Agriturismo (farmstays) and secluded countryside hotels laden with charm are what accommodation in the deeply rural Casentino is all about. Arriving without a reservation, make a beeline for the small (main) towns of Poppi or Bibbiena.
Dining is a 0km treat. Menus are packed with regional dishes, crafted, using age-old recipes, from local products such as red-skinned Cetica potatoes and mountains of autumnal game. Tortelli dui patate (potato-filled pasta cushions) – invariably handmade – is a staple primo (first course).
Pratovecchio: A Delicious Detour
The town itself is unremarkable, but Pratovecchio (pop 5845) does have two tasty addresses well worth the 8km drive north from Poppi along the SR70 and scenic SP310.
- La Tana degli Orsi In the evening the dozen tables at La Tana degli Orsi (The Lair of the Bear), an unusual chalet-style building, are hotly contested, making advance reservations essential. Decor hovers between classy and kitsch, but cuisine is top quality Tuscan with many traditional Casentino dishes created here with local produce. An outstanding wine list lures oenophiles.
- Toscana Twist Toscana Twist is a rare and wonderful breed in rural Tuscany. This exceptionally contemporary address near the train station is a pedigree hybrid. Its day begins with breakfast – delicious cakes, cookies and pastries – and closes with dinner on Friday, and an aperitivo banquet (from 6.30pm) on Saturday. Both evenings set the place buzzing with savvy hobnobbing locals from surrounding villages. Decor is an appealing mix of vintage tearoom and contemporary artsy, and cuisine is creative Tuscan packed with fresh seasonal veggies. The Chianina beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings and the liver with onions, followed by a mixed salad of cherry tomatoes and spicy green radicchio leaves, are exceptional.