Let the flavors of Italy dance in your mouth and sing in your heart™ on a Ciao Laura Cooking
Vacation in Italy!
Picture yourself in the midst of rolling hills, gardens filled with fragrant herbs and flowers, century old olive trees, blood orange trees, sounds of birds chirping and roosters crowing and youve just imagined yourself in Tuscany! As any traveler going to unexpected lands, my first trip to Tuscany was fascinating, and rich with history and Italian traditions and culture. What I didnt know at the time, was that this would be the one trip that would later defined my career path yet somehow in my heart, I knew the experience would be meaningful in ways that I could not express at the time, and I would have to wait for a moment in the future to see what life had in store for me.
Here is how I spent my first week in Tuscany:
I arrived in northern Tuscany via train from Milan where I was greeted by a lovely smiling face holding a card with my name on it. The driver was a wonderful Italian woman with a cute British accent, which I later learned she had picked up from being married to a British gent in her previous life. After a quick coffee break, we packed into the car to discover our home for the week a lovely 17th century renovated Tuscan estate. On arrival, we were welcomed with a nice glass of wine, and a snack of salumi and cheese. I sat on the lawn and got acquainted with others in the group, who all shared the common interest in learning more about cooking Tuscan cuisine while exploring Tuscany. There were 12 of us that week and we were all from different backgrounds and regions of the world but we all spoke English as our common language. We discussed our itineraries with great anticipation and enthusiasm as we enjoyed our wines before meeting the chefs.
Our first dinner was a grand and glorious gala welcome dinner prepared for us by the chefs who owned the cooking school, and who we learned would be teaching the courses that week. It was a magical night, spent learning about the history of the school, the area, the fresh produce grown on the estate and some of the things that make Tuscan cuisine unique from that of other regions. The air was clean and crisp and we were so happy to be there we all pinched ourselves to make sure it was real. It was a perfect way to spend the first evening.
The next morning we gathered for breakfast where I was pleasantly surprised to see freshly baked rosemary foccacia, fresh fruit, chocolate cakes and cappuccino displayed on a long table it was delicious and my kind of breakfast! After breakfast, we started our first lesson in the large professional kitchen on the estate a place where we would meet each morning for the next five days a dream come true for a foodie who has always been a front of the house kind of a gal, but someone who loves to cook up her own concoctions for family and friends! Lunch was based on the fruits of our labor (so the pressure was on to make it taste great!) and it was served on the lawn under a willow tree, at the same table where we first met and where we would soon become close friends with the others in our group that week.
After a long leisurely lunch with lots of delicious wines, we piled into a small van and we were escorted to a wonderful little seaside village where we were free to shop, enjoy gelato, see the ruins and mingle with the locals so wonderful! As the days progressed, we saw several towns and we visited marble factories, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, cathedrals, cafes, beaches, produce markets and so much more. We laughed and we sang together on all of our journeys, as if we were in a camp bus over summer break forgetting about our worries and enjoying the moment. And last but not least, one of my fondest memories was climbing the blood orange tree for extra oranges to enjoy during breakfast the tree was 2 feet from my bedroom window and every night when the breeze would blow just right, I would smell the fragrant citrus blossoms reminding me of what the next day had in store for me. Bliss.
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Laura Faust is the owner of Ciao Laura, LLC – Culinary Vacations in Italy. Laura is a tour operator who shares her love for the Italian culture with her clients through cooking vacations, wine tasting and market tours throughout Italy. Through her travels in Italy, Laura has created an extensive collection of regional cooking experiences with her close friends and trusted colleagues and her tours have been featured in such popular magazines as Italia and Taste Italia! You can find her on Twitter @CiaoLaura or visit her website www.ciaolaura.com for more information on Ciao Laura Culinary Vacations in Italy!