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Tuscany's Farmland - Where Dreams are Harvested

Ginda Simpson

It is an easy and very beautiful drive from El Marsam, our Umbrian farmhouse, to the countryside of Tuscany, a rich farmland of olive groves, wheat fields and sunny vineyards. The summer wheat has been reaped. Big round haystacks, burnished copper by the noonday sun, bask in the newly mowed fields, vast expanses of textured land sculpted by the harvest machinery into a road map of amber swirls. The leaves of timeless olive trees glint silver in the shimmering light, their gnarled trunks casting deep purple shadows on the sun-baked earth. Row after row of verdant vines bursting with the sweet promise of wine, march across the gentle hills. This region of Italy is known for its excellent wines. It is a landscape of dreams, laden with blessings, exquisite, nourishing. We stop in Montepulciano for lunch and it is here that we encounter just one of many Tuscan families who have dedicated a lifetime to just such a dream.

La Fattoria Il Pulcino is the result of the enormous vision of a little man named Sergio Ercolani, a Montepulciano native, who is small in stature only. Together with his wife, Gabriella, they have worked for more than fifty years nurturing a small dream that has grown into a vast operation, now carried out together with their six children and quite a few of their 18 grandchildren, who contribute more and more to the family enterprise, as they grow to adulthood. Sergio’s childhood nickname, Il Pulcino, means “small chick”, but there is nothing small about Sergio’s accomplishments.

View from Il Pulcino

The View from Il Pulcino Restaurant

Signor Ercolano met his wife, Gabriella, when she came to Montepulciano from her hometown in Chianti to claim a prize for her award-winning entry in an embroidery competition. They married a year later and began stitching together their dreams, an undertaking that has turned into a rich tapestry of agricultural endeavors that include the production of their own olive oil, wines, salumi and prosciutto, marmalades and jams, homemade baked goods and a very successful restaurant.

The seed that grew into such a vast operation was sown very early on, when Sergio purchased an old abandoned 16th-century Capuccian friary that lay in ruin, committing himself to the task of bringing the building and the cultivation of the land back to life. At the root of this plan was his wish to create a place where tourists could come and sample the wholesome products of the rich farmlands of Montepulciano, an idea that was very new to the region at that time. Little by little, while raising their family of six children, Sergio and Gabriella, with lots of hard work, buckets of love and heaps of faith, found prosperity, enabling them to purchase more land, which in turn increased their opportunities for agricultural and eventually commercial growth. Theirs is a rich harvest.

What made our visit to this Fattoria so interesting was the time we spent with Cecilia, Sergio’s daughter, who sees to the running of the store and restaurant, greeting guests personally and taking the time to show off the underground cantinas where the wine ages and the prosciuttos (over 300 in all) are stored.

Cecelia in front of bread oven

Cecelia in front of the old bread oven

Today, the restaurant can seat up to 200 guests, and there is additional seating on the terrace where endless views of the countryside please the soul. Meals are all prepared with fresh ingredients, products grown on their land and prepared simply, using Pulcino olive oil and fresh herbs grown in huge terracotta pots in an adjacent garden. Our meal was superb. When has a simple bruschetta with tomatoes ever tasted so good? Was it the crusty bread or the tang of the golden olive oil? Or the tomatoes grown to maturity beneath the Tuscan sun? Perhaps all of the above. Our filet of vitello, grilled on an open pit, was the most tender we have ever eaten. The family’s homemade cantucci and vin santo were the crowning touches. Well, no, meeting Cecilia and her mother was the real highlight of our visit. Their recipes for their table – as well as for living – have earned them much success and all who visit and dine at their table are the beneficiaries. A big thank you to Il Pulcino, the not-so-little chick!

Il Pulcino cellars

The cellars of the Il Pulcino restaurant


Ristorante Il Pulcino

Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 40
53045 Montepulciano (SI)
Tel: 0578-758-711

About the Author

Ginda Simpson is an American artist/writer now living in the Umbrian countryside. It has been said of her work, "her paintings tell stories, her stories paint pictures." For more information, please visit www.gindasimpson.com.

© Ginda Simpson, 2007

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