When they issued the country-wide community containment decree for coronavirus on the evening of Monday 9 March, I’m sure the last thing the Italian government had in mind was K&P’s car. My English friends had left it in the care of Europark, an excellent, inexpensive private car park five minutes’ walk from the terminal at Pisa Airport. K&P were in England, planning to return on 23 March.
On the morning of Thursday 12 March I received a panicky email from P. Their flight had been cancelled; they didn’t know when they would be able to get back. What would happen to their car? When I phoned Europark, they were panicky too. They had been ordered to close as soon as possible. Their terms guarantee that the car park will be under video surveillance 24-hours a day. If they closed, they wouldn’t be able to fulfil this condition. They had to empty the car park by Saturday morning. Everyone except K&P had either managed to get back earlier to pick up their cars or would be back before Saturday. K&P’s car was the only one that would be left. We had to get it out. But how?
I read the whole decree in Italian. It contained much interesting information and caring thoughts for Italian citizens, but nothing about cars marooned in car parks. The only conditions under which an individual was allowed to move from his or her home were:
For whichever reason you were travelling, you had to carry with you a self-declaration of the purpose of your journey. The penalty for not having one or lying was either three months in prison or a fine of 206 Euros. Already two people from Lucca had been checked by the police and fined.
First brilliant idea: Maybe it was within the scope of my driver’s ‘proven need to work’. He could go with a colleague and drive the car up to me. He didn’t think so. His work is providing the public service of driving people from A to B, not driving someone else’s car.
Second brilliant idea: Maybe we could find a car bodywork garage with a tow truck who would go get it. Surely it was within their ‘proven need to work’. My driver would phone his mate to find out whether he could do it and how much it would cost. He would also ask the police whether he himself could do the job under the terms of the decree. By now it was late Thursday afternoon, and they wouldn’t be open until Friday morning.
Meanwhile, I was emailing P and phoning Europark to make sure nothing had changed there and to find out what they needed from K&P to release the car to someone else. P was also organising with neighbours down the hill to park the car at their house where they could keep an eye on it.
On Friday morning my driver confirmed that his friend could pick up the car. It would cost a goodly sum, but at least the car would be free. The police had said it wasn’t within their authority to state whether my driver could do the job or not. I phoned the bodywork garage. They were busy all day Friday. They could go on Saturday. I phoned Europark. By Saturday they would be closed.
Third brilliant idea: I phoned my car mechanic. If I ran an artisan car repair course, Roberto would be my man. He understood the problem immediately. He would ring his friend Stefano, who has a car roadside rescue business near Lucca. I could phone Stefano in five minutes. Stefano turned out to be the white knight of this saga. He could be at Europark at 3 pm with his low loader. What make of car was he to pick up? Me and cars. I’d ridden in the car, but had no idea. I remembered K&P talking about wanting a Jimmy, so that’s what I said.
I needed the name of Stefano’s company for P’s email to Europark. Stefano pronounced it, and I heard what sounded like Boodado e Terrenche. It took some inventive searching on Google to find Bud e Terence. It seems that to liberate a car, you have to be an aficionado of Italian films. Of course I know many of the classics, but I’d never heard of this thin and corpulent duo who were starring in films from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, nor of the Bud & Terence film festival at Masone in Ligura.
I sent the wording of the email for Europark to P, leaving blanks for the model of car and the registration number. She copied me into the email to Europark, but I didn’t read it. At 2.58 pm, Stefano rang me. He was at Europark, but the car they had given him wasn’t a Jimmy. Uh, oh. I checked P’s email. Sure enough, it wasn’t a Jimmy. It was a Diahatsu Terios. Stefano would be here in an ‘oretta’ (this should mean a ‘little hour’, but in fact means a little over an hour). He’d phone me from Topo Gigio bar and lunch place, a landmark at the bottom of our hill known by everyone for miles around, and I’d drive down to meet him and guide him to A&J’s house.
Would the police be checking our tiny winding road? I prepared two self-declarations, one for going shopping at Bagni di Lucca (I could go buy something if necessary) and one for returning home. As it turned out, Stefano was already coming up the road as I headed down. What a hero! If you ever need roadside rescue anywhere in Italy or France (probably other countries too) — when we’re allowed to travel — give him a ring (+39 339 6239872).
By Alison Goldberger
In February we took off from our base in Tuscany to head to Emilia (the northwestern part of Emilia-Romagna). This region of Italy is particularly famous for not one, but two delicious types of salumi— Prosciutto di Parma and Mortadella di Bologna! This is why a group of eager students joined us to learn how to make these incredible products for themselves on our Advanced Salumi Course Bologna-Parma.
During our induction we dove right into WHY we learn here and discussed artisanal production vs la Grande Industria. We met passionate farmers Giorgio & Claudia Bonacini at their farm, Il Grifo, near Reggio-Emilia. They are the definition of artisanal production. As we toured the farm where they rear Mora Romagnola pigs we heard about how they keep the whole production cycle at home and how they farm their 65 hectares biodynamically. They showed us the Modena cut, how they make salami, mortadella and the method for salting whole pieces. We also had the chance to inject a coscia (leg) with flavoured brine to make prosciutto cotto, but we didn’t have time to cook it. We think it would have tasted absolutely wonderful though!
As soon as you ask Giorgio a question, he grabs a pen and sheet of paper and starts illustrating what he's talking about. We sometimes joke that we'll mount an art exhibition of his drawings! One of the parts of the course the students found really interesting was sitting around a table with him and learning how fermentation works. Giorgio loves the science behind curing and fermenting and this passion really rubbed off on our students!
We also visited the Brianti family where Aldo and his son Luca rear free-range Nero di Parma pigs and Piemontese cattle on their organic farm. The guys gave us a run-down on a range of salumi typical of Parma—with a break to enjoy Sunday lunch with the family!
Here’s a special piece of salumi by the Brianti’s, Fiocco di Santa Lucia. The photo on the front is Luca’s youngest daughter Marika. The fiocco is usually made from one of the leg muscles, but the Brianti’s have started curing one of the shoulder muscles, which they are also calling fiocco. It means ‘ribbon’, so a muscle that is longer than it is wide!
Classic prosciutto di Parma was taught by Maurizio Cavalli. He and his family cure and age the Brianti’s prosciutto. In addition to prosciutto, they also produce coppa, culatello, culaccio and fiocchetto.
It’s not all about salumi on the course though. We love to give our guests a real taste of the particular parts of Italy we visit. So we also paid a visit to Acetaia del Cristo where we learned all about the production of aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena DOP. Yes, it requires all those words to distinguish the true balsamic vinegar, which takes 12 years to be ready to bottle, from the aceto balsamico IGP, which takes only three months. We tasted it too of course—and discovered for ourselves the huge differences between the two!
Phew! If this has whetted your interest, take a look at our website for more information. And sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know the dates for 2021!
By Alison Goldberger
Every month there’s something happening at Sapori & Saperi – lots of interesting people visit and we take lots of photos of our tours and courses. We thought it was about time we shared some with you on a regular basis. Here’s our January round up, giving you an extra insight into the tours and courses with Italian artisans you could attend with us, as well as some snippets of life in Italy!
As the new year rang in Erica feasted on a New Year’s Eve meal, typical for the region she lives in. She ate cotechino with lentils. As they’re round, they symbolise money and will make you rich. We’re still waiting! Maybe next year. The good news is that you can learn how to make cotechino during the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany!
During the first course of the year we welcomed the talented Sorravee ‘Gin’ Pratanavanich — find her on instagram. As a qualified pastry chef from the Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland, she wanted to learn how to make delicious natural gelato — so naturally Sapori & Saperi and our artisan Mirko were there to help her.
Gin learned the true science of gelato too – and that’s not easy! How to balance the fat, sugar, milk solids and water to make sure the product not only tastes incredible but has the perfect texture too.
Friday on the Art & Science of Gelato course is always ‘crazy flavours day’, and Gin really went for it with her recipes. She created the incredible ‘Coffee B’ gelato made from coffee, caramelised walnuts and Baileys! She also took some inspiration from the Thai street food ‘garlic and pepper chicken’ and used soya, black pepper and crispy garlic in her gelato. A brave experiment. She learned it’s valuable to let your imagination run wild — whether you create something delicious, or you learn what doesn’t quite work!
We had an unusual first day on the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany as Mirko joined in to learn how to make salami and sausage with our artisan norcino Massimo Bacci. Will Massimo learn how to make gelato next?
We had a great group taking part in the course – here you can see them intensely watching artisan norcino Ismaele Turri as he prepares Tuscan prosciutto. Check out our student, former chef to the Ambassador at the British Embassy Prague and now head of charcuterie at Amaso, Vojtech Kalasek, who posted lots of great images on instagram throughout the whole course.
During our tours and courses we like to slip in some surprise extra visits. This time we visited Pastificio Martelli which makes pasta in the Renaissance hilltop town of Lari, where our prosciutto specialist Simone Ceccotti has his butcher shop. We left wondering how many machines you can use and still be artisan. We decided that one important thing is that it's natural: only Italian durum wheat and water and dried very slowly for 50 hours. And just as important, that it tastes good and the slightly rough surface holds the sauce.
January also brought us a wonderful guest blog post from Lin Hobley, a weaver-artist and past participant on the Tastes & Textiles Woad & Wool tour. We published a review of the year, and Erica gave a run down of our different hotels and accommodation on Slow Travel Tours.
If you’d like to join us, check out our website. Can’t wait to see you!
Weaver-artist Lin Hobley writes about her experiences on the Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour last May.
One of our first outings set the tone for the rest of the tour. We drove to the small medieval village of Mercatello sul Metauro where we were met by our charming Italian guide, Beatrice, who took us on a walking tour of the village and the church.
We participated fully in a bobbin lace making workshop and each of us was guided through the process by several amazing lace makers who all produce incredible lace pieces that are works of art.
We then joined a family-style lunch at Academia del Padlot, hosted by a group of men who had been cooking together for at least 15 years. Lots of drinking, toasting, eating and merrymaking, all in Italian, but the language of food and wine is universal. We visited behind the scenes in the kitchen where the men were evidently having a wonderful time.
Their wives and children joined us and there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie. We felt like we had been gathered into the hearts of their families.
The meal included the best of the local wines and pecorino cheeses and prugnoli, the local mushrooms in season.
After feeling thoroughly fêted and having had slightly too much of the local wine, we got back to our the ex-monastery where we were staying with just enough time for a walk in the country and a quick watercolour sketch before we regrouped.
Erica took us to visit the ruins of a Roman house in Sant’Angelo in Vado, where the mosaic floors were carefully and very thoroughly preserved. It was magical and we were able to imagine the life of a Roman family.
Over the next few days, we enjoyed all the activities that were on the itinerary, and as a weaver, I loved seeing the functioning weaving studios, of individual weavers and also the larger establishments that worked with the same looms that had been used since the 1800s. Here's a still-functioning linen loom at Tela Umbra a Mano in Città di Castello.
Each and every visit had something different to recommend it, most especially the welcoming and very knowledgeable artists and guides.
Every meal was a unique culinary experience as Erica took time to explain the local foods and wines and we felt like we were beginning to learn some of the names in Italian.
Throughout the tour, we experienced such a variety of different places, workshops, demonstrations, fabulous meals and tours. We got to know and have fun with our fellow participants, and Erica and her co-leader Cheryl made us feel comfortable and special every minute
When I look back on the experience, some of the moments that stand out for me were not just those on the planned itinerary. Several unexpected pleasures stay in my memory. On the tour of the monastery at Camaldoli and the monks’ living quarters, the mystical atmosphere created by a fine rain, rather than spoiling the day, made it even more magical. It was easy to imagine what the monks’ life might have been like. On the same day, the visit to the ancient chestnut tree that involved a rainy muddy walk did not deter Erica one bit. It was a small touch of magic.
I shared a touching interchange with the 10-year-old son of the weaver’s nephew at Elisa’s weaving studio when we played checkers. Despite not sharing a common language, we still connected in a special way.
There was the sweet Italian teacher of tombola lace who showed so much patience in sharing her passion for her craft.
I loved the walk one morning when staying at the Castello di Porciano where I was amazed by the beauty of the red poppies sprinkled over the hills, a Monet painting come to life. On the same walk getting back to the Castello we discovered an enormous moth and shared the experience with two elderly Italian ladies who lived in the cottages surrounding the castle, laughter being our common language.
I was touched by a special evening that Erica planned to celebrate my birthday that made up for being away from my family. But the thread running throughout the trip was Erica’s passion for sharing everything Italian: food, wine, art, local history and craft. It was an unforgettable ten days full of discovery, variety, unique experiences, memories and new friendships
By Alison Goldberger
2019 has been a year of welcoming talented and interesting guests to our plethora of tours and courses with Italian artisans. Tours and courses run throughout every month – it’s action packed here in Tuscany! Here’s a small selection of some of our favourite tours and images from the year! If you paid us a visit, thank you! And we look forward to welcoming more of you in 2020!
The first course of the year was the ever-popular Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany. This course was wonderful but we also had the sad job of saying goodbye to Giancarlo Russo who has collaborated with us on most of the Courses with Artisans since 2010. He followed his family to Florida where he’s selling Italian wines. We miss his broad knowledge about everything Italian as well as his kindness and sense of humour.
In February we visited a new dairy keen to share their knowledge with our guests on upcoming mozzarella courses. We met Salvatore and his team at Caseificio Giusti. The mozzarella course allows our participants to get hands on with the mozzarella-making process so dairies like this that are open to visitors are key. Our participants are mostly professional cheesemakers looking to add something to their business, or to improve on the mozzarella they currently make.
We also welcomed a lovely group of keen gelato-makers to the Art & Science of Gelato course at Cremeria Opera with the talented Mirko Tognetti!
We visited two lots of free range pigs and made salumi with their butcher-owners, one at the biodynamic Il Grifo farm, Bagno di Reggio Emilia and these sleek Nero di Parma pigs at the organic San Paolo farm, Medesano, during the Advanced Salumi Course Bologna-Parma. During the year we revealed some exciting news about this course! Previously you had to take the course in Tuscany first, but this year it we added some more hands-on work so you can take it on its own. It is of course also still possible to do them together though – they run one after the other!
Here are the smiling faces of our fun group on the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course!
Oh May! You brought us the fantastic Celebrating Sardinia tour! And what a tour it was. Trying to choose just one photo is difficult as this tour is filled with so much colour and interesting things to see and do. But I’ve chosen this colourful image of two of our guests standing in front of one of the decorated ox carts that parade during the Festa of Sant’Antioco. This year it was possible to get up close to the carts – something that wasn’t allowed in previous years. What a treat!
Oh, and we can’t forget the foodie surprise of the year! The wonderful feast at…wait for it…a gourmet Esso petrol station! This place was found during the Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour. It’s called Piacere Quotidiano (Daily Pleasure) and is owned by four brothers – they serve the best food in the area—all locally sourced!
Here’s Giulia Paltrinieri showing us the fascinating craft of card weaving during the Tastes & Textiles: Hanging by a Thread tour. We visited her at the restored Fortezza Verrucole and learned that the earliest archaeological remains of card weaving date from the 7th century BC at a site near Rome.
In July we were absolutely delighted to congratulate Roger Longman of White Lake Cheese on winning not one, but three awards in the Yorkshire Cheese Awards for his English Pecorino. He won Supreme Champion, Best New Cheese and Best Speciality Cheese for Ewe Beauty. He found out the news while on our Mozzarella & its Cousins course, but had previously taken the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course in 2016. He said he’d never have been able to make such good pecorino without it. We love to hear about the achievements of our former course participants. Whether that's winning awards or creating that perfect product at home – we are always happy to get some news in our inbox.
In August Erica took a fact-finding trip to Pescia to scout out some interesting people to visit during upcoming courses. There, she met Michele who showed her around the land of the Perterra agricultural cooperative. The project was created by young people with no background in farming. They bought 40 hectares of abandoned farmland with a grant from the Tuscan region and are now restoring its productivity. A truly fascinating project. Check out our blog post about this project and the other gems found in Pescia.
Creativity was flowing in September as we ran the Tastes & Textiles: Wine to Dye For tour. Our guests met the talented Tommaso Cecchi de’ Rossi who showed them his special technique for using wine as a dyeing mordant.
One of the great things about our tours and courses is that although they are well-planned, we also have some room for some unexpected trips! This was the case during the Giants of Sardinia tour. We came across coral and gold filigrana artisan Francesco Sanna. He works alongside his brother Giovanni. Francesco demonstrated various filigrana techniques. The coral they use comes from Sardinian waters and is responsibly fished.
The year came around full circle with the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany marking our last course of the year! Here are our smiling course participants with norcino Massimo Bacci.
December is a time to relax, celebrate the holidays and think about the year ahead. This picture shows Lucca dressed for Christmas – 'always dreaming'. We hope you’re dreaming about travelling with Sapori e Saperi Adventures in 2020. We wish you all the best for the coming year!
If you’d like to join us in 2020 take a look at our website to see the full selection of tours and courses. For more info and to book drop Erica an email at email@example.com. We can't wait to see you!
I'm Sue, a guest writer, and I've just returned from touring Italy with Erica on the Wine to Dye For and Giants of Sardinia tours. I'm from the States, west of Seattle and south Victoria, BC. I confess to being a textile and food junkie – both come from a passion for texture and color – the physicality of the materials I play with. I couldn't live without working with my hands; textiles and food are great playgrounds with luscious results.
I thought I'd literally dyed and gone to heaven on the Wine to Dye For tour.
Dyeing with wine was only a small part of the tour. We visited the Fondazione Lisio in Florence where silk velvet and brocade are still hand woven – soft, silky and fluffy – playing with clouds!
Producing and re-producing woven textiles is a very structured activity, we saw that, as well as wildly creative pieces at the leather school. The students were from all over the world – the mixing and matching colors and texture combinations were fabulous. But I must say my heart and eyes were captured by the mixed leather pieces with ancient and new artifacts combined sometimes boldly and others subtly in very functional handbags with out of this world prices – oh well! Inspiration.
For me this mixture of old and new was the most fascinating discovery during our travels. It was everywhere and not limited to the very expensive. It was very exciting to see younger and older Italians working together – sometimes easily and sometimes not – to preserve old artisanal traditions and at the same time develop products to meet current interests, creating new economies. At a home show in Lucca I met a young woman who, along with her five sisters, had invented a washable paper for new packaging and storage products.
There was also the “Renaissance Man,” Renato, who taught us to make baskets, so talented with his hands that he built a medieval wooden lathe. This connecting past to future has a long history in Italy; in Florence I had a chance to see Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions – originally in wood – precursors to many modern machines including the helicopter!
I also found that many of these artisan entrepreneurs own the entire process from growing/raising, harvesting, processing and packaging – most often family enterprises. This was true for shepherds tending flocks to making cheeses – our cheese, freshly made, was delicious. Farmers who were millers and bakers taught us to make delicious bread; and I met a weaver growing and processing her own flax, spinning (a challenge I could not meet) then weaving it.
A very old way of doing business, new again on a small scale giving the producers total control, except for Mother Nature, over their artisanal products. Most, if not all, are very conscious of sustainability and few have desires to become giant corporations. They still sit down to the tastiest family meals, made mostly of their own and other local products. Home cooked meals – yes, “just like mamma made!” And sometimes now, made by the men in the family.
I got a glimpse of a sustainable, artisanal community and economy not available to just anyone. One you had to be introduced to and Erica does just that. Thinking of that fondente gelato still brings tears to my eyes—sharp, dark velvety chocolate—or the sparkling lemon basil bursting like prosecco bubbles in your mouth.
I thought the Wine to Dye For tour was perfection, but Erica had other ideas, and I can see her point. The new version is more compact, focusing on the contiguous areas of Pistoia and Pescia in Tuscany, with a little foray to Florence for the leather and silk weaving schools. You no longer visit the mountains of the Garfagnana, but her Hanging By a Thread tour in June 2020 is based there. With the help of her Italian friends she has found additional interesting artisans.
I can see I will need to do this tour again with the new producers and making sure to leave time to add a one-day home gelato course to my trip (check with Erica about it).
Tours mentioned in my blog:
Tastes & Textiles: Wine to Dye For
Tastes & Textiles: Sea Silk in Sardinia
Tastes & Textiles: Hanging by a Thread
Giants of Sardinia
Click on the tabs below the introduction and read the information in the the window below: Highlights, Itinerary, Group Leaders, Accommodation, Price & Stuff, What People Say and Map.
If you have any questions, contact Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alison Goldberger
You’re in Italy and would absolutely love to find a local farmer to ask questions about what on earth they are doing in the field. Where can you pick up the best local olive oil? Or you just need to ask what that local dish is…and perhaps the secret recipe? But you don’t speak Italian, you know no one and an internet browse is the best you can do to find the answers.
This is one of the reasons people love to travel with Erica, she knows everyone (really, no hyperbole here, it’s unbelievable) and her fluent Italian allows her to respectfully ask locals those burning questions guests have.
She’s always out exploring and meeting new people, suppliers, restauranteurs and has been at it again. She headed just over the mountain from her home, to Pescia and met lots of wonderful and interesting people, as well as eating some truly delicious food. Here’s some of the things she saw. Maybe they will appear on one of the tour programmes, or for private travellers one day soon…
Perterra agricultural cooperative
This inspiring project was formed by young people – the oldest is 32 – who had no background in farming. In Italian the word Perterra means ‘for the land’ but can also mean to be down to earth, or to have your feet on the ground. That gives you the vibe these guys are going for. With a grant from the Tuscan region, three years ago they bought 40 hectares of abandoned farmland, including a lake, some woodland and a few crumbling farm houses. They are gradually restoring its productivity and already have organic certification. They raise sheep to make pecorino, pigs to sell to a norcino who turns them into delicious salumi, olives for olive oil, Trebbiano grapes which they give to a Slow Food guide vineyard which makes the wine they sell in their shop, and they grow their own hay. They’re not only making an agricultural difference, but also a social difference. They were asked by their environmental health officer whether they could find work for an unemployed, slightly autistic young man. He’s now their shepherd, spending contented days walking with the sheep.
Experiences to offer
At Agriturismo Albero e Foglia (Tree and Leaf) Stefano Natali creates dreamy experiences for his visitors! For instance, you can be a shepherd for a day and spend the morning with him and the sheep before coming back for a picnic and then make some delicious pecorino. It’s a life he had to build. His grandparents were from Medicina, where he now lives but had left. He came back and met his wife, who had a job elsewhere but lost it. It didn’t make sense to live in remote Medicina and travel for work so they decided to carve out a living for themselves using the land his grandparents had farmed before them as well as land from his wife’s family too.
Biodiversity in olive cultivation
Pietro Barachini is the third generation to propagate olives in Pescia. He propagates olive varieties from all over Italy (400 different ones!) with the aim of maintaining biodiversity of olive cultivation. He will be part of our brand-new olive oil course, where he will give us a tour of the nursery and lead an olive oil tasting. Find out more about the Olive Oil: Tree to Table course here.
Celebrations in Pescia
Erica also made sure she signed up for a local celebration. It was a dinner for the San Francesco quarter of Pescia preliminary to the Palio di Pescia which took place the following Sunday. The Palio is an archery competition (not a horse race like the one at Siena), in which the quarters of the city compete. Each one hosts a propitiatory dinner on a different night prior to the big event. She described it as ‘magical’. The setting, the food, the musicians and flag wavers – sounds amazing and certainly an experience that would be difficult to find without local knowledge and great language skills.
Take a look at our website to browse the tours and courses offered at Sapori e Saperi, which all offer wonderful insights into life in Italy.
By Alison Goldberger
While Erica is off making sure the participants on the Advanced Salumi Course have the best time—I’m updating her blog. I’m Alison—a former participant on the Advanced Salumi Course, journalist and organic pig farmer. I’m originally from Scotland but have been living in Austria for five years. I absolutely loved taking part in the salumi course, so much so I asked Erica if I could work with her. Introductions over, I’m now going to delve into the world of Celebrating Sardinia and tell you why this should be your go to destination for your 2019 holiday!
Island life with Italian flair
Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean Sea—not to be confused with Sicily which is at the toe of Italy - Sardinia sits somewhere out from the shin of Italy (think of the boot!). The country is a mixture of rugged hillside, beautiful sandy beaches with sparkling blue waters and incredible prehistoric sites. The trip takes place in May—one of the best times to see Sardinia as it turns out! You’ll be met with warm weather and clear skies.
Unforgettable food – in restaurants and local homes
The gastronomic delights on this tour don’t disappoint. You will be spoiled with a tasting menu at Sa Piola restaurant cooked with local, seasonal ingredients. A special lunch on the tour comes from shepherd Giulio as he welcomes tour participants around his farmhouse table. A chilled out, wonderful moment you can only experience when travelling with Erica, who searches for unusual people and places away from the normal tourist trails. There’s also wine, seafood, pecorino and the famed roast suckling pig along the way – you definitely won’t go home hungry!
Learn from local artisans
Shepherd Giulio also makes the famous pecorino sardo and you can watch this whole process! You will leave with an appreciation of how liquid milk turns into hard cheese—it really is a spectacle to behold! You also meet a potter to see how she creates traditional clay objects—as well as making something yourself to show off back home! A bread lesson is also on the agenda, from Rita Fois who learned how to make it from her grandmother and mother. After your visit to the luminescent white salt pans, you’ll understand all about where that essential culinary ingredient comes from. A fantastic wine tasting from a sommelier can’t be forgotten – the indulgence continues!
A unique boat tour and seafood lunch
It would be impossible to spend time on an island without hopping onto a boat and taking in the turquoise blue waters as they’re supposed to be seen! Mauro Pintus and his family take you aboard his fishing boat. You’ll learn about fish in the region and can have a go at drawing up the nets. You can feel the excitement and trepidation of a fisherman as you wait to see what you’ve caught! Lunch is cooked from the very fish you catch—can’t get any fresher than that! Mauro and Roberta will also serenade you as they play guitar and sing Sardinian songs.
Learn about the real Sardinia away from the guidebook-wielding tourists
Sardinia is an island rich in history and this tour really makes the most of it. You can watch traditional processions of people from across Sardinia—they’re part solemn religious festival, part social gathering, part fashion show of regional dress, part performance of traditional music! The tournament of incredible cavalieri performing daredevil tricks on horseback is also a sight to behold! The final procession sees villagers travel in colourfully decorated ox carts, with a fireworks display to end. You’ll always have a guide and local people to chat to and ask questions—so you can learn everything about the area and these fantastic traditions!
Read more about the Celebrating Sardinia tour here!
Just a little building work going on here to test delivery of our blog posts to your inbox. I hope it won't take as long as most building projects.
Meanwhile, here's a preview of the next course to be announced.
Olive Oil: Tree to Table
Dates (to be confirmed): October 31–November 5 | November 14–19 | December 5–10
If you'd like to be notified as soon as the course is announced, sign up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/hVwz6
Christmas in Italy demands panettone. By now this seasonal sweet bread has travelled round the world and can be found piled mountain-high in fine food shops and supermarkets everywhere. But my panettone is different from all of them. It's a present from Mirko Tognetti of Cremeria Opera Lucca, who teaches our gelato course.
If you have a gelateria in a climate with cold winters, the challenge is to find a winter product. An even bigger challenge for Mirko was to make a panettone that could hold its head up proudly in the company of his superlative natural gelato.
He started using lievito madre (sourdough starter) last year to make Sicilian brioche, the traditional accompaniment to granita. There’s a good historical case for making panettone solely with lievito madre. Legend attributes its invention to the Visconti court of Milan in the 1300s, long before yeast began to be manufactured industrially.
But it isn’t easy to achieve good results with lievito madre in the presence of eggs and sugar. On Friday 8 December, the last day of our gelato course, Mirko still wasn’t entirely satisfied with his trial panettoni. Production was to start on Tuesday the 12th. On Saturday morning he set off for Reggio Emilia at 5 am to spend three days with an expert at working with lievito madre to improve his skills at handling the starter dough. The results are dramatic.
I wish you could be here to share Mirko’s panettone and the love he’s put into his creation.
Details of our Gelato Course
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