The Darling Buds of May Experience

If you have seen the repeated episodes of the BBC TV series 'The Darling Buds of May', then you will recall Ma and Pop Larkin and all the whole Larkin family sitting in the sunshine at a long table under the trees, enjoying a feast of a meal. Well, eating lunch at Fattoria La Vialla is a very similar experience. My wife and myself joined 18 other guests, mainly from Holland, to eat an incredible meal at one long table under the olive trees on a hot August afternoon on this rural estate in Tuscany. It was one of the highlights of our stay in Italy last summer.

La Vialla is a family run business that produces sustainable, biodynamic and traditional wines and food and ships directly to the UK, packaged up delightfully in blue star-strewn boxes. We have been ordering pasta sauces and wines from La Vialla, via the internet, for three years now and decided that we would try to visit the source of their sauces while staying in Umbria, last summer. Fattoria La Vialla's website has a webcam, on which you can watch the farm's workers and their guests eating outside in the farmyard each day. I have been quite a compulsive viewer over the last year and so I was excited to see if it really is as idyllic as it looks. Well, it is!

Castiglion Fibocchi is not easy to find and Fattoria La Vialla is not well signposted when your get to this village. We aimed for Arezzo and then followed the river Arno out of town until we could cross it north west of the town. It was only on leaving the village that we saw a sign to Trattoria La Vialla. I would recommend that travellers get a good map of Tuscany if they are to find Castiglion Fibocchi.

On arrival, we were welcomed by an English speaking guide, Ana, who gave the two of us a personal tour of the farm, its manufacturing plant and its wine cellars. Generous tasting of their wines followed and an opportunity to order any of their locally made produce, which is shipped to the UK at £7.25 for any order under £75 (otherwise free). Our order arrived three weeks after our visit. La Vialla only supplies directly to the customer and does not use any 'middle men', so we took the opportunty to order our Christmas wines, and restock our pasta sauce cellar. It really is good pasta sauce and in so many different varieties.

We had e mailed La Vialla in advance, to say that we would be visiting in August and we had booked a lunch at 25 euros per head. What good value it turned out to be. After our tour and shopping, we were directed to the outside table overlooking the valley and we then spent the next 3 hours enjoying the locally produced, cooked and served food and wine. Appetisers of all types filled an adjacent table, with light sparkling wines to accompany them, followed by a range of starters and more wine. Pasta dishes followed and more wine and then a lamb dish with much more wine. Desserts were supported by sweet wines and finally, out came the grappa. All of this wonderful food and wine in a beautiful setting under the Tuscan olive trees with our hosts being less Larkin and more Lucietto - but equally hospitable.

We will call again next year, I hope. Now we have found Fattoria La Vialla it would be a pity not too. In the meantime, when we open our first bottle of their best Sangiovese this Christmas, we will remember our 'Darling Buds of May' Italian experience.

Visit in order to browse the range of delicacies and wines on offer. You need to register first, but it only takes a few minutes and then you can start leafing through the hand written catalogue online. There are also insights into local recipes and advice on how to cook pasta the Italian way. Hampers filled with Tuscan food and wine include olives and olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, pasta, sauces and La Vialla's own pecorino cheese while Christmas delicacies include salami and cantuccini biscuits - ideal for dipping into San Vinto, a traditional Italian dessert wine.

Hampers start at £35, rising to £300 for a bumper hamper - basically the whole farm in a basket. Wines start from £5 and pasta sauces from £1.10. Customers can track their delivery status on line. The last Christmas shipping date this year is 6 December, so order now.

And..... Buon Apetito


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