Cretaiole could not be more wonderfully located to enjoy two world class wines–Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only 20 minutes away there are many wineries in both of these very specific grape-growing, wine-making areas–from the very small to the very large wine producers. We will be happy to help you select wineries to visit that will suit your taste, your time frame, and your itinerary for the day!Cooking classes
In addition to the handmade pasta making class that is included as part of the Dolce Vita stay that we conduct for our guests, there are more cooking classes very nearby. We have colleagues that offer a variety of classes in a wonderful assortment of venues. Let us know if you want to learn to cook a four-course meal, or have a focus on pasta or bread. Perhaps you want a course in your apartment, or maybe learn to cook at a gourmet restaurant, an organic farm, or typical Tuscan trattoria. We can arrange any of these for you. All of these classes include the meal afterwards so you can taste what you have made with wines that complement the meal. Tell us what kind of experience you are looking for, how many people (including children!) are in your party, and what price level suits you, and we will be able to connect you with a most enjoyable and delectable cooking experience!Organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals
We understand our guests' special dietary needs, and especially those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance. If you or someone in your group want to eat where delicious meals are served that meet organic, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free conditions, be sure to ask us. We know all of the local restaurants and their offerings that meet these requirements.Olive oil
Ask any Tuscan where the best olive oil comes from, and he'll point to the local orchards. Our family has approximately 900 olive trees with a combination of 5 different types of olives: frantoio, leccino, moraiolo, olivastra and pendolino. The juice of these olives is blended together to make a delicious, peppery extra virgin olive oil that is so typical of our area. We pick each olive by hand, because only in that way can the highest quality olive oil be produced. We offer a lesson in olive oil tasting as part of the Dolce Vita stay, taught by Carlo who is a professional taster for the province of Siena and who will answer all of your questions about olive growing, harvesting, pressing, and the qualities you should look for when you purchase olive oil for your own use.
If you are in Tuscany in the late fall (end of October through December), you can visit the local olive press and watch the local farmers bringing in the day's harvest to be pressed immediately into olive oil. Maybe you'll want to watch our harvest, or even try your hand at it. It isn't hard work--and there is something special about touching the branches, hearing the sound of the olives when they hit the soft netting below, knowing they will soon come back to us in scrumptious, mouth-watering ways–maybe on a plate of steaming pasta or drizzled over warm bruschetta.
Pienza is famous for excellent pecorino cheese, Pecorino di Pienza. The taste comes from the types of grass and herbs consumed by the sheep, and through the manufacturing techniques – using “secret” and preferred herbs and flower mixes and naturally produced hormones and enzymes from the sheep’s stomach to separate the curds from the whey to initiate the cheese making and aging process. The grasses must come from the immediate Pienza area in order to have the distinctive Pecorino di Pienza taste. Pecorino is sold fresh, medium-aged, and aged. As it ages it changes in flavor and consistency, and which one you prefer is purely a matter of personal taste. The fresh pecorino, pecorino fresco, is a soft, white cheese with a comparatively mild flavor. As the pecorino ages the rind becomes bone-colored and the cheese develops a firmer texture and saltier flavor. The word formaggio--a generic term for cows’ milk cheese--is rarely used in Tuscany where most of the cheese consumed is pecorino. Tuscans often use the term “cacio”, and indeed the cheese rolling competition held in Pienza on the first Sunday of September is know as “cacio al fuso” - literally, “cheese to the spindle”. The aim of the participants in this popular festival is to see who can roll a round of cheese so that it stops closest to the upright spindle placed in the middle of Piazza Pio II. The best way to taste pecorino is to visit a nearby farm where they raise the sheep and then make pecorino with several different aging processes. Often we include this wonderful cheese tasting experience in our weekly activity program.Truffles
In Tuscany, the white truffle (tartufo bianco, Tuber Magnatum Pico) is the king of delicacies—and in the fall there are fields with "white gold" in them waiting for the truffle hunters and their dogs to find them! Cretaiole is near a very well known truffle area, San Giovanni d'Asso, and in fact, our family has its own source of the "white gold" in a small, private truffle reserve, right below Cretaiole.
As a special activity you should consider going on a hunt with the truffle hunter and a translator, and then return to the village and have a meal that includes perfectly made dishes that enhance the taste of the truffle. In this way you learn about truffles and why they are so special and expensive, how they are found by the truffle dogs, and best of all, you experience the taste of them in the most perfect way. Ask us for assistance to organize this activity for you, during white truffle season (October-December).
Saffron is a highly perfumed spice obtained from the stigmas of crocuses that have undergone decades of selection and cross-pollination. Praised for its curative properties by Pliny the Elder and Galen, saffron was grown in Val d’Orcia in the Middle Ages when it was exported mainly to Germany. Production ceased in the 16th century and was resumed only a few years ago. Most Italian saffron today once more comes from Val d’Orcia. The Brandi family in San Quirico d'Orcia, just 5 minutes from Cretaiole, specializes in growing crocuses for saffron.Microbreweries
Tuscany is certainly well known for its fine wine. However, if you enjoy a good microbrew, you will be interested to know about the San Quirico Brewery located in San Quirico d'Orcia. This company produces home-brewed beers of outstanding quality, using carefully selected local raw materials. Their beer is produced in limited quantities, without the use of preservatives or chemical flavors and additives, and captures the very essence of the values of this territory: history, nature, culture and an unparalleled reverence.
Pienza - Province of Siena - Tuscany
Tel./Fax (+39) 0578-748083 (home)
Cell. (+39) 338-7409245 (Isabella)