GUEST: I was a guest at Castello di Meleto, in Gaiole (the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany), as orchestrated by Michael Yurch, of The Bluest Sky Group.

When we, as Americans, think of Italian cuisine, pasta immediately comes to mind, right? In a word association game, I say Italian food, and most people respond with either pasta or pizza. Headed to Tuscany, I saw ginormous, eyes-open-wide bowls of pasta ahead of me. I was so ready to chow down. But, as soon as the time came for me to order something for myself… I didn’t even go in either direction.

After 15.5 hour of travel, and going ahead in Italian time (by seven hours), I really thought I was so ready for either pasta or pizza.

I headed downstairs to have my first, authentic Italian experience at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Rome. In the the Mediterranean-style hotel’s lobby, I was completely surrounded by intriguing sculpture. I didn’t study it for very long. Hungry, I’d return later with my camera.

The above picture is of Marco, my wonderful waitserver. The menu was like reading a private love letter. Lyrical, embracing, and magical food mysteries were awaiting.  My eyes caught “Bistecca di pollo fritto” ~ Choosing the wine to go with it?

“Your house Puglia, please, to go with my Bistecca di pollo fritto.”

SIDEBAR: I’ve studied French and Spanish, but never Italian; and yet, I had a dream in Italian, and I understood every single word. Startled, I just awoke. I asked my husband what it could possibly mean. “In a past life you were Italian.” It made sense and we both just went back to sleep. Even now, though, something inside me wants to burst, when I hear Italian being spoken. But, I digress into another story fun…

So, off we went the next day… From Rome to Gaiole (in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany)…. When we arrived, there wasn’t a bowl of pasta or a pizza in sight. Honestly, it really didn’t matter anymore. I was already acclimating. No more expectations, just wonderment.

Instead, I was headed to Castello di Meleto, where I’d begin to learn to learn the culture of food and wine in Tuscany, through their wines and foods, prepared by their chef team of Maura, Alina, Irina, and Michaela…

Tuscan foods, according to the acclaimed, Florence Chef Giuliano Bugialli, in his preface for is Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy:

“The food of Italy is certainly among the most visually striking in the world, and its appeal is most direct when seen against its own background and landscape. Dishes seem to reflect the sea and sky, the countryside and cityscape, the whole Italian way of looking at things. This is an elusive magic…”

Arriving at Castello di Meleto

Castello di Meleto ~ Located in Gaiole, the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany…

After a few of offerings like the foods listed below, perhaps the adventurer in you might even decide this is worth witnessing and/or tasting for yourself. If you can’t get there, try pairing your similar wines with any of these foods. If you have Castello di Meleto’s wines, all the more authentic.

Ahead of my arrival, I had been asked about possible food sensitives, and I shared. The menu below was crafted to make sure that fish wasn’t being offered. (“It’s best not to send anyone home in a body bag, if it can be avoided,” said she, who is allergic to fish.)

Already written stories of Castello di Meleto, if you’d like more information going into this story:

Tomorrow, the continuation of this story, with Castello di Meleto’s food and wine pairing menu… Totally decadent and completely authentic…

No Pizza in sight, but yes… a bit of pasta.