I apologize already for the corny post title. I never use movie titles for blog posts but I couldn’t resist because well, this day was just like Under the Tuscan Sun. Minus the plot and plus mind-boggingly good food.
When they heard we were headed to Florence, the good people at Walks of Italy, insisted that we had to do their Tuscan Farmhouse Experience. I am all for interesting new tour experiences, but this one involved a two hour train ride out into the countryside at 7 AM. Generally, I’m pretty skeptical of anything that involves having to wake up early.
It was so, so, so very worth it.
It was a foggy Tuscan morning when we were picked up at the train station by the lovely Alina. She lives with her mother Lucia on an organic farm in the hills straddling Tuscany and Umbria. At Il Fontanero they run eco-tourism experiences, press their own olive oil and today, run cooking lessons.
At the house we were greeted by the elegant Lucia- our master chef for the day, hot espresso and two absolutely enormous brown dogs. Alana and Lucia had a new cat, an orange ball of lightening that followed us everywhere. We drank coffee and chatted with their visiting friends, feeling less like tourists and more like visitors.
After coffee it was time to start working. First we needed to gather our ingredients: fresh herbs from the garden, full and ripe orange peaches and fresh basil. Then we crowded into the cozy kitchen to cook.
Or rather Lucia cooked, walking us through the steps while we tried not to be too terribly unhelpful. Our meal was five courses, made almost entirely from ingredients produced on the farm. While she diced tomatoes Lucia shared her life philosophy of organic local living and the joys of being self-sufficient. It was a pretty convincing case, particularly when it meant eating like this.
Finally there was the meal. We started with a tasting of their home-made olive oil. Then:
A fresh tomato and basil salad.
Bright yellow saffron risotto.
Hand-made (by us!) egg pasta in spicy tomato sauce.
One of the most incredible pieces of meat ever- I could write a poem about this slow cooked roast wrapped in fresh herbs.
A fresh peach upside down cake. I’m planning to recreate this one but with apples, possibly for thanksgiving.
After we stuffed our faces Alina invited us to relax, maybe take a dip in the pool. Oh yes, there’s a pool, an infinity pool and a hot tub overlooking the Tuscan hills. Then I lay in a hammock and stared up at the olive trees, almost like a meditation minus the kitten batting at my heels.
I know I’m being effusive, maybe it’s the buried Italian in me. There’s just something about eating homemade pasta under the Tuscan sun while drinking hearty red wine that invites enthusiasm. You can’t be halfway about it.
By the end of the day the totally irrational part of my brain was pounding the drum, insisting that I had to find a way to buy a villa in the Tuscan country-side, live off the land and read by my own jewel-blue pool. Cat, I would trade my life for yours in an instant.
Obvious thanks to Walks of Italy for inviting us on the Tuscan Farm House Experience. All opinions are my own.