My husband and I decided on an Italian holiday for our honeymoon. During this trip we visited Florence. Florence is an absolutely beautiful city, but what we really enjoyed was our day trip out of Florence. One of the things we wanted to experience in Italy was an Italian cooking class. After searching the Internet, we realized this activity was actually quite expensive until I found the website for Accidental Tourist (www.AccidentalTourist.com). The tour we selected was labeled "cooking class" but we were quite happy when it turned out to actually be a wonderful day in the Tuscan hillside.
Our day began as a very knowledgeable tour guide picked us up in Florence. The first stop for the day was at a Tuscan estate about 40 minutes outside Florence. The Grignano country estate outside Florence is in Italy's Chianti Rufina region. Although the family no longer lives in this home, the rolling hills in the area are covered with grape vines and olive trees because the grounds are used to produce olive oil and wine. Our guide provided a very thorough tour of the facilities and we were lucky enough to be there in late October when the red grapes were being pressed.
Following a tour of the production facilities we were taken to the Grignano country villa for a tasting of the olive oil and wines. The ambiance of the villa was amazing. Our group gathered around a large farmhouse table and our guide sliced the rustic Italian bread that we would use to cleanse our palates between tastings. Because Tuscan bread is made without salt, our guide drizzled the bread with the fantastic olive oil and sprinkled it with salt before passing it around to the group. As we listened, our guide presented each of the wines made by the Grignano winery. After each presentation, our guide poured the wine into glasses and passed the glasses around the table. It was a fantastic experience. My husband and I agreed that the wines were all very good, but that the olive oil was fantastically unique with its soft, earthy taste.
After the tasting, we were taken to a Tuscan farmhouse for a lesson in pasta-making. In the basement of the farmhouse was a large table that our group gathered around while our guide explained the importance of the simple Italian ingredients used to make spinach ravioli and fettuccine. Following our guides instructions, the entire group first mixed the semolina flour and egg to create a sticky mess that would soon resemble pasta dough, and then kneaded our newly created pasta dough. Our guide then demonstrated how to use the pasta machine to roll the dough into perfect sheets of pasta. Surprisingly, few people in our group had experienced making pasta from scratch before. But for those of us that had, our past endeavors could not compare to the fresh ricotta and spinach that we were about to use to fill our ravioli! Our guide was so sure we'd taste the freshness that each person in the group was handed a small spoon and instructed to take just a sample of how fresh the ricotta filling actually tasted. It was beyond words.
The day ended with a late lunch prepared by the wife of the farmhouse owner. Using the ravioli and fettuccine created by our group, a wonderful lunch was served. Of course, this fantastic Tuscan cook threw in a few other items like pizza, eggplant parmesan, and a chickpea torte. The ravioli is served in simple Italian style with just a drizzle of olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, but it tasted great. The fettuccine was served with some chanterelle mushrooms that were collected by a group on an Accidental Tourist walking tour the day before. The meal ended with a wonderful tiramisu and an Italian serenade by our multi-talented tour guide.
It was a wonderful way to spend a day in Tuscany. For more pictures and information about our time in Italy, go to www.AdventuresWithAmy.com