Tuscany  Treasures Italy 2012
June 4th - 12th - 2012  

Friday June 8th

This morning on our way to our cooking class is was sheer bliss to watch the landscape…and then we were there…

Our cooking class at Tenuta di Corsignano - we are the Chefs! How can I convey just how much fun we all had here…you can get some sense just by looking at the guests…everyone got involved and so enjoyed their experience here…but the best part was sitting down and eating because I can tell you that after a couple of hours of smelling the aroma of these foods we were starved!!

After all was prepared, we took our appetizers to the winery to sample our first wine and learn a bit more about this super special place. The owners are so passionate and hard working…we just fell in love with them…

Back to the prep area where the tables were set up and we were ready to start tasting the fruits of our labour (the food) and the fruits of their labour (the wine) I have taken pictures of the labels so that you can see what we enjoyed with each of our courses. As desert was served, it was celebrated as a birthday as well as one of our guests had her birthday this very day..what a memory she will have. And wow, what a great meal!

Its name is tied to that of the Piccolomini Pope and to his native town Pienza, which was previously named Corsignano. In the Chianti Classico Gallo Nero area, at just 8 kilometres from Siena, on the road to the antique hamlet Vagliagli, this land of 54 acres was one of the final borders of the Papal Patronage. Mario and Elena have devoted themselves to this enchanting earth, and little by little, with constancy and passion, they have made of it the reason of their lives.

‘Whoever loves nature, history, art will find at Corsignano a climate of freedom, friendship and why not....of pleasant elegance.’

This day we also visit Villa La Petraia –wherewe heard the story of bringing the buildings and the fields of Petraia to an organic and biodynamic agricultural life after a forty year dormancy; the restoration of a 900-year old casa colonica; the rebuilding of ancient stone terrace walls; the planting of vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens; and the reintroduction of animal husbandry plus we will enjoy a short olive oil tasting. Owned by Canadians!

‘The first agriculture we undertook at La Petraia was the planting of a vegetable garden. Of course we had our own vision of what it would be, not exactly the same one as our Tuscan friends and helpers. There was much discussion, negotiation and gnashing of teeth, for with a garden, as with all property in Italy, owning it doesn’t make it yours. Tuscans share a sense of possession of not just their own land but of their countryside, for they have hunted on it, foraged on it and cultivated it for centuries. It is theirs. As Canadians, we’re accustomed to a limited growing season, so the ability to grow food in the dead of winter is a miracle. In mid-November we pull up the last of the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, but the winter garden is just getting started. There are leeks, onions, lettuces, cabbages, broccoli, beets, kohlrabi, turnips, fennel, celery, parsnips, carrots, cardoons and brussels sprouts to keep us going until early spring, when fava beans, potatoes, peas and asparagus begin to appear.’

‘Thankfully, the vegetable in Italy, like the child, is adored and worshipped in a thousand and one ways. This is a country that begins in the highest Alps of Europe and stretches a long reach south to within just a few miles of the African coast. There is little call for imported produce. Markets of fresh produce abound, from Rome and Milan to the smallest village in Tuscany or Sicily. Most shoppers look for the vegetables grown close to home, labeled nostrano ('ours' or 'local'). These are always the freshest, cheapest and most trusted.’

‘So why grow your own? Why be bothered to plant a garden? The answer to these questions every gardener knows. Best gets better when you grow your own.’

More than a decade ago, Susan McKenna Grant left Canada with her husband Michael to become an organic farmer and agriturismo owner in Italy. Gradually they brought their ancient, 165-acre piece of Tuscany, La Petraia, back to its profound and lush glory. Providing them with everything from wheat to grapes to olives, and wild boar, hens, rabbits, and deer, La Petraia is a self-sustaining kingdom and a cook's dream domain in the Chianti Classico zone in the heart of Tuscany. With these and many more exquisite ingredients at hand, she presents a repertoire of both classic and modern interpretations of northern Italian cuisine.

About the Book
Winner - Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award
Winner - Cordon d'Or Award--Best Culinary Literature Book
Winner - Gourmand World Cookbook Award - Best Italian Cuisine Book

We then continued on to Montecatini Terme, through some of the most incredible landscape of hills covered in all kinds of trees, and growing operations lining the highways with row upon row of topiary and shrubs and roses. Upon arrival we checked in to our rooms then met around the pool for some drinks and nibbles…it was beautiful….we were the only ones there surrounded by a gorgeous pool and smaller pool with a waterfall…just heaven. In a privileged setting, on the edges of the big Spa park of Montecatini Terme, in one of the most elegant boulevards and a short walk from the center, the Grand Hotel Croce di Malta is one of the most prestigious four star "Superior" hotels of the town. The building has recently been renewed: new "PRESTIGE" rooms, a new elegant terrace, two pools (one with water at 28° and one with water at 35°) heated through solar panels taking care of the environment, and most important, free wifi!

The Spa town of Montecatini Terme is the ideal departing point for a vacation to discover Tuscany area. In less of one hour : Florence, the birthplace of renaissance, the medieval walled town of Lucca, the leaning tower in Pisa. It is considered one of Tuscany’s capitals of Liberty style. This is mainly because of the Art Nouveau movement which developed from the end of 1800 to the 1930’s.



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