Il Barrino e l’Ombelico del mondo

Place Montisi (SI)
Photography Johanna Ekmark
Words Johanna Ekmark

Il Barrino e l’Ombelico del mondo

Montisi is a small, enchanting village, of those typical Tuscan ones, with roads too narrow for anything but an apemobile or a fiat 500. If you take the strada provinciale 38 from Trequanda to San Giovanni d’Asso, you can’t miss it.

Except for the beauty and the position, you might think there is nothing in Montisi; some houses in red brick, a church and a bar on the main road. A bar like any other bar in any other small village in Tuscany.

But oh, how wrong you are!

Like many places worth a stop in Italy, nothing from outside will let you know that you’ve actually arrived to the ‘right’ spot. Or, well, there is a sign that says “Trattoria L’Ombelico del Mondo”, literally the Navel of the world, which could tickle the curious amongst us. Beneath this trattoria you’ll find “ll Barrino”, the small bar of the village, managed by Gianluca Monaci and his wife Christina.

Montisi has no more than 400 local residents ("Actually, we only arrive to 370!" says Gianluca, the heart of ‘Il Barrino’) and these should be specified ‘locals’, because on the contrary of what you might expect of such a small village, all inhabitants are not Italians. The sweetness and tranquility of Montisi attract a lot of tourists and some of them stop long enough to take up residence here, mainly native English speakers.

And ‘Il Barrino’, on the main road is where everyone, absolutely everyone, go at least once a day to hear "what's going on." To read the newspaper. To chat.

"You are more likely to find ‘The Tribune’ here than the local newspaper,” Gianluca says. “You shouldn't be surprised, I’ve made coffee for the bell ringer at the local church, but also to Steven Spielberg. This is ‘Il Barrino’: in here you will find the unexpected, which is why everyone pops in to have a look.

Unexpected in lots of ways, thanks to genial intuition. Since almost fifteen years, “il Barrino” combine the local tradition of hospitality and authenticity with a very different offer: a huge range of sparkling bubbles.

The story started when Gianluca, together with his wife Christina, took over the running of this small bar. They soon felt the necessity for something new, something with quality. They met with the Ferrari Trento company, excellent Italian winemakers of spumante, from whom they bought some bottles of Maximum brut. “The message we wanted to give our clients was to try something different compared to the usual prosecco. We started by offering the very first bottles for free, in order to give them the chance to taste the difference.” Gianluca says. Today ‘Il Barrino’ – situated in the middle of the region of excellent red wine,- is the place that sells more champagne and Spumante per capita than anywhere else in the world! People come from nearby and far away for an aperitivo, happy to find as many as 350 different varieties of champagne and Spumante.

“The beauty of our journey is bringing a "quality of life" message to our clients, with the wish to make them dare and grow. We want to involve them,” Gianluca continues. And the secret of this success? “My passion. We truly put our heart into what we do, plus it is easy to sell: I just pop the bottles open and make them available. People quickly get used to the beautiful and the good! I think it was Churchill that said this , but it could have been me."

‘L’ombelico del mondo’ is the trattoria above ‘il Barrino’ that Gianluca and Christina manage too, since 2011 with la mamma in the kitchen. Three generations - mum, son with wife and granddaughter - are currently working here to make everything run smoothly.

If you’re occasionally lost on the road and happen to pass Montisi during dinner time, I guess you’d like to know if the service takes a long time in ’L'ombelico del mondo'? You bet it does.

But it is worth the wait, all you need is time and patience. With Gianluca's unmatched passion for food, he will guide you through the daily options of the menu in such an histrionic way you just feel pampered and ready to eat everything.

And while waiting for mum’s pasta, take the unique chance to let Gianluca guide you through the best ‘bollicine, all gathered in one single place; on the top of a strikingly beautiful Tuscan hill that yes, could be the navel of the world.