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Daybreak on a beautiful morning brought our group their first robust opportunities to soak in the views at Ancora. Simply breathtaking. Laura provided a delicious breakfast on the patio to fuel us as we began our next culinary adventure.

We headed for Panzano in Chianti, a neighboring town, to visit one of the most unique and enjoyable places in the world: Antica Macelleria Cecchini. A butcher shop…

Day 7.1…But not just any butcher shop! This shop has gained fame because of its now celebrity proprietor and master macellaio, Maestro Dario Cecchini. Yes, believe it or not, being a famous butcher is an attainable title, and Dario not only holds it, but has certainly earned it. There are many reasons for his rise to prominence, his skill in butchery being chief among them. But the two most important reasons are his passion for his craft and the cuisine of his beloved Tuscany, and his contagious, larger-than-life personality.

Upon entering the shop, we are greeted with an abundance of hospitality from Dario and his staff – Tuscan bread smeared with lardo, olive oil, or a house-made herb & salt blend, Finocchiona (traditional Tuscan salame), and Chianti wine. It’s 10 a.m. AC/DC begins blaring from the speakers. Dario is kind enough to speak with his guests and take photos. The party has begun, and the travelers gain a greater appreciation as to why this man is so highly revered in the culinary circles. It was also fun to see our friends from culinary school staring back at us from the cookbook shelves!

Day 7.2After basking in the moment, we drove up the hill into the countryside to wash down our treats from Dario with some of the most award winning wine in Chianti. The Cennatoio winery has been a staple of our visits to Tuscany for years, and as usual, they did not disappoint. Winemaker, Diego, treated the group to a healthy tasting of 6 or 7 different wines including the dessert wine Vin Santo! The wine is amazing, and no one hesitated having some shipped back home.

We brought a light lunch back to Ancora, in order to save some room for our early dinner feast at 7 p.m. Tastes of Finocchiona, Dario’s Porchetta, fresh fruit, cheese and wine were just what the doctor ordered. Afterwards, some free time was enjoyed by all in preparation for our feast later that night.

Dining at Solociccia, one of Dario’s restaurants, is a spectacle. In this case, the menu is only meat, and the preparations are simple, but amazing. We were bombarded with about 9 courses of meat, meat and more meat (well, and a couple of traditional Tuscan vegetable sides). That was a highlight in and of itself. But the grappa party hosted by Dario in the street afterwards for our group was even better. Singing “That’s Amore” and other favorites, Dario made us feel at home. Grazie Mille, Maestro.Day 7.3

Can we top it tomorrow? A vineyard walk with a winemaker preparing to harvest on Sunday, a trip to an olive oil producer, and pizza class await!

Inspirational Note: Today was a day of butcher shops including one in Greve as well as Dario’s. We took some great pictures of butcher blocks, tables, decorations and designs. We even spent some time in a cheese aging cave that gave us a tremendous amount of inspiration for what we might be able to do in the basement of the new Main Street location.