Treasures of Tuscany: Truffles to Tiramisu
Truffles and tiramisu were just a couple of the many treasures enjoyed in Tuscany. Giving to others is important, yet it is also important to treasure time to explore and restore with family and friends. While I had expectations of beautiful landscapes, rich culture and wonderful cuisine – my first trip to Italy surpassed all I had imagined. Traveling with my friend, Lynette Standley founder of Cypress Tours, made it an easy and impressive experience. The only conundrum, if you can even call it that, was balancing exploration of all the amazing sites and experiences with time to simply BE and soak in the goodness that Tuscany has to offer. With a small group of seven ladies, we had the opportunity to explore independently, enjoy small group tours and lessons while staying in lovely B&Bs with personalized care and comfort.
After a long and eventful flight to Pisa (also named Galileo Galilei Airport), we were thrilled to step foot in Italy. Given a missed connecting flight in Heathrow (another story in itself), our late arrival prompted a nighttime cab to our lovely home for the next four days, La Viareggina. A prosecco toast and some delicious Italian comfort food was a warm welcome to start our Italian adventure. Rested and fortified with cappuccino, our ‘traveling tribe’ of ladies set off to explore Lucca – a charming and historic city, with beautiful piazzas and cobblestone streets, nestled within Renaissance walls. Open air markets, an outdoor fall festival, window shopping and a leisurely lunch at an outdoor café all made for a fabulous first day in Tuscany.
The following morning our good fortune continued just a short drive away for truffle hunting, a tour, and lunch at Savini Tartufi. The Savini family passion and truffle tradition dates back to the 1920’s. Getting out into the woods to harvest truffles, with our guide and his trained truffle hunting dog, was truly impressive – and fun – to see the art and craft of the harvest. A delicious lunch featuring the hero ingredient and paired with regional wine, was an added treat. You’ll see a common theme emerging here…explore, eat, drink, repeat. Thank goodness I love to run!
After a bit of a nap in transit, we were off to start our next immersion experience for cooking lessons with Chef Gianluca, highly acclaimed chef and founder of Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana (International Academy of Italian Cuisine). Situated in a historic villa in the countryside of Lucca, it was a picturesque setting for our evening of learning, laughter, eating and fellowship. Chef offers a range of lessons from basic lesson to professional, intensive courses – which attract students from across the globe. I was impressed by the focus on high-quality, local and seasonal ingredients and inspired to taking these lessons home. Coming from a lady not known for her talents in the kitchen, this is no small feat!
It is hard to imagine how one could possibly continue this positive momentum of exploration, learning, connecting and fun…however, the Cinque Terre did not disappoint. Recognized in 1997 by the Unesco Mankind’s World Heritage, it is a designated National Park and Protected Marine Area. A scenic morning ferry trip from La Spezia gives a breathtaking view of the five villages perched high on the cliffs of the Italian Riviera. Given the striking beauty and cliffside trails, this spot has been discovered by many …so if you’re not one for activity and the company of others – you may consider an off-season visit. While we just spent the afternoon, one could easily enjoy days of sightseeing, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, dining in these charming spots.
After four lovely days based in Viareggio exploring the region, our Italian adventure carried on to the hills and wine country of Chianti. Check out Part II coming soon for details!
For more information:
- Cypress Tours: http://www.cypresstours.net/
- La Viareggina B&B http://www.laviareggina.it/
- Lucca https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/tuscany/lucca
- Savini http://www.savinitartufi.it/en/truffle-experience/
- Chef Gianluca Pardini –http://www.italiancuisine.it
- Cinque Terre http://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/en/