A Tour Sprouts

I’ve long wondered how to incorporate the rich agricultural heritage of the Lucca plain into a tour. Watching a bean stalk grow would try the patience even of a very slow traveller.

On Thursday I visited the organic farm Favilla in the suburbs of Lucca, where I was welcomed by Andrea, the owner’s son. As he spoke about his farm and its crops, the words tumbled out of his mouth and his face was alive with the enthusiasm he and his family devote to their project. The list of crops is long leaving no season without its fruits: wheat, vegetables and fruit.

Pasta Favilla

Andrea clutching his wheat and pasta

To find out more about the small group tour germinating at Sapori e Saperi Adventures, read the rest of my blog at http://slowtraveltours.com/blog/a-tour-sprouts/. Read to the bottom of the blog and you’ll find a special offer.

Save the dates: 2–9 July 2017.


Use Your Nose

So what did I learn at the first sommelier course lesson? Apart from the party trick of how to open a bottle of champagne by chopping the top off the bottle with a knife, I learned that I have to smell everything. I must have only been fake smelling before. One of the wines we tasted was a Vernaccia di San Gimignano. When the instructor asked what it smelled like, I ventured, ‘Grapefruit’. He didn’t even deign to look at me. Someone from the back shouted, ‘Apple’. ‘Apple’, repeated the instructor approvingly. Back home, I went on a search for the apple that smells like grapefruit, buying up every variety in the village shop.

Golden delicious, Jaime and Granny Smith

With a bit of imagination Granny Smith came closest to grapefruit. Over on the internet on an Australian website, I found that apples and grapefruits contain both malic acid and citric acid, but when I tried to find out what causes the typical apple odour, none of Google’s suggestions helped and one got me wondering what other objects I need to smell: ‘The scent of an Apple product, sourcing the MacBook Pro fragrance’.

Any advice about wine and apples?

Posted in FRUIT, WINE | 2 Comments

7 Shades of Orange

Blood oranges have character and flaunt their diversity; every morning as I cut open two of them, I watch with anticipation to see what colour and patterns are hiding inside. There are three varieties of the arancia rossa di Sicilia (red orange of Sicily): Tarocco, Moro and Sanguinello. They usually appear in my village shop from the end of December until March. The Sanguinello gets redder as it ripens and when the really bloody ones arrive, I squeeze them with a tinge of regret that the season is nearly over.

arancia tarocca

Oval Tarocco

arancia rossa di sicilia

Mostly orange

Hint of red

arancia rossa di sicilia

Streaks of red

arancia rossa di sicilia

Rosy orange

arancia rossa di sicilia

Fully ripe Sanguinello

succo di sanguinello

It's hard to start the day without fresh squeezed orange juice (and caffè)

Posted in FRUIT | 4 Comments

Seasonal Eating 3: Figs

Every morning I go down to the fig tree and pick three figs — there are many more, but after gorging on them for a week, three a day is the perfect number.

Breakfast at Casabasciana

Seasonal breakfast: figs and yoghurt

Yoghurt from local farmer in recyclable jar

The yoghurt contains milk and starter culture — nothing else. It comes from a dairy farmer near Lucca; I return the jar and the farmer sterilises it and reuses it. I buy it at a shop in Marlia called Effecorta, which means ‘short F’ and stands for Filiera Corta or short supply line. It’s a joke on the name of the supermarket chain called Esselunga, ‘long S’. I don’t know what it stands for, but you can bet its yoghurt comes from farther away than 10 km and is produced industrially.

Green figs and prosciutto toscano

Seasonal antipasto: figs and prosciutto

I bought the prosciutto at the shop in my village Casabasciana. It’s called prosciutto toscano or prosciutto saporito, which means tasty, because it’s more highly spiced than the Parma variety. It’s saltiness is the perfect foil for the sweet figs.

Posted in FRUIT | 6 Comments