Tuscan Specialties of Montalcino: Pastries, Honey and More
If you’re seeking to sample Tuscan specialties, you’d do well to start in Montalcino. While other towns and villages in the Val d’Orcia boast their own specialities, you’ll find in Montalcino, aside from the ever present Brunello wine, the following delights.
All Things Bread
Go to the town’s medieval heart and you’ll find Forno Lambardi, which for three generations has been producing Tuscan breads and pastries.
Giovannina Medaglini Lambardi produces sourdough bread with or without salt — a quintessential taste of Tuscany and perfect for bruschetta. She also makes schiacce with raisins and scricchiole (literally “crunchy”) rolled in anise, fennel and white wine — perfect, she says, for munching at all hours. Panforte, the traditional chewy Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, is another specialty. Add to that gnocchi, pici (a peculiarly Tuscan, eggless pasta), ravioli, cantucci (perfect for dipping in vin santo), crostate (fruit pie) and bread sticks of all sorts and sizes. You can’t find a better place in the Val d’Orcia for the tastiest carbohydrates.
Bees, Honey and Wine
Azienda Agricola Villa I Cipressi, on the road from Montalcino towards Sant’Antimo, is the home of Hubert Ciacci, who was practically born into honey. Hubert grew what was once his father’s pastime into a professional business, creating a landmark in the world of Tuscan bee-keepers.
The company has over four hundred hives and uses what is called the “nomadic technique” in which beehives are spread from inland areas to the sea in order to maximize the collection area of the bees. This results in a wide variety of pollens collected, which in turns lends a wide variety of flavors to the final products: not only royal jelly, pollen, and propolis, but also nearly a dozen different types of honey.
Typical pollinating plants of the area around Montalcino are sunflowers, heather and the “strawberry tree”. But Ciacci’s bees also seek out rosemary, clover, lavender, eucalyptus, acacia and chestnut, among others. Visiting the store attached to the Villa, you will find all these varieties of honey, with prices ranging from 10 to 40 euros per kilo, depending on the rarity of the pollen. Each honey matches perfectly with the local pecorino cheeses at various ages — for example, acacia honey goes well with well-aged cheese, while chestnut honey compliments fresh cheese or even ricotta.
Along with the honeys, you’ll find the fine wines produced by the azienda: Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, grown on two plots of Sangiovese Grosso located at different altitudes. Not only that, but Ciacci produces liqueurs, pasta sauces, an excellent olive oil and local Tuscan specialties like hazelnut spread and chestnuts preserved in honey syrup (also known as “chunks of heaven in a jar”).
Montalcino, one of Italy’s “towns of honey”, celebrates its production of sweetness with a large market show held on the second weekend of September, an excellent time of year to enjoy a walking tour of the region — so you can walk off those extra calories guilt free!