TUSCANY, ITALY- 2007
At the Tuscan Table
Produced by Frank Puleo
Tuscany is home to Botticelli and Michelangelo – to Chianti and Brunello – to Panforte and Pecorino – and for eight days in September, it was our home too. We began our adventure in Lucca, an undiscovered jewel in the Tuscan crown. Often overshadowed by its sisters, Florence and Pisa, Lucca is small, charming and everything you expect in a Tuscan small town. An added bonus is that I believe the BEST olive oil in all of Italy comes from Lucca. For the first three days, our home was a 13th century villa just outside the city center. Yes, we certainly visited the “tourist” sites, like the Leaning Tower… but our concentration was on the Tuscan cuisine.
Once we left Lucca we headed straight to Florence and toured the Central Market with tastes of pecorino Toscano, prosciutto di Toscana and various vintages of olive oil. Lunch this day was at my favorite restaurant of all time, Villa San Michele in Fiesole. Designed by Michelangelo, we had cocktails on the great lawn prior to being seated in the loggia, overlooking Florence for lunch with PLENTY of Tuscan wines.
All of our menus on this trip, offered everyone a choice of two appetizers, two pasta dishes or soups, two entrees and two desserts – for every lunch and every dinner. Well there was certainly some confusion when several of the restaurants thought that all EIGHT courses needed to be served to each guest at every meal. They were so proud of the food they were serving, they wanted everyone to have everything. By day three, we were about to bust out of our clothing. And then came the Tuscan steaks, prepared by Dario, the famous butcher of Panzano.
Sunday tends to be a relaxing, family day in Tuscany – and what better family can you have than this ICAEF family. Today we head to a 10th century town of San Gimignano in Siena province. It is a small town of large towers. Here we will sample panforte and riccarelli (buttery-almond cookies). YUM. But lunch was calling for us in a tiny hamlet of Monteriggioni – an even older town, with a population of approximately 35 inhabitants. After lunch we headed for the Campo of Siena – where we immediately lost all of our attendee-photographers, who roamed the streets photographing everything in sight.
Tuscany’s famous wineries opened their doors to us for private tastings. Castello di Verrazzano and Castello di Fonterutoli with the later providing an incredible meal paired with their wines.