Fun from Last Fall's Italy Trip

I took a group to Tuscany on a culinary trip last September, which sold out and had a waiting list. I was very sorry there was not enough space for everyone! Beautiful Jennifer Wright came, offering a yoga class every morning and an afternoon shorter, relaxing yoga to stretch out our sore muscles after hours of walking, eating, sightseeing, and shopping on cobblestone streets.

La Villa La Massa

La Villa La Massa

The morning class took place in one of the side yards of the Villa's property before breakfast.

The morning class took place in one of the side yards of the Villa's property before breakfast.

The afternoon class took place in front of the flowing Arno, the mainstay of Florence. 

The afternoon class took place in front of the flowing Arno, the mainstay of Florence. 

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Our hotel, The Villa la Massa, was built right on the banks of the Arno River.  It used to be a private villa and has been expanded and updated over the years. This is where we could have lunch, afternoon cocktails, or read by the pool. See the little swan in the middle of the river? He was there every day and waiting for pieces of focaccia.

Our day began with yoga for anyone who wanted to start their day with grace and peace (and graceful Jennifer!) Then it was to the unbelievably beautiful outdoor restaurant, overlooking the river for a delicious and elegantly laid out breakfast.

Just like at home, right?

Just like at home, right?

Everyday had a different activity, with large portions of some days free, to explore on your own.  We went to hang with the coolest guy in all of Italy, and we all fell in love with him. We had a darling guide, Christina, who took us through the Museum, which was actually built around David, and then through town to see the Bell Tower, Duomo and other important buildings.

 

I went to the REAL Eataly.  It was really cool, but whoa the prices were high. It makes me wonder if any locals actually shop here. Also, did Mario and his buddy open the store in Florence, or did he copy it for the U.S?   Hmmmmm...

Here's your sunny chef way out in the Tuscan Countryside at a very fun cooking school/hotel.  

We went to two different cooking schools, one tiny one in the evening with a delightful teacher, and this airy one in the day. The daytime class was my favorite, probably because it was fun and beautiful at the same time. It is the Borgo Corto Freda, nestled in the Tuscan Countryside. We could shop in their cave for goodies like truffle this and that, olive oils, very old balsamics, honey, jams, etc.   We made ravioli, linguine, two sauces, a stuffing, and tiramisu....

Like all good pupils, we always listened to our instructor.

Like all good pupils, we always listened to our instructor.

Shaun Quinn and Max, the manager, goofing around.  He was really funny and full of the dickens.

Shaun Quinn and Max, the manager, goofing around.  He was really funny and full of the dickens.

This was one of the trays made by our little hands.  We had great and interesting teachers!

This was one of the trays made by our little hands.  We had great and interesting teachers!

Maggie, so proud of her new baby!

Maggie, so proud of her new baby!

After we made lunch, we had even more fun eating it!  On the terrace with blue skies and birds.

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No detail was ever too small for the places we went in Tuscany.  Every restaurant, shop, museum, cooking class---was perfect. 

Why are Europeans so darned stylish? 

Each of rooms in the Villa la Massa had a giant urn of fresh fruit artfully arranged, cookies another day, and Italian chocolates put there by me. Italians are really trying to get into the chocolate race. There is a longish area where it is mainly produced and they have nick- named it the Chocolate River. 

ne day we went to Cinque Terre, where a knowledgeable young guide took us around.  We went by train, trails, and boat.  It was so fun!

Here are a couple of locals...

Someone's Nonna Is that an LV bag she is holding?

Someone's Nonna Is that an LV bag she is holding?

Not locals: Dave and Sandy Sowden, grabbing lunch in Cinque Terre!  

Not locals: Dave and Sandy Sowden, grabbing lunch in Cinque Terre!  

On our last night, we went to the incomparable Villa San Michele. Situated on the highest hill in Florence, it is where Kim and Kanye got married. Just so you know.  We arrived at dusk.

It was very chilly up on that hill, but everyone had on  layers  except  for yours truly.  La Dolce Vita threw a farewell cocktail party on the terrace before dinner to thank everyone for coming. It was Bellinis and appetizers, cute Italian waiters and even a few cuter husbands! After an hour, they lead us inside to the outdoor dining room overlooking a fairy tale lit Florence.

Denise and Hope

Denise and Hope

Jennifer and Sandy

Jennifer and Sandy

After an hour, they lead us inside to the outdoor dining room overlooking a fairy tale lit Florence.

This photo was taken in the day, when I went to beg the manager, who had been there 25+ years, to let us eat outside on the night we were coming.  Only hotel guests are allowed to eat outside, but going to see him personally changed his mind.

Just a few more pictures of Italy....

More, prego...

More, prego...

Figs, Apples and Ice Cream? Si!

Figs, Apples and Ice Cream? Si!

Lake Como, where we went with the Sowdens after the tour.

Lake Como, where we went with the Sowdens after the tour.

The Villa D'Este, out hotel's sister property on Lake Como. Five Stars. One day, Bill and I hope to stay there instead of just eat there!

The Villa D'Este, out hotel's sister property on Lake Como. Five Stars. One day, Bill and I hope to stay there instead of just eat there!

I hope you enjoyed these pictures of our trip. Have a great week! 

Ciao Bella, 

Laura