Ever hopeful I started this post in Florence but never got very far through laziness? Or greed perhaps (we spent a lot of time lingering over meals in the evening) or just sheer lack of time as we packed so much into every day.
Now we are back at home, no longer have the delights of Florence to keep me distracted, and I don’t know where to start. We found so much to enjoy and gaze in awe at that, that were it not for John’s notes of each day it would already have become a pleasant whirl of wonderful memories, as rather symbolised by the marbled paper that we watched Ricardo create: blobs of colour became lines became swirls…
The first day, last Monday, was a foodie day so we’ll start with that. In the morning daughter Ruthie and I embarked on a tour with Jo of Taste Florence, while the others started – some from a position of relative strength – trying to get a grip on the art/churches/Florentine history side of things inspiring.
Ruthie and I spent the morning in the Mercato Centrale and environs, being introduced to a seemingly endless array of small privately owned shops and stalls, all selling local specialities. These ranged from prosciutto to flavoured honeys, balsamic vinegars, fresh meat and fish, breads, cakes and wine (and some of the vinegars considerably more expensive than a really good wine. There was plenty to taste and absolutely no pressure to buy, although of course we did.
Jo, from Taste Florence, was an excellent guide, very knowledgeable and infectiously enthusiastic. The tour felt more like a stroll with a friend and was a fantastic introduction to the food, the culture and the history of this part of Tuscany; during our week we went back to several of the stalls and found her list of recommended eating places an enormous help.
Having sampled enough Tuscan produce to last for the rest of our stay, we had barely time to meet Freya of Freya’s Florence Tours, who had arranged most of the exciting and very different tours in our itinerary, at the pre agreed meeting spot, for guess what, more food…
…More food and lots of excited chat, then Freya showed us round the Orsanmichel, only open on Mondays so we were lucky to be able to grab the chance to see round this grain market turned church, with some early Renaissance sculptures by the likes of Donatello.
With not much time to gather breath our next assignment was a ‘Tuscan 4-course dinner party’ cooking class organised by InTavola. This was a serious class, but as taken by Francesco and Fabrizzo, seriously enjoyable too. We prepared a starter with aubergine and tomatoes, and made ravioli from start to finish, a main course of chicken breast, mushroom and courgette and tiramisu for pud… At the end everybody sat down to a jolly meal in their cellar dining room with plenty of Italian/multi cultural conviviality.
The only other official food engagement was a pizza making class, on the Thursday. As with everything else we had been told, the emphasis is on using the very best quality food, at its freshest. No pre cooked pizza bases or sauces in a jar (not that I would, but one feels that in Italy that would be quite unthinkable).
Apart from all the fun we have had ‘learning’, we have had some seriously good food wherever we have been, whether eating freshly cooked fish at a tin table in the market or dining at smartish restaurants: seriously good food however simple, served with great courtesy and charm.
We didn’t go to Florence for the food but one certainly could.
Douglas’s Barn is available to book for short breaks 3 or 4 nights between 2 and 20 May 2016. Bookings usually start on a Monday or a Friday but if you want a break that starts on a different day get in touch. We are very flexible with bookings.
There are some new attractions added to the list of treats available with the Premier Cottages special privileges card. Amongst them are Renishaw Hall, Thornbridge Hall Gardens (new discounts), Hassop Station Cafe, Village Green Cafe Eyam, Carsington Water Sports and Leisure, Hartington Cheese Shop.
There are still a few free dates at the end of March/April in both Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns. Short breaks, 3 or 4 nights, which are not normally available are on offer. Please look at availability and give me a call or book on line.