Two women leaving soft footprints through city streets, country roads, and green mountain paths. Two friends with backgrounds in Fine Art Restoration and Art History who share an appreciation for simple pleasures and a passion for introducing others to Florence and beyond.

Angelica Turi - Tuscan, Licensed Environmental Guide. Elizabeth Namack - American, Licensed Tour Guide for Florence and Province

Come share the journey with us! Reflections and Wanderings through Tuscany and Italy!


Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8th- FESTA

Piero di Cosimo, Immacolata Concezione con i Santi

Just a quick post today, as the 8th of December is a Holiday in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It has been a bank-holiday weekend, Italian style, so that means many long meals with friends!


Luca Signorelli, Immacolata Concezione

This day celebrates the solemn belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

In other words, this is the condition of the Virgin Mary. She was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb by her mother Saint Anne. Artists from centuries ago LOVED to paint this scene. Look for it the next time you are in a museum or in a religious space.





- Post by Elizabeth, photos garnered on internet




Monday, November 24, 2014

LUXURY CHIANTI VILLA CULINARY WEEK - 23 – 30 May 2015



Food is Italy. The history, the traditions, and the quality of food in this country is, just, incredibly important! Things might not taste like they did in the past (I mean, at least that is what my mother-in law likes to say), but the food is still pretty darn good, especially considering what you often find yourself eating in the good ‘ole US of A.  The food experience in Italy is sensory, it is a moment to savour and enjoy, especially in the company of others. Think of experiences like Thanksgiving, but happening more than once a year!


Food is an integral part of everyone’s life and it is certainly a very important part of one’s travels to Italy. This year when I asked a guest what was the best part of her week-long hiking tour, you may be able to guess her answer. No, it wasn’t the hikes (which were spectacular), it was the cooking class with Barbara (!). Another guest told me the highlight of her week, was not the amazing sites in Florence, but the cooking class with Claudio! My friend Candida told me she moved to Naples from Florence for the mozzarella….! Friends chose to spend a year in Tuscany, rather than elsewhere, when they realized there is an incredible amount of organic farms to be found in the region. The Slow Food movement started in Northern Italy.  Need I say more? In Italy it is all about THE FOOD!


*****

So after this introduction, we are pleased to share our culinary news for 2015.

We are very excited to be accompanying another culinary week in our cherished Tuscany in May 2015! 

This week will have a slightly different slant than other past tours, as we will be staying put in the same place for an entire week.


Yes, you can unwind, unpack your bags, relax on a lounge chair, and actually put clothes in your closet. The lodgings are in a restored Villa near Panzano in Chianti, in the heart of the Chianti Classico wine district, about 45 minutes from Florence.


This special Villa will be our home away from home. It houses 10-12 people total. The farmhouse has a great kitchen which is perfect for cooking lessons, a spacious living room with fireplace, a large rustic dining room (which also leads to outside terraces), 6 double bedrooms (4 Bedrooms on the first and second floor of the Villa (all bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, except for one), 1 small bedroom on the top floor, and 1 bedroom in an separate annexed house).


The farmhouse has all the modern day amenities needed for a comfortable stay- wi-fi internet access, satellite TV, CD player, hairdryers, air conditioning etc. The outside areas offer beautiful manicured gardens, a panoramic swimming pool, several terraces and al fresco dining areas. Of course there are incredible views of the hills and valleys from every vantage point in the area, which is dotted with vineyards and olive groves.

The week will be filled with three hands-on cooking lessons, delicious dinners and lunches, local wines, morning maid service for breakfasts and room straightening. Oh yes- visits to wine estates, local farms, and day excursions to classic Tuscan towns such as San Gimignano and Siena, the wine towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano, the cheese town of Pienza.

There will be time to walk down country lanes, go to nearby villages for shopping, sit under olive trees, pick wild flowers, read a book. In other words RELAX. You get the gist. Oh yes, and one of us will be around too- to make sure everything is more than PERFETTO!!

Come along & join a week in May 
23 – 30 May 2015
……..

Price per person in double room € 2400
Price per person for non cooking guests in double 
room € 2090


(single supplement on request) 
If this particular week doesn’t work with your schedule, other guaranteed departure weeks are as follows:
25 April – 2 May 2015
13 – 20 June 2015
26 September – 3 October 2015
and 10 – 17 October 2015

Of course customized weeks can be created if these dates don’t work for you!!

Interested in more info? Here is the  link & please don’t hesitate to contact us:

LUXURY CHIANTI VILLA COOKING
in collaboration with Stendhal Tours

23 – 30 May 2015







Post by Elizabeth, photos Elizabeth & Stendhal Tours

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chiusoni, Pici or Ombrichelli, whatever you want to call them, they are good!

Home-made pici in a red sauce 

We have stopped walking and have started cooking!

Since the busy work season has lulled a bit I have hit the gas burners, creating curry chickpea and vegetable stew, black cabbage and bean soup, carrot soup, braised fennels, pumpkin risotto, roast pork loin and roasted chicken!  Oh yes, I also prepared a breakfast cake and pancakes too. My inspiration is all the great cooking blogs out there! I would love to do an Thanksgiving inspired meal here this year, but my home has such limited indoor sitting space- I don’t know if I will brave it. I wish I had a little more space (like Amie’s kitchen in Atlanta…. !). One of the downsides of living in the ‘big city’ I guess.….

In any event, as you have guessed, this week’s post inspiration is food related!




















CHIUSONI, PICI or OMBRICHELLI


These are all names of a local, incredibly delicious pasta, found often on dining plates in Southern Tuscany. You can think of it as fat spaghetti!

The pasta is varying length, about the dimension of a pencil
Pici, as I tend to call them, is a pasta made of flour, salt and water – yes, that is all that is takes!!!  The most challenging part of the recipe is after the dough is made, forming the shape. The dough needs to rest a bit so it will become more elastic and easier to work.  With able hands, the dough is rolled to make long thin strips. This creates a pasta which turns out to be slightly different lengths and somewhat uneven. That is ok! Since the pasta is not totally smooth, this makes eventual sauces cling better to the individual strands.

According to tradition, the first people to use PICI in the kitchen were the ETRUSCANS. Pici pasta is a classic example of CUCINA POVERA, poor country cooking. This method, of which many Tuscan dishes are based, took and used to its advantage simple and inexpensive ingredients.  Originally pici pasta was served only with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and crispy Tuscan bread crumbs. Nowadays, it also good with any great tomato or meat sauce.

The following recipe is from Gian Paolo and Barbara of the restaurant La Filanda, located in Manciano. In addition to being an excellent place for an evening meal, they offer an incredibly fun, hands-on, cooking class.

Barbara is the best!
















Barbara calls them CHIUSONI:

250 grams wheat flour
250 grams white flour
Tiepid water
A dip of extravergine olive oil
A dash of salt

Making a well in the center of the flour, add the water slowly, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. More or less water may be needed (it depends on the humidity levels in your kitchen). Placing the dough onto a large floured work surface, knead until it is elastic and smooth. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

Pici on the back burner, a red sauce on the front
Start by rolling the dough into long rod shapes, to make it it flat, about 1 cm. Cut the dough into strips about 1 cm wide and roll them with your hands to obtain long round strips. The strips should be about the dimension of a pencil. Don’t worry, the pasta does not have to be uniform in size, but do try! Put the pici on a wide tray and cover with flour- don’t skimp.  The pasta can be cooked immediately or it can also be frozen for up to several months.

Cook the pasta in boiling salty water. As they rise to the top they will be done, quite quickly.

Enjoy!

Post and Photos by Elizabeth




Monday, October 27, 2014

Maremma

Maremma


If you ask someone where it is, and what the word means, no one will give you the same answer.

For a generic answer, the Maremma is a coastal flat land in the south of Tuscany which was greatly effected by malaria. For centuries mosquitoes caused a deadly epidemic, so much so that in the past a synonymy between Maremma and mortality was created. In Italian "maremma maiale", literally means a maremma pig. Well, it also has another meaning, a slang word which does not mean a good thing...


This definition is correct, but we are not quite there yet. In reality there is more than this, as there is more than one Maremma: Maremma Livornese, Maremma Grossetana and Maremma Viterbese.

So from the geographical point of view Maremma is the flat area along the coast, that stretches from Cecina ( Livorno county ) up to Viterbo in the region of Lazio.


During the centuries, the sea currents have created tomboli or dunes, even sort of sand bars, causing swampy lands to be created since this area is lower than sea level. Still nowadays, after heavy rains, there are often floods. This also explains why the ancient populations established themselves on top of the hills (in addition to the defensive reasons)... and this also explains why this area is less populated and considered an "unspoiled" area of Tuscany and Lazio.




The Grand Duchy of Florence, and then Leopoldo di Lorena in the 18th century and Mussolini in the early 20th century made great efforts to rid the area of malaria and reclaim the whole area. As a result, the land started to be extensively cultivated, in primes, with durum wheat.




This area is very fertile and produces strawberries, artichokes, melons, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, fennel, celery, onions, pine nuts etc.

In the area around Viterbo, farmers are able to get two wheat crops in one year, which is a sort of miracle in agriculture.
















The Region is famous for the Etruscan civilization and one can visit archaeological sites such as Tarquinia, Baratti, etc. with its outstanding Museums. There are beautiful sand beaches and a very rocky coastline. The cuisine is based on wild boar, porcini mushrooms, pecorino cheese, honey, but also  fresh fish when closer to the sea. Not to forget are the very important wineries that have been born in this last twenty years, such as: Petra, Tua Rita, Rocca di Frassinello, Tenuta dell'Ammiraglia, Le Pupille, Cantina Aldobrandesca , etc. The wine protagonist in this area is 100% of the red grape San Giovese, called Morellino.  What you need to explore this area best is a car, as connections with public transportation are not the best. Next time we await you in the Maremma area of Tuscany... !





- Post by Angelica, photos by Elizabeth