SO. I was
very slightly trepidatious about spending a whole week together so early in our relationship, although I needn't have been. I am going to sound like a sentimental halfwit now, but it was like being in a film where everything has been made perfect just for you: sitting in pavement cafes under the full moon on balmy nights... eating the most divine food while accordionists serenaded us... I'll stop now before you have to break off reading to vomit, but suffice to say it was pretty damn wonderful.
We happened upon one of the highlights of the week by complete serendipity. Looking for somewhere to eat, we stumbled across an establishment called Teatro de Sale, unsure at first whether it was a theatre or a restaurant.
We were greeted by a larger-than-life chef with a white beard and wild, white hair, then led through red velvet curtains into a huge vaulted room with stone columns, where three guitarists were performing on a stage at the front. We were told that if we wanted to eat, we should come back the next evening and that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should we have any lunch that day.
So we returned the next night, to find that the hall, which turned out to be part of a former monastery, had been transformed into a dining room. One wall was entirely glass, behind which chefs were running around. Through a hatch, the bearded chef was shouting the names of dishes and diners were rushing up to be served.
The dishes were unbelievably heavenly. The highlights included a porcini soup to DIE for, the most intensely caramelised baked tomatoes and these divine porcini mushrooms:
The beardy chef beckoned us up to the front of the queue whenever there was something vegan. He even made us special portions of this simple but amazing pasta with aubergines, basil and cherry tomatoes, causing everyone else to gaze at us as though we were royalty.
The pudding was also super simple but ambrosial: cherries baked in red wine and sugar, with their stalks left on, so that they could be eaten with the fingers. By this point I was absolutely stuffed and thinking that if I believed in heaven, this it what it would be like.
Afterwards we all cleared our own plates and moved the chairs into rows to watch the performance (another guitarist this time, although it turns out that they put on an amazingly diverse range of theatre, music and cabaret).
After we came home, we found out that the beardy chef is called Fabio Picchi, and is actually something of a celebrity in Italy, with his own TV show, as well as being an internationally famous exponent of Tuscan cuisine.
I'm kind of glad that we didn't know this when we were there though - the sheer unexpectedness of the whole thing just added to the feeling that we had stepped into some kind of magical fairytale. Oh, I know it's all too sickeningly perfect, but what can I say? Sometimes life just IS sickeningly perfect...