Come For The Art, Stay For The Food

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Photo Photo Courtesy of Ristorante le Chiavi d'Oro


I've got two new reasons to visit Arezzo, as if one of my favorite frescoes in Italy wasn't enough. The restaurant "Le Chiavi d'Oro" is in Palazzo De'Bacci, built by the family who commissioned Piero della Francesca's frescoes "The Legend of the True Cross" in 1452 at the church in their piazza, San Francesco. Francesco, Giovanna and Teresa Stilo worked at their parents' trattoria, "Antica Trattoria da Guido" but wanted to do something different, modern. Chef Francesco's menu is strictly seasonal, without the standard Tuscan classics easily found elsewhere.

Look for creative cooking with restraint, made with carefully chosen ingredients. Begin with pecorino, fava bean flan with crisp "rigatino" (pancetta) or eggs, asparagus, and burrata dressed with anchovy "colatura." Homemade eggplant-stuffed ravioli, lightly dressed with tomato and thin slices of perfectly cooked zucchini even pleased my husband, who never eats fresh pasta.

Main course options are divided between fish and meat--roast wild pork with Tuscan zolfini beans and cabbage, or turbot with crispy vegetables. Giovanna's desserts are tempting: basil-citrus infused yogurt mousse, fresh fruit with fruit sauce, green tea and white chocolate cookies with bittersweet chocolate chips.

A new Italian law makes it illegal to drive after more than two glasses of wine, clearly not enough in the light of Le Chiavi d'Oro's lovely wine selection.

Teresa assists diners with the ample wine list, which is a true joy, amazingly priced, with lots of bargains too good to pass up. Which makes my second reason so important. New Italian law limits alcohol level for drivers: More than 2 glasses of wine may result in loss of license and impounded vehicle, clearly not enough in the light of Le Chiavi d'Oro's lovely wine selection.

The Hotel Il Patio, a few steps away, is a perfect solution for this problem. Owners Alessandra and Alessandro Severi have restored a medieval palace, creating seven rooms and suites, each dedicated to a Bruce Chatwin book, decorated with furniture from the country--Wu-Ti--The Chinese Room, Baalbek--The Indian Suite, Fellide--The Moroccan Room and more. Massage treatments, including reiki and shiatsu, are available and should be booked in advance. Ask Alessandra or Alessandro to book a visit to the Piero frescoes or for tips on Arezzo's interesting museums and shops. Use the hotel as a base for exploring an untouristed area of Tuscany.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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