Gianlorenzo Neri from top Brunello producer Casanova di Neri reveals his hidden gems in and around the region of Montalcino. Famed for its pinci pasta, wild boar and of course world class wines this is a thriving region for the travelling epicurean. Gianlorenzo provides us with his top restaurant tips, favourite wine lists and the best times in the year to visit.
F+R: What are your favourite restaurants in Montalcino and the surrounding area and why?
Gianlorenzo Neri: There are many places where you can eat typical and well-made Tuscan food. The most authentic place in Montalcino area is Trattoria Il Pozzo or Il Leccio in Sant'Angelo in Colle (a village in south area of Montalcino). Inside Montalcino village do not miss Il Giglio, Alle Logge di Piazza, and Drogheria Franci. For special fine dining you must try Osticcio.
F+R: Where are the best wine lists in the town? What makes them so good?
Gianlorenzo Neri: The best wine lists in town are at Il Giglio (you can find very old and rare vintages of Brunello from great wineries) as well as Drogheria Franci (same ownership of Enoteca La Fortezza who have a big wine list where to choose from).
F+R: Outside of wine, what other things are there to do around Montalcino?
Gianlorenzo Neri: There are many things to see, do and taste in Montalcino. The area is very well known for honey (one of the biggest producers in Italy), saffron, white truffle, pecorino cheese, pasta, and other delicious local products.
The area is full of history, Sant Antimo is one of the oldest abbeys in Europe. There is also the ancient fortress and cathedral in Montalcino which is also worth visiting. Above all, you should see the old archery competition among the four different "neighbourhoods" in Montalcino. It is an event that is held twice a year (second weekend of August which is called "Apertura delle Cacce" and last one in October during "Sagra del Tordo").
F+R: What are the local food dishes in the region that you should not miss?
Gianlorenzo Neri: Do not miss "Pinci" with meat sauce or pecorino cheese and pepper (in italian "cacio e pepe"), it is the typical pasta of the area, or "Peposo" which is a braised beef meat cooked in a Brunello sauce.
F+R: What is the local pasta speciality in Montalcino?
Gianlorenzo Neri: Pinci is the king specialty, only flour, water and good hands required in its preparation!
F+R: When is the best time in the year to visit Montalcino and why?
Gianlorenzo Neri: I strongly recommend spring (April and early May) as well as during fall (October and November). Way less crowded, cooler, and very often cheaper. September is fun too if you are interested in experiencing the harvest.
F+R: What other things would you recommend to do in the area?
Gianlorenzo Neri: The region has a beautiful landscape which invites walking or just chilling outside. There are many wonderful country roads ideal for a relaxing walk or mountain biking. There are so many wineries worth visiting, of course! Montalcino is small but full of variety.