The villa stands on the top of the hill. From the balcony in front you have a magnificent view of all of Chianti; behind is an old garden with wild mint and hedges, grass walks and an artificial lake in which water glistens under the bright Tuscan sun.
The oldest building on the estate-Cassero D’Albola- was built in the 12th century when it was the property of the nobility of Monterinaldi. In the 15th century the castle was built and transformed during the Renaissance into a spectacular villa.
It was most recently restored by the Zonin family, one of the oldest and largest importers of wine throughout the world. And it was they who invited me to spend a few days there getting to know the wines of Castello D’Albola.
My apartment there at the Castello had large and lofty rooms with a large window in the kitchen that opened out to the view of the gardens. It was August and I spent most of my days admiring the peaceful serene countryside and the hills of Chianti that were painted with endless vineyards and cypress trees.
When I was able to get over the splendor of the views I would spend much time seeing the sights, pleasant mornings in Radda in Chianti or Greve in Chianti, small, characteristic little towns. Although we were in close proximity to Florence I seldom visited except to lunch or dine with friends. I was in awe of the beauty of the castle and preferred to walk about the gardens and relax with a good book.
If I wanted to go out I preferred to get into our Fiat and explore the Chianti countryside. As I was winding along the hills of Chianti a sense of tranquility came over me..the brilliant hue of the dark purple Sangiovese grapes almost ready to be harvested and the greyish green olive trees..the beauty was… captivating..
Vin Santo produced there made a perfect accompaniment to the cantucci biscotti I would find at a local bakery each day in one of the little towns. Finding great cantucci became somewhat of a ritual every day so that we would have a reason to sip Vin Santo in the evenings after dinner..
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup whole almonds
4 whole eggs beaten
1 tsp of grated orange peel
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place whole, unpeeled almonds on cookie sheet, place in oven and toast for 3 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and chop in large pieces.
Sift flour into a bowl. Place inside sugar, eggs, baking powder, orange peel, pinch of salt. Blend well till dough is smooth, but not too soft., then add in almonds and blend in.
Cover cookie sheet with baking paper. Form dough into a long roll, the form of a long finger. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cut diagonally to form biscotti. Cover cookie sheet with baking paper, place single biscotti on baking paper and bake for approx 25 minutes or until crispy and golden. Remove.
For more stories of fabulous places in Italy and great recipes get your copy of the book that was selected as the Best Italian Cuisine Book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition
See you at the Philadelphia Gourmet food & Wine Show on Oct 29-30 at the Valley Forge Convention Center
*Oct 3rd- Italian Cultural Center in Sacramento, California
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