all share the dishes.
We had a limited amount of time and tried a gnocchi dish that matched any I’ve eating before, gnudi (essentially pasta filling without the pasta!) and a couple of other pasta dishes.
If the savoury dishes were fine, the desserts were sublime. Beautifully presented morsels accompanied by perfectly match vin santo.
Now, we had an appointment out of town with a cheesemaker, but returned a little later and walked round the town a little more, Italian style (everywhere we went we seemed to bump into someone Miky knew!).
Eventually we ended up at the Pollo D’Oro, the pizza restaurant owned by Miky and her husband. Even several hours later I could do nothing more than eat a few mouthfuls of white pizza and a few more of the Margarita ordered by my friend. And that was a shame, because what I tasted was very good. Simple food made from good quality ingredients.
Miky pointed out to us that Pistoia would be an excellent base for a break in Tuscany. Why? Well apart from the city’s own charms, rail transport is good in Italy and Pistoia links directly to Florence, and is close to Lucca, Pisa and the Coast (by train). You can even go skiing, up in the mountains at Abetone, easily reached by car. And, of course, it’s considerably cheaper than staying in Florence.
And, of course you can contact Miky and get her help to make your trip work like clockwork!
With thanks to TuscanyNow for sending us to Tuscany and providing such fabulous accommodation.