Saturday, October 27, 2012

Antica Macelleria Cecchini

Touring Europe in 1995, I spent the last few days in Italy. I had been very lucky as Fall was setting in and as I traveled eastward from London to Florence, every day I moved, the previous nights place was rained on.

I had been staying in Bologna for a while as it's the Culinary-Heart-of-Italy. I told the Concierge that I had come to Italy to learn how to eat in the Italian style. I didn't expect to see or do as much in Florence. The museum's had finally worn me down and I am not a good tourist. I don't want to see the sights. I don't want to go where other tourists go. I want to immerse myself in "where ever you go there you are" theory of style of tourism. I cannot find a better way to put it in English.

The train from Bologna to Florence was through farmland that had mile after mile of either corn (somewhat interesting to see from a train window), or cabbage (of no interest whatsoever). I couldn't even rest, so I stared out the window. I must have been for hours and finally departing the train at the Stazione Firenze Santa Maria Novella or Firenze Smn for short. By now I had found a way to the hotel and as I walked towards it I heard the Arno River flowing and found a comforting moment in time. I left my bag at the hotel and returned to the Florence Smn and hopped on the first or second bus I saw. If I remember correctly, the headsign on the bus read: "via Chiantigiana". I understood that it might have something to do with Chianti, but was I ever in for a surprise.

Stazione Centrale Firenze Smn on right
The trip from the historic center of Florence, through the outlying neighborhoods wasn't much of anything to look at and maybe I thought to get another bus. I speak no Italian and have to use a book to form even simple phrases. So, when I boarded the bus I was careful to ask the driver if the bus returned to where I was getting on it. He assured me it did and I sat and watched the world go by.

As the bus rolled out of downtown Florence, the scenery changed rapidly. Although I thought the bus headed North, it actually went South. Soon I am in hilly country and the street name changed to Chiantigiana. While that word is at most a proper noun in Italiano, for me it meant my Chianti Journey.

Panzano and the Secret Location in the distance
As the bus rolled along the Tuscan Hills I realized I was having something of a magical experience. I didn't know where this bus would go. I must have boarded the bus in the late afternoon, as I had eaten lunch and been on the bus for a while before reaching the area known as Chianti. Technically, Chianti is in the Province of Florence, although Chianti is more a name about where a particular wine can be called Chianti, that a political subdivision. There is a Greve in Chianti and that's an actual place, but Chianti, by itself, doesn't exist. (I'm open to suggestions about this.) I had no idea that the bus would travel all the way to Sienna. As the afternoon sun warmed the bus on that crisp October day I knew I had to have some Chianti with dinner that night.

Gallo Nero - Symbol of Chianti D.O.P.
No Chianti is authentic without this
on the bottle.

A few minutes later, the bus rolled into a small village and my heart jumped when I saw a macelleria (butcher's shop) along Chiantigiana Via. Hanging on hooks in front of the shop where pheasants, ducks and a rabbit, splayed and held open with long branches of Rosemary stalks. I pulled the cord for the next stop and as I departed, the driver remembering me said that this wasn't what I had asked of him back in Florence. I stumbled around with words about whether the bus would come back this way and whether I could return to Florence and with a "yes" from him and some passengers, I hopped off the bus.

Rey Della Bistecca, Panzano
The photo above shows the hooks, above the door where I saw the prized foodstuffs. I didn't think much else about this place. Yet, I cannot convey in words what a wonder-of-the-world I saw in this place. The sun was now starting to go low on the horizon and I felt the night coming on. I found the bus stop for town and waited only a few minutes when another bus picked me up. There was few people on board and the driver couldn't talk to me in my bad Italian. So I sat and waited and eventually returned to Florence. But not before hopping off that bus and browsing through an Italian Supermarket. That was mostly a disappointment until I saw a large quantity of prosciutti in a bin near the meat counter. It in no way was as exciting as the butcher shop in Panzano.

Upon returning to the U.S., I forgot all about the Chiantigiani and the shop. For a while I could not even remember the Chiantigiani name. Some years later, I found the Florence Public Bus website and located the Chiantigiani Via, but coudn't find where I had seen this macelleria. But through the growth of the internet and mapping services, I have been able to recall all of the above. And the name of the butcher shop, and when I did much to my wonder, it's the most renowned shop in all of Tuscany. At least for meat.

The shop has a rather plain name of the Antica Macelleria Cecchini. I urge those reading this to follow the link to Dario Cecchini's website. The street address and phone are:

Officina della Bisteca

Via XX Luglio, 11

Greve in Chianti
Firenze Italy‎
+39 055 852176

They have a restaurant as well as the butcher shop.

Inside the Butcher Shop

Bistec Florentina

View of the Tuscan Hills and Vineyards

Dario even 'blogs about beef. Reservations are recommended, even for buying products to take home.