Sardinia and its Giants
Very few people I know have been to Sardinia. If they have, they went with the kids and stayed on the beach. If I ask people where in Italy they would like to go, Sardinia is rarely in their top 10. Yet it has so much to offer:
Even I only went to Sardinia by accident. Some weavers who were coming on one of my Tastes & Textiles tours in Tuscany asked me to take them to visit a woman who weaves ‘sea silk’, the filaments of the beard of a sea mollusc.
Reluctantly I agreed and hopped over from Pisa, only 50 minutes by plane to Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. It wasn’t love at first sight. But, like people, I believe places merit more than a casual glance. Many reveal their treasures only to those who patiently dig below the surface.
There’s no better way to get to know a place than to learn from the locals. Enter Antonio Arca. He was born in Alghero in northwestern Sardinia and moved to London in 2004, the same year I came to Lucca. His company Capo Caccia Fine Food imports the products he knows and loves from small, trustworthy suppliers.
During one of my research trips to Sardinia, Antonio advised me to go to Sa Sartiglia festival in Oristano, in the west central part of the island. You can read about it here. I was travelling with friends who wanted to go to Cabras to see the Giganti di Mont’e Prama, but I was too engrossed in the festival. I was meeting farmers and family food producers at street stalls. One of these was Marcello Stara, a local rice farmer.
I don’t know why I’m so excited by rice. Maybe it’s the flavour of good rice (not the bland quick-cook stuff) and its versatility in different cuisines from Asia to Italy. Maybe it’s the fact that it grows in water and required communal cooperation to provide the irrigation. Maybe it’s just how beautiful it looks in the field.
In any case, I was already conjuring a tour to include Marcello and his rice during the harvest so we could find out how it’s processed and what freshly harvested rice tastes like. But one farmer doesn’t make a tour.
I consulted Antonio. Did he know know other people in the area? Would he like to collaborate on a tour? Yes and yes. We planned a research trip together. First we needed a place to stay. For me it had to be an agriturismo (farm accommodation) so we would be investing in the rural economy. I found three suitable ones on the internet. Antonio chose L’Orto. Not only do they have enough private rooms with en suite baths, but they have a restaurant and dad is a fantastic cook. Everything local and perfectly cooked.
We visited Marcello and his rice fields.
He introduced us to Davide Orro and his family in the next village. Davide could almost be a tour in himself. He’s an enthusiastic winemaker and olive farmer and his sister Ester makes decorated festival bread. He planned our day: start picking olives, cure and bottle the olives, learn to make decorate bread with Ester. Lunch: bread, local cheeses and salumi, olives, wine. One of the grape varieties is known to have been grown in the area 3000 years ago.
Davide suggested we go see Sandro Dessé. He’s even more versatile than the Orro family. You arrive at his farm and see a paddock of sheep and goats, one of donkeys and horses, pigs at the back and dinosaurs over to the side. Behind the pigs are fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Sandro is a practitioner of the circular economy.
Not only does he produce the raw ingredients, but he processes them as well. There’s a small abattoir, a laboratory for curing pork, a cheese dairy and a kitchen for drying fruit and making pasta. His dining room seats 250 guests.
Sandro’s wild, wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious, but we can’t do everything in one visit. We must have a tour of the farm, and it would be fun to have a lesson making the delicious stuffed pasta called culurgiones, which we can eat for lunch along with Sandro’s many other products.
Here we pick up the trail of some of Antonio’s friends. Paolo Lilliu, a butcher, who makes the salsiccia sarda, which you can cook when they’re fresh or air dry and eat like salami.
On your morning with Paolo you’ll make your own, after which we’ll go to his friend Sandro Picchedda, a saffron and peperoncino (chili pepper) farmer for a barbecue and a traditional dessert made with saffron.
Some other friends of Antonio introduced us to cowherd and cheesemaker Giuseppe Sanna who makes the Slow Food Presidium cheese casizolu from the milk of his own cows. He's willing to let you try your hand at forming the cheeses.
My friends came back wide-eyed and enthusiastic about the Giganti di Mont’e Prama, bigger than life-size stone statues of warriors which probably date to around 800 BC. Having been an archaeologist, I had to see them too. Luckily they reside in the seaside town of Cabras, which is also a centre of bottarga production. We talked to several producers who told us about the technique for fishing the grey mullet, cleaning them and salting and curing the roe to make the much sought after and expensive delicacy bottarga. The gentle and generous Giovanni Spanu invited us into his production facility.
The Giganti were even more impressive than I had imagined.
They immediately became the mascots of the tour—little-known giants, the heroes of their land. Our living giants are smaller and gentler, but fighting all the same to maintain their products of quality and the role of the small farmer and producer in an ever more global economy.
Find out more about the Giants of Sardinia tour here.
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This blog was originally published on Slow Travel Tours on 26 August, 2018.
If you come to Lucca for only a day, arriving from Florence late morning and off early the next to get to the Cinque Terre, you’ll miss the pleasures of Borgo Giannotti. Compared to the amphitheatre, the Guinigi Tower with oaks growing on top, the wedding-cake columns of San Michele church and the massive encircling walls of the historic centre, Borgo Giannotti doesn’t look like much.
Immediately outside the north gate of Lucca, it was a meeting point for merchants coming from the port of Viareggio, a place to stop and refresh themselves before turning up the Serchio Valley to sell their merchandise in the Garfagnana. It developed into a thriving artisan quarter, and retains that vibrancy of people making and doing things, occupations that the waves of mobile phone shops haven’t yet totally swept away. So come with me for a Saturday morning trawl in Borgo Giannotti.
We might be mistaken for drunks, rare as they are here in Lucca, weaving from one side of the street to the other following the trail of my favourite places. On the left we come to coffee importers and roasters Bei & Nannini.
It’s not my favourite coffee, but I like the shop front and, apart from the coffee beans themselves, it’s local. It was founded in 1923 by Guido Nannini and Giovanni Bei and is still in the ownership of the two families.
There are many small groceries, delicatessens and specialist food shops in Borgo Giannotti. You can do all your shopping from the friendly vendors in the space of a few hundred metres without ever entering the anonymity of a supermarket. Crossing over to the right we find a fishmonger.
Over on the left is one of many fruit and vegetable shops. Since it’s Saturday, we’ll continue up the street to the farmers’ market.
Still on the left, look at that exquisite tiled shop front (it was even more beautiful before some developer painted over the ochre wash above).
On the right we come to a bakery with many enticing goodies in its window.
I suspect torta di erbi is a relict of Renaissance, and maybe mediaeval, times when sweet and savoury were often mixed in a single dish. As strange as it sounds, this delicious tart is filled with Swiss chard, parsley, bread crumbs, raisins, candied peel, pine nuts, grated pecorino and parmigiano, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, rum and eggs. Becchi means ‘birds’ beaks’ and refers to the form of the pastry; shaping them is a skill in itself.
Over on the left again is a tap where locals come to fill their water bottles for drinking at home. It’s free!
Next to the fountain is Angolo Bazaar where you can find almost any utensil or container you need for your household and many gifts to take to friends at home. It used to be on the corner (angolo), but moved down one space to make way for a discount sport shoe shop. Via Stalle means street of the barns—something like a mews in London.
You could spend a couple of hours in this Aladdin’s cave starting with the baskets at the front and penetrating into deeper and deeper caverns stacked from floor to warehouse ceiling with crockery, wooden kitchen utensils, garden tools, hosepipes, canvas—an inventory too long to list.
I’ve brought my sickle and pennato lucchese (a kind of billhook) to be sharpened opposite at L’Arrotino. Many people take their utensils to artisan sharpeners, and itinerant ones come to some open-air markets. The Bertinis have been sharpening knives in Borgo Giannotti since 1956. They also sell quality knives from those forged traditionally in Italy to Japanese knives of Damascus steel. Every kitchen needs at least one!
Continuing on the right, we come to a delicious smelling grocery stuffed with tasty products, including tortellini fresh from the Favilla pastificio of Lucca.
There’s something special along the road to the right, but first we’ll continue to the top of Borgo Giannotti.
When it’s lunch time, we can eat at Buatino, where the cook changes the menu every day to take advantage of seasonal ingredients.
We cross over the outer ring road and come to the Foro Boario. This has nothing to do with wild boar. Boario refers to cattle and the Foro Boario was the cattle market, used in September when herders brought their animals to sell in the city. The Festa della Carne e della Macelleria Tradizionale (Festival of Meat and Traditional Butcher Shops) held annually in the middle of September commemorates this practice. More in the old spirit of farmers selling their produce to the public is the farmers’ market that takes place at the Foro every Saturday morning.
If you buy your fruit and vegetables here, they’ll be fresh and seasonal. You’ll meet the growers and can ask for recipes for ingredients you’ve never used before.
Time for a coffee at the bar opposite the Foro and then we walk back to the monument, which turns out to be a road sign.
We turn left and if I weren’t with you, you’d walk right past this grey-green building and boring gate.
You would be missing a great treat. It’s a handmade tile factory founded by the current owner’s great-grandfather in 1902 to make tiles in the ‘Liberty’ or Art Nouveau style, which was all the rage in Europe at the time.
Press your nose against the dirty showroom window (perhaps never washed since 1902?) and you can see some of the patterns that Francesco Tessieri’s four artisans still make by the same techniques.
They’re closed on Saturdays, but if we come on a weekday, Francesco will take us into the workshop and explain as we watch the process. Among his many commissions were restorations of floors in the homes of Gucci and Pavarotti.
Around the corner are some over-the-top examples of ‘stile Liberty’ houses whose floors are surely paved with Tessieri tiles.
Our tour is done and it’s time for a delicious lengthy lunch accompanied by good wine and conversation. So like the merchants of old, why don’t you make Lucca your city to dawdle in, to catch your breath and refresh yourself?
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This blog was originally published on Slow Travel Tours on 13 January, 2013.
This blog was originally published on Slow Travel Tours on 28 January 2017.
Did you know that olive oil is the only common cooking oil that is the juice of a fruit? All the other oils we use in our kitchen come from seeds: sunflower, rapeseed (canola), peanut and grapeseed. This realisation leads directly to another question. Would you cut an orange, leave it on the counter for a week and then squeeze and drink the juice? Would you step on an apple, leave it on the table for three days and then eat it? Yet that’s what happens to many olives before they’re pressed to extract olive juice.
I’ve tasted and written a lot about olive oil, but this idea had completely escaped me until I met Elisabetta Sebastio last year. She’s a professional olive oil taster both for Italian Chambers of Commerce and international olive oil competitions. We ran our first full-day olive oil class during my Autumn in Tuscany tour in November 2016 (now we run a full course on the subject of olive oil: Olive Oil: Tree to Table in Tuscany). It was a revelation for all of us.
We gathered around her kitchen table. She taught us how the professionals taste and rate oil. We tasted eight olive oils.
The first was a surprise and I don’t want to ruin the impact by telling you what it was. Then there were four new-season oils: one from Sicily, two from Tuscany and one from the Abruzzo. Some people liked the tomato scent of the Sicilian one, others the bitter piquancy of the Tuscans.
Lots preferred the less in-your-face qualities of the Abruzzese. Under Elisabetta’s guidance it was so easy and we were proudly feeling like experts when we started on the three defective oils. Wow! It was so clear that they didn’t measure up, and we could describe what was wrong with them: rancid, vinegary and fusty. We didn’t want to put them in our mouths. You’ll taste lots of mildly rancid oils in restaurants due to poor storage in clear bottles in the warmth.
There were more revelations. Contrary to popular belief, true extra-virgin olive oil has the highest smoke point of any vegetable cooking oil. Another fact some people don’t realise is that it deteriorates with every passing day, even in a sealed bottle. If you’ve got some excellent oil, carpe diem. It will be worse tomorrow.
But olive juice isn’t just for cooking. In Italy it’s mainly used as a condiment, like salt and pepper. This got us thinking about which olive oil goes best with which foods. Elisabetta had devised a lunch to demonstrate the classic pairing of regional dishes with an oil of the same region.
We got to help prepare orecchiette (an ear-shaped pasta from Puglia) with an artichoke sauce seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil from Puglia.
Sadly, we ran out of space in our stomachs before we could taste all the different dishes Elisabetta had prepared.
I took another group to her home in December. One of them loved chocolate and Elisabetta assured me she could source some olive-oil flavoured chocolate. The platter of chocolates was beguiling and they tasted fantastic. She had made them herself!
Join me on the course Olive Oil: Tree to Table in Tuscany from 18–23 November 2021 and meet the amazing Elisabetta and have fun with olive juice.
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By Alison Goldberger
2020 is definitely a year none of us will ever forget, that's for sure. It all started off so promisingly with lots of excitement about meeting all of you who had booked on a tour or course! Of course we all know how it ended—with a year very difficult for a small tourism business. Although we were disappointed we had to cancel many tours and didn't get to meet you, we were buoyed by all your messages, interaction on our social accounts and hope you enjoyed the virtual tours we ran. And of course, it wasn't ALL bad, and Erica and I have survived the year in good health! So we'll start our review at the beginning, before we had even heard of the virus that would characterise the year...
One of our first posts on Facebook was this stunning photo taken from Erica's window. She captioned it: 'The view from my window. Must be a good omen for 2020!' It makes me laugh a little now looking back at this.
As I said in the introduction, 2020 started off great! The Art & Science of Gelato course got into full swing and we welcomed the super talented Sorravee 'Gin' Pratanavanich. Gin had grand plans, after learning with us she was due to head off to take up a chef internship at a hotel in Abu Dhabi. Looking ahead, Gin would like to open a pastry shop and gelateria in Bangkok.
We were also delighted to be able to run the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany in January. Two of our artisans met during this course, Mirko who leads the Art & Science of Gelato course learned how to make salami from artisan norcino Massimo Bacci.
Mirko wasn't the only one learning however. We met lots of interesting participants during the January Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany. Here we see them learning all about knots. Knots are important to hold things in place and to squeeze air out. To produce a nice looking product, you need to tie tidy knots. And as you can see, our participants were taking this very seriously!
On the blog in January we also shared a beautiful piece by Lin Hobley about her experiences of the Tastes & Textiles: Woad and Wool tour. Read it here.
February saw us on the Advanced Salumi Course Bologna-Parma. We left Tuscany for 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! Check out the blog post here for more pictures and information about what happened during this tour in February!
March of course brought with it COVID-19, and in Italy things became serious very quickly! It was still an unknown entity in March, and we weren't sure how things would play out. We welcomed a couple of intrepid souls onto the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany in March, in what would be the last course for a while! We were still hoping that things would all blow over but were concerned about the impact the travel bans would have on those looking to come on courses and tours in the near future. Anyway, Australian vodka producer Katie Krauss and American head chef Seamus Platt joined us. They managed to learn everything the course had to offer before dashing off on the last flights home!
Erica quickly had to get used to life under lockdown, long before many other countries started to introduce such measures. It did, however, result in her having a bit of an adventure! As flights started to get cancelled across Europe, one unexpected result was the car of some friends trapped in the Pisa airport car park, which was due to close. After calling in various favours the car was freed...read exactly how in the blog post here or click the car image above!
It also allowed for a bit of cooking and exploring the beautiful surroundings outside her door. More information and pictures are here in the March round up blog post.
Across Italy people started to pull together in the face of tough lockdowns, travel bans and an unknown virus. Many sang and played music from balconies and out of windows. Antonio Daniele, head cheesemaker at Caseificio Prime Querce, and one of the artisans who teaches our Mozzarella & its Cousins course made this graphic and said: 'We must withstand and fight. We'll come out of this stronger than before.'
In April we started to adjust to the new normal. For Erica, even cooking dinner turned into an epic adventure! This meal took her on a journey to remember people she'd met along the way and about the history of the ingredients. It really is a fantastic story, you can read the whole thing here - or by clicking the image above.
Lockdown meant Easter alone for Erica, but her neighbours certainly wouldn't see her starve! She wrote in a Facebook post: "Under lockdown they couldn't invite me to eat with them. At 11.30 am the doorbell rang. It was Eugenia with three slices of pie with different fillings—rice, lemon and chocolate. At 12.30 the doorbell rang again. It was Daniela bringing her homemade tortelli and sugo. I was only planning marinated and grilled goat chops with cannellini beans and insalata with local red wine. Now I had a three-course lunch. Such kindness and generosity, and I certainly didn't feel alone."
In April we also ran one of our first 'virtual tours' to give you all a taste of what you would have been experiencing, had you been allowed to visit Italy. We all travelled around Sardinia on the Celebrating Sardinia tour and had a great time! You can read the whole thing for yourself in the blog post here, or by clicking the image above.
In May we would have been running the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course, but that was not to be of course. So we also offered a little preview on Facebook. We visited Enea Giunti's goat farm and learned how to make fresh goat cheese. We stayed at Agriturismo La Torre at Fornoli and met Vitalina who shared her extensive knowledge of cheese making. We milked cows at Marzia Ridolfi's and drove up to Daniela Pagliai's to see her small modern dairy and how she makes a number of different cheeses from one pot of milk. And all this in the company of Maria Sarnataro, a real expert on cheese! Read all about what else we saw in the blog post here.
The Tastes & Textiles: Woad and Wool tour was also meant to run in May, but instead we ran it as a virtual tour. It was a fascinating tour with so many interesting sights and photos, which you can see here in the blog post.
Another month and another virtual tour, this time it was the Tastes & Textiles: Hanging by a Thread tour. Card weaving, farm accommodation, vineyards, Garfagnana potato bread, knitting, felting, weaving, wonderful food, an ethnographic museum, a woolen mill - it was all there and more. Read all about it in the blog post here.
After the tour Erica shared some of the delicious meals she'd been making. She had been experimenting with ricotta. The people who sell it in the open-air market won't sell a small amount. She has to buy a whole one. This spring she tried this simple sauce for short pasta made with fava beans (broad beans) and ricotta - delicious!
The classic dish everyone around Erica makes with ricotta is ravioli. She said of this meal: 'I have a lot of chestnut flour in my freezer—gifts from friends who collect, dry and mill their own. I made pasta di castagna (about 1/3 chestnut flour) with a filling of fresh ricotta, young nettle tops, an egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg. The slightly bitter nettles contrast well with the sweet chestnut flour. The sauce is simple melted butter with fresh sage leaves.'
This recipe in particular got my mouth watering! There is a self-seeded cherry tree hanging over Erica's orto (veg garden). In June it produces a small crop of mildly sour cherries. Every year she makes one focaccia with the cherries, but it never turns out exactly the way she wants it. Until this year. It's exactly the thickness and degree of sweetness she'd been searching for. Persistence pays off!
July and August
With some restrictions lessening in Italy, Erica took the chance to do some travelling! At the end of July she headed off to Pompei. She first saw the sights of Napoli and was welcomed by her collaborator on the cheese courses, Maria Sarnataro. First they tried some tasty delicacies, including the famous sfogliata.
While in Pompei Erica hired a wonderful private guide, Francesco Tufano, an archaeologist who could answer all of her questions and more! Read all about the trip here in the blog post.
The second half of Erica's trip took her from Pompei to Salerno where she and Maria visited some mozzarella dairies. She was very impressed when she visited Caseificio Barlotti and met brothers Enzo (pictured) and Gaetano Barlotti. She hopes to bring future participants on the Mozzarella & its Cousins course for a tasting in their beautiful garden. She had some samples of his bocconcini, ricotta and a new brie-style cheese, all made with the milk of their own buffalo herd. The mozzarella and ricotta are among the best she'd tasted. Read all about this part of the trip in the blog post here.
Erica also took a research trip to Le Marche for the Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour. It's during these types of trips she meets the artisan's we visit on tours and finds the incredible restaurants we dine in! Perhaps you don't know where Le Marche is. Le Marche means 'The Marches', which in English refers to an area of land on the border between two countries or territories (eg, the Welsh Marches). In fact, Le Marche borders three other regions, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria, with the Adriatic Sea to the northeast. Before the unification of Italy in 1861, they had a lot of borders and ports to protect, which means lots of spectacular fortresses and castles to visit! This photo above was one of my favourites from the trip, showing masked men waiting for their wives to finish shopping in Urbania.
During the trip she also met some fascinating people, including Federica Crocetta, who has a passion for dyeing textiles with natural plant dyes, and Emanuele Francione, who learned the craft of textile block printing with rust from his grandfather. Read all about the tour in the blog post here.
In September Erica was back home, and making passata! You can read all about it in the blog post here, or by clicking the photo above.
There was also some excitement for Mirko, who teaches the Art & Science of Gelato course as he opened a new Cremeria Opera just outside the walls of Lucca. Erica and Mirko had a little celebration...wearing masks of course!
In October Erica attended a fantastic lunch cooked by her favourite Lucca chef Damiano Donati. She said: 'His restaurant in the centre closed during lockdown. I was forlorn. Now he's popped up at Fattoria Sardi vineyard better than ever. He calls his fixed menu for Sunday lunch Fuoco e Materia (Fire and Matter). He was always fascinated by contrasting textures. Now he has a wood-fired oven in his kitchen and is playing with smokey flavours too, and it works. Here he is relaxing on the terrace after lunch. The dishes included: squash cooked two different ways and wrapped in chestnut leaf parcels, beetroot risotto, chicken stuffed with pork accompanied by smokey crushed potatoes. If you opt for the wine tasting, you get a different delicious biodynamic wine paired with each course.'
There was also a little time to squeeze in some truffle hunting for a private tour! Truffle hunter Riccardo instructed Brendan in how to use three of his senses—sight, smell and touch—to assess whether the truffle is poor, mediocre or excellent. This 66 gram truffle is excellent, and after his truffle lunch with his wife and child, he decided to buy it so they could go on indulging in truffles for the rest of their holiday.
We were also delighted to be able to hold a REAL LIFE Art & Science of Gelato course in October! We welcomed Niels, chef on a super-yacht. On the October course we teach how to make sourdough panettone as well as gelato so you know how to do it in time for Christmas. For his unique flavours Neils created pineapple and rosemary sorbetto, date and whisky gelato and Piña Colada sorbetto!
In November Erica went to Frantoio Lenzi to get her year's supply of olive oil. At the height of the harvest, frantoi (olive mills) are open 24/7 and it's always chaotic. She picked up bag-in-box new oil. You can recycle the box, but not the bag. However, by excluding air it keeps the oil from oxidising so rapidly and preserves the health benefits and the flavour for longer. The oil is fruity (tastes like olives!), medium picante and medium bitter. Her conclusion: a nice rounded flavour.
2020 would have brought us the first participants on our new Olive Oil: Tree to Table in Tuscany course, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, we ran a virtual tour to whet your appetite! Read all about it in the blog post here.
One of the most popular blog posts of the year was about the abandoned farm houses of Casabasciana. Wonderful photos and stories, can be seen in the blog post here.
The year wound down with a poignant blog post featuring a video about the death of peasant farming. It was made by farmers in Umbria, but it could have been made anywhere in Italy—or in many other countries in fact. We visit many small farmers during tours and one of the things that was important when setting up Sapori e Saperi Adventures was to help preserve this way of life. You can watch it in our blog post here.
After such a trying year it was nice for Erica to join her local community to decorate the village Christmas tree, a long-standing tradition which was just a little different this year.
We hope you have had a healthy 2020 and wish you all the best for 2021. We'd love nothing more than to welcome you onto one or more of our tours and courses. Get in touch with Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or for answers to any questions you may have.
If you landed here by chance and would like to be notified of future posts, you can sign up here. If you’d like periodic news about our tours and courses, sign up here.
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!
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!
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