Tuscany has great food. This comes to no surprise to anyone and probably doesn’t need saying, but sometimes I am truly blown away by restaurants to the point that not only do I want to feature them here, I wish I could live there. Il Canto del Maggio is one of the places, a fabulous slow-food restaurant in a small borgo in the Valdarno area of Tuscany.
What makes this place special, like most anything in Italy, are the minds behind the concept of simple and elegant farm-to-table eating. In this case, the owner Mauro and his daughter Simona are a culinary father and daughter dream team. This isn’t some passing fancy, but real life. Their restaurant has been feature in Conde Nast, the Michelin Guide and deserves any and every write-up they get.
The Borgo & Apartments
We didn’t just eat here, we also stayed in one of the mini-apartments, as part of a weekend discovering just how amazing events can be planned with the organization Italian Eye.
Our accommodation at Il Canto del Maggio was nestled in this charming hamlet, simple and clean — this place has ‘Tuscan country’ written all over it. The borgo itself actually dates back to almost 1,000 years (and probably more) passing through the hands of many. The place itself is pretty strategically located in Tuscany, close to Arezzo, Siena, Florence and Cortona. Now the borgo has been restructured featuring both apartments, the restaurant and terrace, garden, pool and pretty fabulous views over the arno valley.
When we got there, we quickly dropped our bags off and did a little walk in the borgo before dinner with Mauro. It’s the kind of place that almost looks like a really beautiful junkyard, filled with items that would sell at a high price at any market.
I loved their ‘bug’ hotel and a beautiful old-stove sitting by the restaurant’s terrace (pictured above). Flowers bloomed in every corner, cats lazily draped over old chairs and somewhere an old woman was sweeping. No pretension, just daily life.
Mauro was more than happy to show us around his garden, or shall I say his crowning pride and glory, justifiably so since this is where the food from the restaurant hails from. Not a mildewy-coop bag of veggies in sight. While we often hear the term ‘buy local, seasonal or in Italy ‘o kilometer’ this embodies all of those things, without needing to particularly advertise it, this is just how they live.
As Mauro joked around with his little companion in crime, a small dog named Gino, we marveled at the all of the freshness before us. I am pretty sure this was the only time in my life I have seen over 300 bulbs of garlic in one place, everything was so nicely organized and colorful. This is a man who tends to his vegetables like family members and it shows in the wonderful food that is produced here. Everything here tastes as good as it looks. I highly recommend you ask Mauro for a garden tour.
Dinner that night was like a dream. Made more so by being in good company, we dined with our friends Alexandra and Tommy, just two engineers with their social-media obsessed partners. The menu is of course seasonal, with a noteworthy wine list in their own enoteca. We went a little overboard and ordered possibly every appetizer on the menu because this was ‘work’ right?
Two salads made in a different way, one with freshly sliced fennel and oranges (one of my favorites), plus a delightful green salad with pecorino (sheep cheese) from the area. We also got an artichoke sformatino with pistachio and the steadfast cheese place.
I always go for a cheese plate because we are in Tuscany and this one blew my mind with the pure deliciousness of the options and accompanying marmalade which are made and bottled here. Washed down with a local (from the Arezzo province) red from the enoteca which is when I made an embarrassing gaff (as you do). In the excitement of it all, I somehow managed to cleanly slice away the stem of my wine glass. To be fair, I blame food ecstasy, I am sure it exists on the internet somewhere.
Next came the mains. Obviously we all had a lot to eat this point but since it was shared and we were hungry. I eagerly dug into my duck egg with truffles and asparagus, while Nico, being a Frenchman, took a more delicate approach with this veal tartare. The egg was the size of my face (slight exaggeration) and was uniquely better than I could have ever imagine and managed to be another ‘foodie first’ in Tuscany for this girl. Truffles and eggs are two of nature’s best combinations.
If you wonder how the hell we found room for dessert, don’t you worry. There is always room for a sweet finale with this group of people. We finished our culinary journey with Mauro and Simona with a deconstructed cheesecake which was absolutely spot on, along with a chocolate cake that I had to steal several times from a chocolate-obsessed Nico.
We only ate there one night but we will certainly be back, I have this place bookmarked for when my family comes to visit for our wedding this November. I am hoping to make it out there for a romantic meal with Nico one of these free weekends, especially on that gorgeous terrace. I know that anyone who visits this place will be just as blown away by the food as I was, so I encourage those who want a true insight to how incredible Tuscan food can be to eat there.
To quote the great Julia Child. ”You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients”
Details & How to Get There
We were at Il Canto del Maggio as a part of a special blog tour organized by the lovely Olivia and Angela of Italian Eye, event and wedding planners extraordinaire. The fact that they chose this place for one of the dinners already says a lot about their business. All opinions of this restaurant and location are my own.
Il Canto del Maggio, Località Penna Alta 30/D, Tuscany. + 00 39 055 9705147; www.cantodelmaggio.com. email: [email protected] facebook. Ask to sit in the terrace garden for a meal under the stars or the charming inside location where we dined. \
Get there: Il Canto del Maggio is about 50 kilometers away from Florence, via the A1/E35 exiting Valdarno. Details here.
Restaurant: Highly recommend making a reservation, especially in the warmer months. Meals are around 35 euros per person (a steal for this food). +39 055 9705147.
Apartments: Range around 100 euros an up with several different options which you can see here. Include a small kitchen and air-conditioning.