We have so many wonderful meals on our European Experiences trips, in every area where we host our groups. It’s important to us that each week’s meals include a variety of settings, and we enjoy lunches and dinners at a mix of fine restaurants, small cafes, private homes, farms, or picnic spots… sometimes in a village or town and sometimes in the countryside. Charley and I work with each host to develop menus that introduce our travelers to local specialties and regional cuisine.
One of my favorite meals on any of our trips is our dinner at Ristoro di Lamole on our Chianti Experience week. This dining experience—high in the Chianti hills—checks off all the boxes for a memorable meal: a beautiful setting; exceptional service; and delicious food. It’s well worth the complicated drive to reach this very special place!
There are two roads to Lamole. From our home base in Castellina-in-Chianti, we like to drive up one route and back the other. We take the Chiantigiana (Chianti wine road) from Castellina to the village of Panzano, then make a right and head uphill, continuing on the bumpy “white road” when the paved road ends. The dusty road—often lined with yellow ginestra (broom)—twists and turns through the vineyards and forests, climbing steadily and offering some beautiful views.
Eventually we reach a paved road again and the first houses of Lamole.
The village of Lamole sits at 1916 feet, with expansive views across the countryside, to Panzano and beyond. On a clear day you can see the towers in San Gimignano. In the center of the village (population 35) there’s a small piazza, the 13th century San Donato church, a few houses, and Ristoro di Lamole. The restaurant also operates a small general store in one area of their bar to support the village. The village is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, including those of the well-regarded Lamole di Lamole winery.
The restaurant was started by friends Filippo and Paolo back in 1993 and has earned a loyal following of locals and vacationers in the 20+ years since. Count us among the fans… this is where we go for a special meal with our local friends.
Our groups eat outside on one of the terraces, enjoying a special multi-course menu we’ve developed with owner Filippo. We skip a big meat course and instead serve several smaller courses over the course of about two hours.
Filippo runs the dining room, and it’s always a delight to have him greet our group. (I especially like when he kisses my hand.) He’s charming and fun. He and the friendly Lamole team add so much to our experience. Most of the staff have been there for many years, and they operate with seamless teamwork.
We begin our meal with a series of shared antipasti: thinly-sliced prosciutto, beautifully-displayed; a bowl of artichoke hearts lightly marinated in local olive oil; bruschetta with chopped fresh tomatoes and basil; local pecorino sheep’s cheese with honey or pepper jelly; and my favorite… a sweet onion and truffle flan. (I could eat a whole bowl of the flan by myself!)
Next we’re served two pasta courses, each featuring a very different type of freshly-made pasta. We might have ravoli with pear and pecorino, and then a heavier pasta, perhaps tagliatelle with truffles or porcini mushrooms. I also love their crespelle, a type of Italian crepe.
After all these small courses, we need a simple dessert… just a little something sweet. Filippo always makes the right choice for us, like this delicious apple tart.
Our meal is accompanied by local Chianti wine from their extensive cellar. And then at the end… limoncello!
One highlight of our evening is the sunset. We take a break from our meal to step off the terrace and photograph the incredible view across the Chianti Hills at the day’s end.
On our return trip, after dark, we take the twisting paved road down the hill toward Greve, passing the Castello di Lamole, now an agritourismo. The road is narrow with some steep drops… Charley and I know the road well, but I’m glad my passengers can’t see the breathtaking drops on the side! We pass through the tiny village of Casole, where the front doors of houses open right on street and finally by the beautiful wine estate of Vignamaggio, which we visit earlier in the week. Charley and I once saw a wild boar and her little ones on this road at night! When we reach the main road, the Chiantigiana, we turn left back to Castellina.
Ristoro di Lamole… all the elements of a memorable meal and a quintessential Chianti experience! A unique and incredible setting. Delicious food made with local products, beautifully presented, accompanied with just the right wine. Welcoming and friendly hosts. I’m already counting the days until next May and my next dinner at Lamole.
We’re returning to Tuscany in 2016 and are offering two weeks of The Chianti Experience. We still have openings in our May 28 – June 4 group. Join us for dinner at Lamole and many other special experiences!
Kathy and Charley Wood founded European Experiences in 2006 European Experiences, offering week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe. They have personally hosted 124 Experience groups. Their trips include The Luberon Experience in Provence, France, named one of the top 50 tours in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Kathy hosts Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, and the Cotswolds. Charley is now mostly retired but continues to co-host two longer tours with Kathy: The European Christmas Experience (12 days) and The Cornwall Experience in southwest England (10 days).
Kathy has been traveling in Europe for 30 years and loves sharing her special places in Europe with other travelers. The Woods have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.