07 December 2016

 
View over the Conca d'Oro
A delicious slice of Tuscan life
In the golden land of Chianti, Mark Jones finds a hidden valley of plenty
See our offers to Florence
View our hotels in Florence
he Conca d’Oro, the Golden Basin, sounds like something hidden and precious. It is. Deep in the Chianti region of Tuscany, it’s a place you might stumble across if you were lost. I did get lost on the drive from Pisa so it was well after midnight before I finally collapsed in bed in the Villa Barone, just outside the village of Panzano. This is where you head to discover the Conca d’Oro. After breakfast, we strolled into Panzano. Below, the gentle hills and valleys of the Conca were dozing.

Panzano has a population of 979, not many of whom were in evidence - although the bakery and cafe were doing steady business. In the distance there was a sound at odds with the village’s timeless surroundings. We walked towards the cacophony.
T
Enjoy some of Giovanni Manetti's organic wines
Stay at the luxurious Castello di Casole
It was unlike any other butcher’s I’d ever known. But then it belongs to Dario Cecchini: possibly the world’s only celebrity butcher. Dario looks like Jack Nicholson’s jovial Italian cousin. He has demonic eyebrows, a large, hooked nose and burly frame. All the superstar chefs know him: Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Jamie Oliver. His shop is a place of pilgrimage for those who care about meat.

It’s also a restaurant. At lunch, under the vines, we enjoyed his succulent beef. There were glasses of majestic Fontodi reds. The best guide to the Conca d’Oro is the man who makes that wine: Giovanni Manetti. If Dario is a Tuscan Jack Nicholson, Giovanni is an Italian Cary Grant: tanned, suave, drily humorous. After lunch, he drove us around his 80-hectare estate.

So what is the Conca? Sculpted into the hills 2,000ft up, it’s a fertile valley once famous for its golden corn — hence the name. Today the corn has gone and the Conca is heaven for winegrowers and cheese-makers. The southfacing slopes are perfect for Giovanni’s wonderful organic wines, vines interspersed with barley to feed his Chianina cows. Later that evening, Dario was cranking up the volume and sharpening the knives. The coals in his inferno were white hot and Highway To Hell blasted out the speakers. Here in foodie heaven it was going to be a long and hellishly good night.


Original article published in May 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
Here, in the land of cantatas and madrigals, someone was playing Aussie rockers AC/DC at full blast - in a butcher’s shop. People, some of them with wine glasses in hand, were spilling onto the pavement. Inside a packed crowd was laughing and drinking.
"Sculpted into the hills 2,000ft up, it’s a fertile valley once famous for its golden corn."
 
 
 
0330·100·2220i 0330 calls are included within inclusive minutes package on mobiles, otherwise standard rates apply. X 0330 calls are included within inclusive minutes package on mobiles, otherwise standard rates apply. X
 
Close