“Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.” – Sophia Bush
Today we participate in the highly recommended “Accidental Tourist” wine tasting & cooking class! I’m excited!
After our late night and rushed three hours of sleep, Arlene and I wake up and sprint to the meeting point. We’re picked up in a van near the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Even though we’re rushing, I have to stop to take a couple pictures of this signature bridges of Florence. (I have used it as my desktop wallpaper MANY times!) We reach the van just in time, are greeted by our tour guide Steve and are driven up the picturesque hills of Tuscany to the Chianti region to begin our day.
The setting is a gorgeous private owned villa owned by an affluent family that only uses it once a year to host a grand party, they are otherwise based in Milan. I’m shocked! If you owned this villa (mansion more like) why would you ever leave! While at the villa we learn how olive oil and wine are made as well as the test of quality in both products. This is the point I learn that the US has nasty preservatives in their wine and this is what causes those horrible wine hangovers! No WONDER we’ve been so unfazed with the wine consumption in Italy. Grrr…
After the tour we drive to another location for the tasting. The olive oil tastes different here too. I love it! I’m officially a happy girl: wine, olive oil, bread and good company in the lush green hills of Tuscany. May I please remain here forever? *Sigh*
After joining a new group of Americans that were participating in part two, the cooking class, we drive to one more location. Another private villa in the hills. The cooking class was a BLAST! We made pasta from scratch using good ol kneading and a pasta machine. We mixed fresh ricotta, parmigiano-reggiano (one of my new favorite cheeses), and spinach to create our ravioli filling. Once complete with the ravioli, we made tagliatelle noodles (fettuccine as far as I was concerned). After finishing our fresh pasta preparation, we went upstairs, where the home owner Cristiana had prepared a bunch of appetizers! (Entrees as the Europeans call them. I guess we got it backwards in America since entrees are NOT the main course but PRECEDE the first course) Anyway, while we were making pasta, she was preparing bruschetta, pizza, and frittata! All homemade and all with fresh ingredients from her own garden! I now understand how drastic taste difference fresh food provides! It is SO flavorful. I swear to myself I am going to start cooking this way. (At least really, really try to do it sometimes!) The tomatoes are so fresh and bright red, the basil so flavorful, the homemade pizza crust so crisp! The wine is flowing and the 8 of us along with Cristiana and Steve are having a jolly good time.
The setting was perfect too. Cristiana has a perfect Tuscan kitchen with a blend of old meets new. We learn the tower of her home is 900 years old (of course it is) and the rest of the house built around it is 600 years old. She has an old wood stove on the left side of the kitchen, fresh peppers, garlic and veggies scattered around and mixed in all this old charm is a flat screen TV and a large stainless-steel refrigerator! I love it! Haha. Outside the windows of the kitchen and the window of the porch is the same amazing view I can’t get enough of. Lush green hills as far as the eye can see with cypress trees and scattered villas.
While we were enjoying the appetizers and wine, she prepared our pasta. First the ravioli; once cooked she simply added olive oil and fresh parmigiano and voila…delicious! So simple, but SO delicious! When we felt we couldn’t possible consume any more food, we are served the tagliatelle with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and basil. As if that wasn’t enough she topped it off with homemade ice cream atop fresh strawberries with a touch of creme. Wow. Food coma.
Back in the van a bit later and we’re dropped back in Florence. Minutes later…pouring rain! *Sigh* Arlene and I rush back to the hotel (Ryan had left us this morning since he won’t be joining the final week of our holiday) and decide to stay in for a night. We catch up on writing while enjoying Italian Wheel of Fortune. Tomorrow we are finally sightseeing!!
Today was one of my favorite days ever.