Ristorante San Martino 26 – a “towering” cuisine in San Gimignano

San Martino 26 (16)Ristorante San Martino 26
Via S. Martino 26
53037 San Gimignano (SI)
Owner: Fabio Pernarella
Chef: Ardit Curri

Fabio Pernarella and his family bring 27 years of restaurant experience to this relatively new enterprise in San Gimignano. Perucà is their other ristorante, where their entry into the restaurant business had its humble beginnings. For over two decades it has been a most popular Tuscan restaurant, not to be missed. But in this city of fabled towers, Chef Ardit Curri, a true culinary artist, offers a cuisine that towers above the rest, taking a traditional way of cooking to new and creative heights at Ristorante San Martino 26. Like the cuisine, the ambiance is a harmony of light and contemporary décor, blending beautifully with its ancient stone walls and cellars.

San Martino 26 (3)The only way to really explore these tempting innovations is to sit back and enjoy one of their seasonal tasting menus. Journey along with the chef and let your waiter pair the wines with the various courses, making this adventure a celebration of all that is good and beautiful in Tuscany. Each course was brought to the table like a small gift, beautifully presented, familiar yet surprising: like Il Fegatino Toscano, chicken liver with vin santo on a home-made pan brioche or the poached egg yolk hidden in a mound of whipped egg-whites and Parmesan, topped with truffles. We particularly enjoyed La Chitarrina, fine hand-made egg noodles made spicy with aglio e olio then coated with a more delicate creamed anchovy and shrimp sauce.

Our wines included the famous Vernaccia wine of San Gimignano, a crisp white wine locally produced from the Vernaccia grape. Earliest mention of this wine dates back to records from the 13th century, but since the Renaissance, it has been considered one of Italy’s finest wines. With our main entrée, roast pork with steamed carrot and purée of green beans, we sipped a Super Tuscan Peperino. The sweet Moscadello di Montalcino, with its gem-like topaz color, accompanied our dessert and it was a match made in paradiso. In spite of what seemed like an endless parade of dishes, because portions and flavors were balanced to perfection, we left completely satisfied at meal’s end, ready to explore the treasures of this medieval city.

San Martino 26 (10)

Chef Ardit Curri

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com


Ristorante Pomarancio – a riverview restaurant

Ristorante Pomarancio

Ristorante Pomarancio
Via Gabriotti, 14
(near the historic center)




At the confluence of the Upper Tiber River and its smaller tributary, the Reggia, sits the town of Umbertide.  Ristorante Pomarancio is across the river, a stone’s throw from the historic city center and is named after the 16th century artist whose paintings can be found in the nearby octagonal church known as la Colleggiata.  Ristorante Pomarancio offers outdoor dining on a delightful patio overlooking the river with a view of Umbertide’s ancient dwellings, their muted colors softly reflected in the waters below the city’s old stone walls.

Pomarancio’s large interior dining room has a contemporary, understated elegance, featuring pure white china on linens in shades of khaki and off-white, accented by napkins the color of pumpkins.  Soft music plays in the background, but at least twice a month, the restaurant offers live music.  Just recently, on Valentine’s Day, they hosted an evening of jazz to their 120+ diners.

We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch.  A pleasant Rosso di Montefalco wine kept us company through a four-course meal that began with a mound of porcini mushrooms on a bed of watercress and rucola greens, topped with shavings of pecorino.  A light primo of spinach-filled crepes was followed by stinco di maiale al vino rosso, tender pork shank braised in red wine.  Pomarancio’s chef is from Puglia, bringing a little southern zest to the more traditional dishes of the Umbria region.  Enrico Bacchetti, the restaurant’s manager is a man of vision, each new idea simmers until it is a fait accompli.  Expect to eat well and be entertained on a regular basis at the Pomarancio – a successful part of Umbertide’s restaurant scene.

view from Pomarancio (sm)

View of the River and Umbertide from restaurant


copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com


Scimitar – a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea

SciScimitar 1mitar
Banchina no. 13
Darsena Centrale
Porto di Fano

What could be more enchanting than to dine in a floating restaurant on the Adriatic Sea?  Add the glow of a fading sun, followed by the glimmer of the port lights reflected in the water, and the scene becomes unforgettable.  Built in 1970, Scimitar was once a ship in the British Military Navy, serving in a variety of capacities before eventually “retiring” in the port of Fano.  Damaged by fire, it remained anchored for ten years.  Then, following ambitious plans and years of careful restructuring, undertaken by Marco Pezzolesi, Director of Fano’s Fisherman’s Cooperative, it was given new life in 2007 as a floating restaurant.

There’s more than just panoramic scenery here – the food is excellent too and the fixed priced menu is easy on one’s wallet.  The all-seafood menu, featuring four courses, changes slightly each day, according to the daily catch.  To begin with, a trio of cold antipasti, fresh marinated anchovies, chilled salmon with arugula and cherry tomatoes, and a “salad” of diced potato and octopus.  This is followed by a warm antipasto of steamed clams and mussels.  There are two primi – a pasta and a risotto and finally, the centerpiece of the meal – a huge platter of fritto misto, calamari, shrimp and sardines, fried in a batter so delicate, they nearly lifted themselves off the plate before we could dish them onto ours.  This abundant mound of fish comes with a crispy fresh insalata mista.  We choose a local white wine, Bianchello del Metauro, and it is a perfect choice for one of the best seafood meals we have had in Italy.

Scimitar is moored at Fano Port, on the central dock between the fishing port and tourist marina.  Beautiful views, soft music, excellent cuisine and choice wines – ingredients that will keep the Scimitar afloat for many years to come.

Scimiar 2


copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

La Foce – A Tuscan estate with a unique history

La Foce Sept 2014 (21)

La Foce
Strada della Vittoria, 61
Chianciano Terme

I knew within the first few pages of Iris Origo’s book War in Val d’Orcia that I would have to visit this 15th century Tuscan estate and see for myself the place where Iris and her husband fought to save the lives of so many during the Second World War. Knowing their story of a hidden war within a war gives an added significance and appreciation of La Foce, its villa restored by Iris and Antonio Origo in the 1920s and the gardens that are considered some of the finest in the country.


Located in Val d’Orcia near Montepulciano in the southern portion of Tuscany, La Foce was surrounded by a vast landscape of poor, bleak, unihabited, unworked soil. British born, Iris was 22 years old when she married Italian nobleman Antonio Origo. When they purchased the property, their dream was to change this territory into fertile farmland, and at the same time improve the living conditions of the contadini. Strong-willed and caring, she never flinched when faced with this barren wasteland, but went to work, creating in the end, a veritable paradise. At its peak, the estate included 57 farms spread out over 7,000 acres.

In 1939, the Origos built the Dopolavoro, which translates as After Work, creating a meeting place for their workers to enjoy a glass of wine together, play bocce, and share news. Country dances and plays were held here. They also built a kindergarten, school and clinic on the estate – all this to care for their working families, during very difficult socio-economic times.

It would be easy to forget the hardships, the sacrifices, and the terror the Origo family endured during 1943 and 1944, when the war was being fought right on their doorstep and each day tested their divided loyalties. Germans occupied Tuscany and the Allied forces were advancing from the south. The Origos harbored war orphans, refugee children and a steady stream of downed Allied pilots, Jewish refugees and escaped prisoners of war who hid out on their property, aided by the local populace, who provided food and clothing when possible. All at tremendous personal risk.


But today, we feel the blessing of a beautiful garden, graced with stillness and peace. The golden sunlight flickers on the brilliant purple of the wisteria-covered pergola that runs along the upper terrace. It glints and dances with glee on the yellow and orange of the citrus trees potted in tubs amid the hedges. Making the most of the estate’s striking position, British architect Cecil Pinsent designed the grounds and the farmhouses, an endeavor that began in 1927 and took twelve years to complete. Cypresses and rows of clipped boxwood divide the gardens into neat sections, leading the eye to wander to the distant views of the untamed countryside that holds La Foce in its embrace.


The postwar years were marked by continuing challenges, as the sharecropping system that had existed in Italy since the Middle Ages came to an end. Many of the tenant farmers left the land to find work in the cities, abandoning the farmhouses that eventually fell to ruin. In spite of this, the estate as seen today is a living testament to the dreams, the tenacity, and the love of two individuals who made a difference. The Dopolavoro has been brought back to life as a restaurant, where one can taste typical Tuscan country fare, flavored with the herbs and olive oils of La Foce, in an atmosphere seasoned with a real sense of history.

La Foce

La Foce’s garden is open for guided tours every Wednesday afternoon and every weekend from mid-March to November.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

L’Osteria in Aboca – a family legacy in Tuscany

Osteria in Aboca - terrace
L’Osteria in Aboca
Frazione Aboca, 11
Sansepolcro (AR)
Owner/Chef: Massimiliano Giovagnini

Owner/Chef Massimiliano has a story to tell; his gentle words describe a rich family history of genuine food hospitality and his dishes tell the rest. It was his great grandmother who wisely began serving simple fare in a little store that sold foodstuffs in Aboca, a hamlet where there was not even a paved road. Nevertheless, she saw the need to offer sustenance to the woodsmen, coal-workers, and passersby at this isolated intersection where mail was delivered. This was in 1944. Over the course of the following decades, his grandfather enlarged and improved the little store to meet the needs of a growing community, but it was Massimiliano who took his passion for what they had begun and in the mid-1980s turned it into a full-fledged restaurant, ever popular with the locals and visitors to this lesser-known part of Tuscany.

Suspecting that our portions are going to be generous, we practice some self-control, skip the tempting antipasti and start by sharing two primi: handmade ravioli stuffed with mashed potatoes and Parmesan, topped with wilted fresh spinach leaves and tagliatelle al ragù bianco di Chianina, delicate noodles with a simple “white” sauce, meaning no tomatoes, flavored with ground morsels of the prized Chianina beef of this region. For our secondi we celebrate where we are: mixed grill of pork for Umbria and tagliata of Chianina beef for Tuscany, of course. The platter of fried zucchini and eggplant is simply a celebration of what is in season. Valentina suggests that we choose the house wine, a robust red, Pian di Rèmole, from the Frescobaldi vineyards of Tuscany.

Even without dessert, our meal has a sweet ending as we visit with Massimiliano who spends time with us in spite of a large lunch crowd. We savor his enthusiasm for his family’s history and presence on this spot, for countless seasons, through times of want and times of plenty. A humble beginning made rich through love and hard-work. What a legacy!

Osteria in Aboca - Massimiliano

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Ristorante Le Scuderie – what hand and eye can achieve

Ristorante Le ScuderieRistorante Le Scuderie
Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, 226
63100 Ascoli Piceno
Owner: Guido Manocchio

The historic residence of Palazzo Malaspina and its stables have been converted into one the most charming restaurants in the heart of Ascoli Piceno. Enter through its covered passageway, and discover an atmosphere that enchants, whether you dine in the handsome, rustic interior of the converted 17th century stables, or in the enclosed garden courtyard, softly illuminated to hint at romance. Upstairs in what was the piano nobile of the palazzo, are private dining rooms, one of which is the Salone delle battaglie with exquisite vaulted, frescoed ceilings. Here private parties as well as business or ceremonial banquets can be arranged.

Antipasto at Le ScuderieWe dine at a corner window table from which we can admire the lovely garden or the large stone wood-burning camino in the adjacent room where one of the cooks skillfully grills the meats. The cestino of Ascoli fried specialties is superb – the traditional fried Ascoli olives nestled among batter-fried artichoke hearts, zucchini and cremini are crisp and savory. To have them along side a platter of famous Norcina salumis is the ultimate indulgence. The house Maccheronicini Scuderie, features the tartufo nero and local sausage. Finally, we get to taste the mouth-watering lamb chops that we witnessed being grilled. A hearty red wine, Rosso Piceno, from neighboring vineyards is perfect for our cena ascolana.

Guido Manocchio, the owner, is an accountant by profession and a restaurateur by passion. He is a man who lives up to his name. I suggested to him that he did indeed put his hand and his eye into creating and opening this restaurant. “And my wallet too!” he quipped. I have no doubt that his investment will reap many rewards – it has all the right ingredients – great food prepared by a fantastic chef, a well-trained staff, and a captivating ambience.

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

I Giardini dei Tarocchi – a mosaic garden


I Giardini dei Tarocchi
The Tarot Gardens
Località Garavicchio,
58011 Pescia Fiorentina, Capalbio
Province of Grosseto

This past summer I introduced my granddaughters to the art of making mosaics. Ours were simple designs made with the broken pieces of ceramics that nearby building suppliers happily let us clear out of their lots. Ours were not fine, highly finished creations, but they were FUN! And we soon learned that the process of making mosaics is downright addictive.

So it was only right, that we make a family trip to Il Giardino dei Tarocchi in the neighboring region of Tuscany, where the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle devoted her limitless energies to creating a fantastical mosaic garden inspired by both Gaudi’s Parc Güell in Barcelona and the nearby Parco dei Mostri, or Monster Garden, in Bomarzo. Obsessed with the idea of designing a monumental sculpture park, she purchased a piece of land in 1979. About 100 kilometers north-west of Rome, set amid olive groves and farmland, the estate began to fill with massive figures representing her vision of the mysteries of the Tarot. It was to become her raison d’etre, a reflection of unleashed, manic artistic expression that spanned decades of her life.

The 22 figures were constructed of reinforced concrete, plastered, and finally covered with mirror shards and ceramic fragments. Large enough to be walked through and climbed over, they are a delight to every child who visits. In fact, during the many months of the garden’s construction., the artist took up residence in the Empress, a sphinx-like sculpture with shocking blue hair topped by a crown. Inside, the interior is covered in a dizzying arrangement of splintered mirrored tiles.  It is so colossal a monument that her bedroom was located in the figure’s breast.

There is no doubt that making mosaics could possibly lead to madness (or the other way around). It certainly can distract one from his or her other duties, as in the case of the local postman, who early on was involved in the mosaic work, frequently forgetting to deliver the mail. The townsfolk were suspicious and quite alarmed by the growing presence of the whitish ghost-like figures in the garden, until their surfaces were covered in brilliant glass and ceramic pieces.

Niki de Saint Phalle, who suffered from mental illness, died in 2002. She left behind a dazzling monument to the art of mosaics and an enduring testament to the passion and tenacity of one artist and her dream. “How DID she do it?” we asked ourselves, over and over again. The answer is simply one tile at a time

Opening Days and Hours

Opening dates: from April 1 to October 15
Open Daily from 14:30 to 19:30

Ticket Prices

Adult € 12.00
Student (with ID) € 7.00
Over 65 € 7.00
Under 7 Free
Disabled Free

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com