A Culinary Treasure in the Val D’Arbia

Azienda Agricola Santa Margherita
Ville Di Corsano, SI 50010
PH (39) 0577 377101

Directions: If arriving from Siena, pass through the hamlet of Ville Di Corsano and look for signs on your left; there will be a steep left turn, then follow signs to the estate.

SantaMargharitaFarmJust south of Siena, the Val D’Arbia is defined by expansive views, farmland, and undulating hills that change color depending on the season and the crop. It is the source of many delicious artisanal foods, including amazing goat cheese, white truffles, and excellent olive oil. There are many quaint medieval hamlets, and a landscape capped with the whitish outcrops of the Crete Senesi. With rolling hills dotted by solitary clumps of juniper and cypress trees, afternoon shadows create a unique panorama that stirs the imagination.

Several years ago my family told me about Azienda Agricola Santa Margherita and the owner, Maria De Dominici. We had been staying in the same house in Ville Di Corsano just outside of Siena for many years, and unbeknownst to us there was a goat cheese farm just up the road. As there were no signs for the farm back then, my parents had just stumbled upon it. It was late in the afternoon, and they recounted that upon their arrival the goats roamed free on this large estate. Shortly thereafter, as the sun set in the early evening, the goats returned to the barn completely on their own, lining up like school children at the bell. The barn had two main sections with individual entrances, and my family watched in disbelief as, incredibly, the goats knew without any prompting on which line they should stand!

After meeting Ms. De Dominici myself a day later, we walked through the barn, and she spoke about the goats as if they were part of the family. She cares for them with maternal dedication, only feeding them natural ingredients organically grown without pesticides. The farm also has chicken and horses that Ms. De Dominici keeps because of her love the animals and sustainable living.  The organic goat cheese itself is remarkable, and comes in many different varieties, including a complex version aged in vegetable ash, and a fresh, tangy variety dipped in toasted sesame seeds. Try them with a steely Sauvignon Blanc. Over the years my family has kept a tradition of enjoying these cheeses with a touch of marmalade before dinner, enjoying the cool breezes and beauty of Tuscany at dusk.

Ms. De Dominici taught herself classic French cheese-making techniques. While goat cheese is not traditional to Tuscany, by infusing many varieties with Italian herbs she has put her own local spin on it. While you can buy cheese at the farm directly, it is not easy to find, but for those adventurous souls who dream of this creamy goodness, it is certainly worth the effort. I can recall my first time in their cantina, and looking at a blackboard on the wall that featured the restaurant orders for the week. It read like a who’s who of the best restaurants in Tuscany. (Enoteca Pinchiorri ring any bells?)  Maria is a passionate artisan, and one of the aspects of what makes Tuscany a foodie paradise. If you are near Siena, you should be sure to stop by. Best to call beforehand.