Truffles and tiramisu were just a couple of the many treasures I enjoyed in Tuscany.
While I had expectations of beautiful landscapes, rich culture and wonderful cuisine, my first trip to Italy surpassed all I had imagined. The only conundrum, if you can even call it that, was balancing exploration of all the amazing sites and experiences with time to simply BE, and soak in the goodness that Tuscany has to offer.
A prosecco toast and some delicious Italian comfort food was a warm welcome to start our Italian adventure. Rested and fortified with cappuccino, our ‘traveling tribe’ of ladies set off to explore Lucca – a charming and historic city, with beautiful piazzas and cobblestone streets, nestled within Renaissance walls. Open air markets, an outdoor fall festival, window shopping and a leisurely lunch at an outdoor café all made for a fabulous first day in Tuscany.
The following morning our good fortune continued with truffle hunting, a tour, and lunch at Savini Tartufi. The Savini family passion and truffle tradition dates to the 1920s. Getting out into the woods to hunt was truly impressive – and fun – to see the art and craft of the harvest. A delicious lunch featuring the hero ingredient and paired with regional wine, was an added treat. You’ll see a common theme emerging here… explore, eat, drink, repeat. Thank goodness I love to run!
After a bit of a nap in transit, we were off to start our next immersion experience of cooking lessons with Chef Gianluca, highly acclaimed chef and founder of Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana (International Academy of Italian Cuisine). Situated in a historic villa in the countryside of Lucca, it was a picturesque setting for our evening of learning, laughter, eating and fellowship. Chef offers a range of lessons, from basic to professional, intensive courses – which attract students from across the globe. I was impressed by the focus on high-quality, local and seasonal ingredients and inspired into taking these lessons home. Coming from a lady not known for her talents in the kitchen, this is no small feat!
It is hard to imagine how one could possibly continue this positive momentum of exploration, learning, connecting and fun… however, the Cinque Terre did not disappoint! Recognized in 1997 by the UNESCO Mankind’s World Heritage, it is a designated National Park and Protected Marine Area. A scenic morning ferry trip from La Spezia gives a breathtaking view of the five villages perched high on the cliffs of the Italian Riviera. Given the striking beauty and cliffside trails, this spot has been discovered by many, so if you’re not one for activity and the company of others, you may consider an off-season visit. While we just spent the afternoon, one could easily enjoy days of sightseeing, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, and dining in these charming spots.
After four lovely days based in Viareggio exploring the region, our Italian adventure carried on into the hills and wine country of Chianti. We started with a fabulous lunch at the Podere San Lorenzo, an agriturismo B&B with breath-taking views and simply divine food. Situated 3km from Volterra and miles away from city bustle, this spot is for you if you crave a rejuvenating quiet get-away.
The following day to continue the positive energy, we enjoyed wine tasting and a light lunch at the Montefioralle Winery. I’ve heard Chianti described as ‘Happiness in a glass’ and I will not disagree.
Continuing the theme of fabulous food and wine, the next evening we were hosted by Stefania Balducci for cooking lessons and dinner as we prepared. Stefania’s home and Pasta al Pesto demonstration kitchen inspires even the most elementary cooks, myself included, to dive into the culinary creativity and fun. Stefania describes it best – “In Italy, the kitchen is the heart of the house”.
These are just samples of the many adventures and highlights offered from this delightful and delicious corner of the world. Exploring, learning, sharing and savoring the delights of Tuscany. I encourage you to experience it for yourself!
For more information:
- Cypress Tours: http://www.cypresstours.net/
- Savini http://www.savinitartufi.it/en/truffle-experience/
- Chef Gianluca Pardini – International Academy of Italian Cuisine in Lucca
- Montefioralle Winery http://www.montefioralle.wine/
- Podere San Lorenzo http://www.agriturismo-volterra.it/
- Pasta al Pesto & Stephania Balducci http://www.pastaalpesto.com/
About Joy Steinberg
Extremely well-travelled, Joy has volunteered and/or holidayed in Honduras, Brazil, Peru, Morocco, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and Japan. Her various travels have cultivated a passion to make a positive difference. When not off on a philanthropic adventure, Joy works in Market Research and Digital Insights and has recently launched a boutique consultancy.