Cooking Lesson at Ristorante Degli Archi

Day 5:

After breakfast at the hotel we head out towards the village of an Quirico d’Orcia along the gravel paths of the Via Francigena; an ancient pilgrimage route. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful; every vista a perfect portait

The scotch bloom is a vibrant yellow, the smell seeet and fragrant. The red poppies dust the fields creating more color along with sprinkles of lavender and white roses everywhere. I slow down taking pictures trying to absorb every detail. The colors of the green fields of alfalfa, wheat, and hay against the browns and tans of the stone buildings.

Once we arrive in San Quirico we are left to explore or stop for an espresso, visiting this charming town before continuing on to Val d’Orcia, a World Heritage site. (see UNESCO for a list of all World Heritage Sites) Our route takes us on farm roads, past cypress trees and verdant land en route to a favorite agriturismo (working farm and country retreat); right up my alley! Such beautifully landscaped hills. Picture perfect spots everywhere.

The hike for those of us wanting to continue takes us across rolling hills to magical Pienza. This town was designed by the 15th century Florentine architect Bernardo Rossellino who was chosen by Pope Pius II to transform his birthplace into a hamlet that exemplified Renaissance ideals. The main square (piazza) showcases two of his masterpieces: Palazzo Piccolomini and a classically inspired duomo. (Italian cathedral)

We continue our hike to San Quirico to put our Tuscan cooking (and eating) skills to the test. At Ristorante degli Archi, the owner and master sommelier Lorenza puts on a full Tuscan spread from start to finish. Can you say Heaven! It all starts with an aperitivo but for me I want in on the action as cooking and Italian cooking are my passions so I grab a glass of vino and I join in on the cooking excitement. The food lingers on my palate with the wine and I know I will be re-creating these dishes for family and friends in the near future.

We continue our hike to Pienza stopping to take pictures of where the Gladiator movie was filmed, you can see the house with yhe cypress trees in the distance and we walk to the church where the wheat is rising. The small church is beautiful, standing on the top of a knoll. Then into Pienza for some shopping.

Dinner tonight is at Cisterna del Borgo where we indulge in so much food once again. This is our last night here. New friends, new memories and a new sense for more adventure

Vegetarian lasagne

Chocolate Salami!!

Hiking options: San Quirico Route: 3.2 miles; II Rigo Route: 5.2 miles; Pienza Route: 8.6 miles.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

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Truffle Hunting in San Giovanni d’Asso

Day 4:

We start today on a shuttle to the 14th century Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore which is still inhabited by Benedictine monks.

We explore the monastery which was founded in 1313 by a group of Sienese (a native or inhabitant of the Italian city of Siena) merchants attempting to escape the temptations of city life. We gaze at the cloisters to see some of the best Signorelli frescoes in Europe, considered masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance for their lifelike figures and use of perspective.

We then hike to San Giovanni d’Asso. We stop at Chiusure along the way to view the dramatic views of the abbey and the crete senesi (chalk hills) of Siena. Once we arrive, we learn more about the elusive – and coveted – truffle from a local tartufaio (truffle hunter) and savor a multi-course, truffle-themed lunch. Buon Appetito!

Then back into the van to check into our hotel Alberge de Terme, in Bagno Vignoni and the rest of the afternoon on our own.

Tonights our festive dinner includes the usual cured meats, bruschetta, and dskad followed by the secondi dish od rich bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-Bone steak grilled rare over charcoal, lightly salted with olive oil drizzled over the top). Served with cannellini beans.

Hiking options today: Chiusure Route: 3.3 miles; San Giovanni d’Asso Route: 4.3 miles; Castel Verdelli Route: 9.1 miles

Love and Light,

Jeanine On the Scene

Wine & Balsamic Vinegar Tasting – Poggio San Polo/Radda

Well hello Day 3.

As we begin our morning after breakfast; we load the bus to go to our next destination in Radda. Off in the distance are the Ricasoli fortresses; historic castles dating back to the 12th century and the Ricasoli family. Lots of history here. We start our hike through the woods along a picturesque ridgeline with views of Radda in the distance and continue our trek with our final ascent into town.

We have lunch and I feel like a local, gathering with friends and talking of our day.

The afternoon is spent on our own for relaxation, a spa treatment, a swim in the pool or to explore the hotel and sip some chianti around the fireplace. We shop through the town.

This evening we enjoy a wine and balsamic vinegar tasting before dining at one of Radda’s restaurants.

Radda in Chianti, 53017 Province of Siena, Italy

Dinner:

Carbonara

Hiking options: Villa Route: 4.6 miles; Le Bonatte Route: 5.7 miles; Radda Route : 7.1 miles.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

Cooking in Chianti

My Tuscany vacation; Italy’s Bella Toscana Active Culinary Adventure by Backroads

I am on the train to Arrezo at 6 am passing through fields of yellow hay cut on the ground ready for bailing and row crops which look like tomatoes. We go through dark tunnels and then back out to the sunshine and the greenery. Red poppys line the tracks as we go through many towns and stops along the route.

The train arrives at 8:43 where I meet several of the people on the tour and am greeted by my backroads tour guide Michael; we will meet Guilia once we arrive.

We head towards the town of Castellina in Chianti, a fortified hamlet with commanding views of the Pesa, Arbia and Elsa River Valleys. Castellina served as a Florentine army outpost until the fall of Siena in 1555, and its military past can be seen in its old ramparts and arcaded walkway, Via delle Volte.

We begin along pedestrian walkways, forested paths and strade bianche (gravel roads) en route to Radda in Chianti.

Along the way, we stop by a family-owned farmhouse-turned-villa for a visit with their friend Roberta and Marco who is the expert on olive oils. We do a blind tasting. First using our smell to see what fruits or vegetables we smell, next is a taste where we swirl in our mouth and swish around almost like wine before swallowing. The pepper taste hits our throats and makes us cough a little, which is said to be the best olive oil. This is our first taste of Tuscan hospitality, olive oil that’s produced right on the property! Next we’re treated to an alfresco pranzo (lunch) buffet hosted by Roberta’s brother, Giovanni.

After lunch, we hike through the woods and vineyards, a quintessential Tuscan landscape that seems too beautiful to be real.

Our destination is the charming Il Borgo di VeΜ€scine, offering striking views of the surrounding Chianti Valley.

After a short rest we then head to Tutti a Tavola, a cooking school operated by four Tuscan women who share a deep passion for cooking and their homeland. Here we’re welcomed into the heart of the home, the cucina (kitchen), to learn how Tuscans cook on a daily basis. It’s a marvelous evening with great food and wonderful company. Mimme, Lele, Ellissa, and Franca show us the ropes and I even get in on the action making the gelato for the evening dessert. A delicious meal is prepared starting with spaghetti, a delicious frittata, followed by chicken cacciatore and gelato for dessert.

What a great first day. Blessed in so many ways. Until tommorrow, arrivederci!

Hiking today: 4.2 miles

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene