Tuscany has no shortage in options for shopping for food. You can go to large supermarkets, neighborhood specialty stores and farmers markets. And, since we were tourists, going to many normal tourist towns, we found huge numbers of touristy stores that offer very attractive combinations of dried pastas, bottled and canned sauces, olive oils, sausages, cheeses and any other type of packaged Tuscan foodstuff you can imagine. While we shopped in all of these, and found many of the tourist shops attractive and fun to browse, our favorites were generally the farmers’ markets and the small specialty stores. As mentioned below, we particularly enjoyed a specialty cheese store in Pienza.
Wine stores are just as varied, with it available in supermarkets, huge specialty stores (such as Greve’s Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti), small enotecas (wine tasting rooms and stores) and specialize winery/retail shops to which you bring your own bottles and jugs which are filled from the tap in metal wine vats. Many farmers’ markets, meanwhile, have booths from which local vintners taste and sell their own wines. But, with so many wineries from which we could soak in the atmosphere (see our Tuscan winery blog), speak with tasting room managers (and sometimes winemakers) and sample wines before we bought, we ended up buying all of our wine direct from the wineries.
But for all the stores we explored on our trip, one stood out as the most fun and the most atmospheric. This is despite the fact that it is, in some ways, one of the most touristy shops of our Tuscan trip.
Antica Macelleria Falorni in Greve. After a multi-course lunch from our cooking class, we were in the mood for a very light pick-up dinner that we could eat at home. We remembered just the place to stop from our previous Tuscan visits. A salumi shop in the center of Greve in Chianti’s town square has curing hams hung from every spare inch of the ceiling and an aging cellar full of cheeses. It offers about a dozen different cheeses, many dozens of salumis in virtually every size, shape and taste you could want, and a large selection of wine. And to make sure you find the wine you which to buy, you could select tastes of about 20 different wines from automated smart-card based dispensers that let you select anything between a small taste to a full glass. After many samples, we decided to buy a bottle of 2008 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico to pair with our three house-made salumis (Toscano Classico, Salame Grevigano, and our absolute favorite–the Salsiccia con Cinghiale or Wild Boar salame) and one house-made cheese (Selezionato Per Antica Macelleria Falorni). We picked up a loaf of bread and went home to our own no fuss, no mess.
But, if you are really looking for local cheeses, the lovely town of Pienza is a great place to begin your search. The town, in addition to being a World Heritage Site, is also the home of Pecorino di Pienza, one of Tuscany’s best ewe’s milk Pecarinos. The city’s cheese stores offer all ages and preparations of the cheese. We bought a large piece of Pecorino aged in grape must. Although the must, seeds and rind were somewhat bitter, once you get a few millimeters into the cheese, it is delicious, a bit sharp with a firm, crumbly texture and long aftertaste. The cheese, combined with a Vino Nobile that we bought in Montepulciano, and another of Antica Macelleria Falorni’s wild boar sausages made for a wonderful casual dinner. Almost as good as the Epoisses, pressed foie gras and Cote de Nuits burgundy we had in Paris. But that’s for another blog.