Lucignano, From Gold to Chianina Goodness
The tall medieval watchtowers on Lucignano’s main piazza are testament to its bellicose history: ferocious battles raged when nearby Arezzo, Siena, Perugia and Florence vied for dominance of this hill town perched above the fertile Valdichiana valley stretched out below. The urban street plan, too, is typical of a fortified town: the Sienese built the first ring of walls in the 14th c and the conquering Medici added theirs over a century later. The concentric circles of looping alleyways are quiet now.
And Lucignano is to discover: sleuth out its “heart of gold.” You’ll find l’Albero della Vita (the “Tree of Life”) in the town Museo. Like us, you’ll probably view the stunning reliquary in flabbergasted silence: over seven feet of gilded bronze, embossed silver, enameled parchments, and coral branches interlaced in an intricate masterpiece of 14th c. and 15th c. Sienese and Arezzo area goldsmiths.
And Lucignano hides other delights, too – like the food. Strolling the backstreets, we stopped in at the local macelleria where butcher Gilberto was slicing up the prized bistecche alla fiorentina; after all, this is the Valdichiana area, homeland of the famous massive white oxen, la Chianina. The so-called “Florentine steaks” can only be of Chianina beef.
In the glass case, a huge salami we’d never seen caught our eye – and Gilberto offered us a taste of borista, a salami typical of the Arezzo area.
Gilberto and his wife Barbara have run their macelleria for over 15 years – and it’s worth a stop even if you’re vegetarian: the antipasto of porcini which Barbara had made certainly tempted…
But by this time, we were on “the Chianina trail” so Gilberto suggested the Ristorante la Maggiolata just up the road – where hosts, Fabrizio and Francesca cook up and serve Chianina (Gilberto provides the meats) goodness – and not only. I tried the pici al ragu di Chianina (thick handmade spaghetti with a meat sauce of Chianina beef) while Pino ordered the pici with walnuts, radicchio and gorgonzola.
He was holding off for the Chianina as a second course. But all I needed were those artichokes! Che buoni! Young Lucrezia – their daughter – was at a nearby table enjoying an extravaganza of a dessert – gluten-free – made by her mother. To wrap up our feast, we split a French yellow-cream tart, lo gnocco, this one a specialty of Gilberto.
Whether you head to Lucignano for the golden reliquary splendor – or for the Chianina – be sure to include it in your southern Tuscany explorations. You’ll strike gold.
Click here to read more about Lucignano’s golden treasure
Click here to read about nearby Trequanda, another southern Tuscan favorite
Read about Petroio, not far away
Montisi is yet another southern Tuscan gem
Read about Sinalunga, a nearby southern Tuscan hill town we often visit