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Thursday, 20 August 2015

2 2 2 - it's not the Devil's number

When you speak of the devil the number 666 comes to mind. Well I'm  putting a new spin on that number and it's 222

That's 2 girls, 2 days of shopping to do 2 days of damage = 222

Don't get me wrong , but it wasn't easy. We needed to wander through these amazing streets to get our bargains,

  Look at the crowds we need to fight thorough. However we did need to re hydrate. 

Train to Firenze

The travelling continues and takes me to Firenze (Florence). With an 8 Euro train trip, Michelle my new travel buddy, Alan & Cynthia catch the train together from Arezzo to Firenze. The journey was filled with reflection of our incredible experiences. Mostly, how the group mixed easily with all blends of cultures coming from all parts of the world. Mine being the craziest for the longest travel required for the shortest period stayed. It' was evident we wanted to maintain the energy that filled us over the past days and relive as much as possible. Constantly, remembering the recipes and who did what and how - making mental notes. Just brilliant.

We say our good bye to Alan & Cynthia as they are off to another part of the city whereas Mitchell and I set off to find our hotels right in the centre. I love you.  So easy, so convenient as I found a hotel at the last minute located right next to Il Duomo!!! I mean I opened my window and it's right there. If I had longer arms I could reach it. You bewdy!

View from my hotel window
For those foreigners (not the travelling kind) , il Duomo is the biggest thing to see in Firenze. Perhaps that look of confusion has you stumped, let's try the statue of David, or maybe the Ponte Vecchio. Geesh....  You must come here then you will see what I mean.

Anyway, we settle into our hotels and then lunch is next. Belly is full so we set off and check out the crowds gathered at Il Duomo. It's hot , it's busy, it's touristy , its selfie stick sales in your face , it's everything you can imagine.

We love it and just take it all in. Leather leather leather everywhere too. Of course, we stumble across a leather market so of course we buy our first handbag. Girls unbelievable!!!!   Insert huge smiley face or maybe 2 thumbs up coz we are high on leather.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I'm bringing my friends

Dear Friends ,

The photos will speak for themselves time I'm sure.

 And more


Baci me bello

One of the great things I will take away with me in my time in Tuscany is the brilliant tuition we received at Torre del Tartufo. The extreme patience Franco Palandra displayed is totally gob smacking. Generally chefs are known to be hot tempered because the kitchen pressure is insane.  This place is different yes, but to share your kitchen with wannabe cooks is a different scenario. He always made you feel that learning was always good and mistakes made you a better cook. Paula his right arm was equally the unbelievable in her assistance.  

Franco, Paula , Lena & Alex (hosts) joined us for the final dinner at Torre del Tartufo. The group - Brian & Leigh , Elena, Michelle, Elizabeth, Cynthia & Alan shared our final laughs over the incredible meal we prepared. Tomatoe soup was our starter with Parma gelato. Yep don't knock it until you try it.
That white blob is Parma gelato
As the evening moved on, the guest book came out for signing by all the guests. Of course, my signature lipstick lips made it to the pages with my little spiel. Suddenly, the light bulb goes off. Replying my lipstick (bright red of course), I say my goodbyes to Franco as he will be leaving shortly. In true Italian style, kisses are very appropriate. However, Franco was not prepared for this kiss. When I walked up to him I said "baci mi bello" and planted a huge kiss on his bald head!. The group burst into hysterics with  the look on his face. He totally lost his composure and turned as red as my lipstick. Truly a Kodak moment.  A fun way to finish the night.

Rollin', rollin', rollin', Rawhide

I'm reborn and have found my way. Trust in me, I'll take your hand and guide you to the light and make you see the truth that life without a pasta machine is possible. Yes, my friends no machine required but rollin',  rollin', rollin'. Amen.

Oh, just to bring you back to earth. It's hard manually rolling your pasta but oh so worth it.

These little babies are now in ma belly and I had the time of my life.

We made these as an entre followed by the rack of lamb

Arrrrrr .... Oui Frenchie (insert French accent)

Oui oui we are still in Italy but we are frenching Lamb today.

Maybe this picture will explain what I did today ..

A delicious rack of lamb which we prepared for the main course of our dinner. Always, Franco will demonstrate and then it's hands on to prepare yourself with his watchful guiding eye.

 But, first things first. We had our coffee break and enjoyed our efforts of making cannoli with ricotta cream and pistachio ...Yummo 

Oh and in this setting

Fat Pizza !

The cooking techniques keep rolling on and I'm keen to perfect this one. Today is pizza Mamma!!!!!

Thank God my friend Arthur is building a pizza oven because I'm taking over.  So Arthur,  have that oven finished by the time I get back home !

Who knew that pizza dough is so delicate? It's like that 7 sifted flour sponge cake that your grandma makes with the passion fruit icing dripping down the sides. Well pizza dough requires that same amount of delicate love to achieve a thin crispy edge without the soggy centre.

It doesn't like to be stretched, poked , over floured , under floured, thrown up in the air and man handled. That bizzo of throwing in the air is for the cameras because we all couldn't wait to try that technique. So Franco patiently explains that whilst it looks sensational and truly makes us worship the pizza chef, on the side the real pizza is used that the camera doesn't  show us. Yep, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but any chef that throws his pizza around will result in a soggy fat pizza!

So I suppose the next step would be to explain how to achieve that delicious pizza base right ?
Ummmm... Are you kidding I'm not going to tell you !  First I'm going to try it again at home , wow your socks off and then if you treat me with lots of love , bring me many gifts of Veuve champagne which hopefully will make me talk. Until then .....look and weep because this was my pizza

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Served with a smile :)

 Franco (our chef) has prepared a fabulous dinner for our return so after a quick swim to cool down our dinner is served with a smile. Although, I must say the Capri Cake was my creation. Add a dollop of fresh cream and it truly takes you to the great Isle of Capri.

                             Serving chicken cacciatore, pesto polenta, Turkey and finally a green salad.
Add caption
Ginz Capri Cake I'm

The final leg

I've mentioned how huge our day was so to recap.

So far, we have travelled from our glorious Tuscan villa located in Chiaveretto (Torre del Tartufo) to Arezzo to Antria (Villa la Ripa Winery) to Anghiari (Ravagni Olive Oil) and the now the medieval township of Anghiari, our final leg.

It's breathtaking!!!!  Andrew would relate it to Taxco in Mexico but without the Silver. Steep cobbled streets wide enough for a Fiat 500 but shared with pedestrians, bikes and everything else. Our time here was short but nonetheless enough to know I want to return. Andrew make a note !

Roberto Benigni ?..No, it's Francesco

I swear there is no difference between Roberto Benigni and this man Francesco from Ravagni, a boutique olive orchard. Located in Anghiari, a small Tuscan town which the family linage  have owned and run since 1421. 

So Roberto , oops I mean Francesco is a card. If you can imagine this skinny guy, totally animated , bouncing around with shoulder length frizzy hair in his face explaining the process of making olive oil. His English is not great but he figures a few Italian words thrown in will be fine for the tourists. If not, his acting of the olive pressing process has us in stitches. I mean he is acting out the machine motion with machine sounds. Although, there are no machines as all is done by hand hence the speciality of his oil. 

Anyway, it was so interesting and we listen with enthusiasm even though this small area in which the amazing process happens is like a shed. Sticking hot, not that clean as its out of season for pressing olives and a little claustrophobic.
Francesco is now conscious of his poor English and moves us along inviting us to his parents house where his Mamma and Zia have prepared lunch for us and invites us to tasting of his oil olive. " Den youla see how gooda my olive oil tastes a"

All of us load onto the bus as its a short trip up the estate hill, and yes Francesco hops onto his Vespa, leg to the side bearly hanging on whilst calling his Mamma on his mobile to get the pasta on because the tourists are coming. It's hilarious and the bus roars into laughter.

At the top of the hill, their estate is a scene from the Godfather. A beautiful Tuscan villa with shutters, a long table is set under the huge tree with a place for each of us to sit. Plates , glasses , vino and most importantly the samples of Francescos great creations. The 2 family dogs greet us to acknowledge our arrival and share they are new mums nursing their 10 puppies between them. Leonardo the ginger cat is louging in the sun on the warm stone driveway - his not getting up , his a cat , his superior!

Francesco's  mamma and Zia bring out the fresh cut bread and the olive oil tasting starts. Again, his passion shines through and his off again in a animated description of what the olive oil will taste like and how it's so special. 

Lunch was a traditional Tuscan meal. Delightful and we rolled out of that estate full as an egg. The olive oil? Wait and you will see..........

Monday, 17 August 2015

Best Psycho I ever met !

I should add that Psycho is the name of the wine...  because the owner is a psychologist by day and makes wine and manages the tours / tastings in his spare time. 

This our next fabulous stop on the excursion - Villa La Ripa . At over 1,000 years old the villa is amazing! Most of the rooms are furnished with the original furniture including an indoor Chapel off the music room. The current owner Dr Luzzi, held his daughters wedding at the estate and was married in the home chapel. Such a magnificent building that has a wow factor as soon as you reach the front gates. The rear once stables now converted to a large tasting room and the tasting begins. With a selection of delicious cheeses matching the 4 boutique wines (Psycho included) we learn of the passion creating these superb wines. 

  All the plumbing fittings are original & still operational for daily use.

  the stable rooms

Rest and play makes the day

So you can imagine the food we have been preparing and EATING and not to mention the drinking is really starting to take its toll. We all make a pinky promise that as soon as we get back home we will fatten you up with our amazing culinary expertise. But for now I'll take my early morning coffee, sit by the pool and enjoy.

I really don't want to miss a thing and today we have a big excursion. Rest & play makes the day. 

We are herded (because we are becoming the size a barn animal) into a mini bus and head off to Arezzo. Secretly, I'm like - yeah been there done that blah, blah , blah...

Yes Gina,  Miss Know It All, but did you make it to the top of the city where the original fortress walls still stand and discover the home of the first ever known tourist to make history? Introducing the concept dates back the 1700 century.  Rest for now because in the next part there will be more play as it was a big day.