Mandria Del Dottore Toscano : Tarsia : Calabria : Italy

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano : Tarsia : Calabria : Italy

On our road trip around Italy, driving in the Calabrian south was tiring, so we needed to break the journey up from Villa San Giovanni (where you cross to & from Sicily) to Matera and so consulted our trusty oracles – a well thumbed road map and google. Tarsia seemed to be a place that was just about equi-distant, but very remote. As boutique style hotels seemed to be a bit on the sparse side, we plumped for the agriturismo option.

We found Agriturismo B&B Mandria Del Dottore Toscana through a series of internet searches – although it has to be said, finding it online is MUCH easier than finding it in reality. We got to Tarsia relatively easily, then the trail went cold. One thing we have realised is that Italian road signage, once you’re off the main roads, is pretty rubbish. Road  signs are often covered in vines/foliage, or twisted, or burned, or simply not there. After about an hour of aimless driving around, we gave up and asked for directions in a very small bar. We clearly weren’t the first to do this as a call was made and 15 minutes later, a car arrived, we followed & after many twists and turns across hilly countryside, arrived at our destination.

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano, Tarsia, Calabria

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano, Tarsia, Calabria

This was definitely a very rural location, so if you’re after a wild night of clubbing, this farmhouse won’t appeal. Set in acres of rolling hills, there is literally nothing else around you – apart from horses, olive groves and beautiful silence. We felt the need to whisper until we realised that actually no-one else was around to hear us. I think the owners clocked on that we were a little bit stressed when we arrived, and a bottle of their own wine was put out on the table in front of us, with two glasses. Very little communication as they spoke no English, and our Italian, at the time, was pretty basic – but a generous gesture is a generous gesture in whatever language.

A welcome drink. Much appreciated...

A welcome drink. Much appreciated…

The owners live on the farm, and it is a working farm. It’s rustic and rural and although not full of the most modern amenities, it’s perfect for a bit of a get-away. Most importantly, the bed was super comfortable – something that Italians do hold in high regard as we have not slept in anything other than VERY comfortable since we’ve been away. The bathroom was spotless, with a great sized shower, too. A definite plus point.

Splendid isolation, especially after the hustle & bustle of Sicily.

Splendid isolation, especially after the hustle & bustle of Sicily.

An abundance of prickly pears.

An abundance of prickly pears.

Winter preparation well under way.

Winter preparation well under way.

Autumn sunset in Calabria

Autumn sunset in Calabria.

We could have had dinner (with everything being sourced from the land we were staying on), but as we had a kitchen in the apartment we chose to cook & eat on the terrace. We’d picked up some supplies on the way – it’s worth having some staples to cook with, as if you don’t fancy what’s on the menu that night, you’re stuck. Breakfast was very simple – bread, cheese, preserves, proscuitto – but ALL locally sourced.

There are four apartments. We think we might have had the largest as it was the most expensive, and had a terrace, but it was still only 68 euros to stay the night – worth every cent for the solitude and peace. There is also a swimming pool – although this had just been covered up when we arrived (mid-October), but would imagine this is a welcome relief from the Italian sun in the height of summer…

 

 

 

 

Medica Agroturizam, Medici, Istria

Medica Agroturizam, Medici, Istria

Not too far from our house, but a little off the beaten track, along a country road, through beautiful scenery, to the end of the village of Medici, is the last of the closest restaurants to us, which we’re ashamed to say we only investigated recently. We’ve always known about Medica, as it is signposted form the road, and we’ve read fantastic reviews, but we always found a reason to go somewhere else. So, on a very hot, sunny, May weekend afternoon, we decided to put this right and make a visit.

You wouldn’t get here without transport, and as there is no public transport in these parts to speak of, you would need a car. Or a friendly driver who didn’t mind taking a hit on the vino. It’s pretty isolated, being right at the end of the track, but with views like these, across the Mirna Valley, who cares? Motovun can be seen, on top of the hill, on the right of the photo, and just out of view, Oprtalj. Breath-taking.

The car par was full when we arrived and there was only one table available outside on the terrace, so we were lucky we arrived when we did. I think all of the cars, apart from ours, had Italian licence registration plates. Conversations all around us were conducted in Italian and the owners spoke only in Italian. Unsurprising that our part of Istria is often compared to Tuscany or Umbria.

The set-up is as simple as can be. On ordering our drinks, we were given a choice – vino rosso or vino bianco. No wine list. But we knew that the wine would be good – restaurants around here, which produce their own wine, have to make sure it’s good, otherwise people will just go elsewhere. After all, we’re not short of options. Mezzo litro di vino bianco ordered and we were onto the food. Again, a very limited menu, but this time there was a menu…

No fuss. No frills. A sheet of A4 inside a plastic wallet – very handy as menus will change according what is available, although I would be urging that they lose the caps lock! Because we were eating later in the evening, and had only really come to check it out, we opted for sharing portions, rather than main meals.

Homemade bread – warm and fresh – was the perfect accompaniment to a plate of Istrian cheese, which had a parmesan texture and taste, and olives. The frittata con tartufo was perfect – clearly made with the freshest of eggs, and resembling more scrambled eggs than a traditional omelette style frittata – and laced through with truffle cream and topped with truffle shavings. A portion of patate in tecia was ordered as we are on a mission to try this dish whenever it appears on the menu, as it’s gorgeous. It’s a mashed potato dish, cooked in a tecia, a flat cast iron pan, sometimes like hash browns, or sometimes, like the one served in Medica, like bubble & squeak, with its browned top and bottom. I think we can safely that probably everything we ate and drank came from with 50 metres of our table, as the agroturizam is also a small holding, with olive groves, sheep, goats, hens, rabbits, cattle and a couple of pot-bellied pigs, as well as donkeys and ponies and a variety of birds. Which I think were to add to the small zoo feeling, rather than menu items. Although I couldn’t say for absolute certainty…

So, another really delightful restaurant, not too far at all from our house. Although it’s not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination it’s really good, wholesome, homegrown food, definitely served with love by the owners.