I visited Pienza for a couple of hours during my Study Abroad program nine years ago. When planning my most recent trip it seemed like the perfect small city to serve as the base for our travels for two days. Indeed it was – because the town is so small, a hotel “outside the city center” is a short two-minute walk to the winding streets of Pienza. Easy parking, great location and beautiful scenery make it an ideal base. Though our particular hotel is not one I would eagerily recommend. After a somewhat stressful drive from Firenze to Pienza, we found ourselves in a small room with no Internet access, beds that felt like they were made of cardboard and a common room decked with pink flowered 1970’s upholstery straight from my grandma’s house. But hey it was cheap! We had our priorities straight – money would be spent on food and wine.
The terrace restaurant is really best enjoyed during the day, offering a spectacular view of Tuscany. At night, the restaurant caters primarily to couples staying in the hotel looking for a romantic, candle-lit evening of fine dining. Unfortunately, since my friend Gareth and I aren’t dating, the soft lighting merely impeded our ability to take quality photographs.
We started by splitting an insalata caprese. The mozzarella was good, but the tomatoes lacked flavor (Gareth thought they were fine in comparison to his London options, but after the culinary delights we enjoyed later in our trip he understood my disappointment).
The roasted tomatoes served with my eggplant appetizer redeemed the chef in my eyes. The eggplant was beautiful, subtle and light without the heavy oily texture I find in some caponatas, and the roasted cherry tomatoes were sweet and savory.
The shrimp appetizer I had as a main was tasty but unremarkable.
La Terrazza del Chiostro did manage though to thoroughly impress with their gluten-free bread and dessert.
The three types of gluten-free rolls were superb. They looked much better than the standard bread Gareth was served. (I refused to share, so we never got a chance to actually compare.) Chef Michele makes them using a BiAglut gluten-free flour blend, adjusting the recipe according to the weather, humidity etc. I was in awe.
The Tiramisu, made with gluten-free ladyfinger cookies was another winner. None of the flavors was overpowering and the sweetness was just right.
Of course a meal in Pienza wouldn’t be complete without a plate of pecorino, the cheese for which the town is known.
Next stop: Poggio Antico the best food and wine combo of the trip.