Cooking class Tuscany

We journeyed through lots of little towns to arrive at our destination. The cooking class is in a beautiful house surround by lots of picturesque things such as nature and other old houses. It overlooks a vineyard, making the experience even more impressive. The women running it both had awesome personalities. The environment felt joyful and caring. We attend the cooking class with another couple from New York. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity so it’s best to share it with people that are funny and that keep it lively. We started by making the pasta dough and kneading it, we then leave it out for 30 minutes. Well we wait we make the Tiramisu. First we dip the lady fingers in coffee and layer them on the dish. We then put the nest layer on. The next layer consists of eggs,  mascarpone cheese, a little bit of rum and sugar!!! Then we put more lady fingers soaked in espresso and then more of the other layer. And then we put it in the fridge. Now it’s time to make the pesto!!! If you didn’t already know pesto pasta is one of my favourite foods. So this is very exciting for me. We must put exactly 36 basil leaves in. Because too much basil can be over powering. We make the pesto using a marble mortar and a wooden pestle. We are very lucky because in our cooking we get to use herbs and vegetables and olive oil all from their garden. This pesto is different from other pesto that I have had because it has green beans in it. Which personnel I think makes it even more tasty. Then we made the zucchini cake. We used a mezzaluna  knife to cut the herbs. The main ingredients for the zucchini savoury cake are herbs, eggs, zucchini, cheese, oil,  breadcrumbs and other spices and ingredients. After that we make the turkey breast. The turkey breast sits in herbs such as rosemary. And AJ tied the turkey. Congrats to him. Then we fry it in a pan. Now we roll our pasta out with wooden roller. Then we run it two times through the pasta machine. This step was a bit difficult at first because it was hard to get the pasta in. But after a few try’s we got the hang of it. Once all the pastas ready we must cut it. Before you cut it you loosely roll it. Don’t roll it to tight or it will stick together. And add LOTS of flour.  Or your pasta will be a sticky ball. Once it’s rolled you cut in to what ever size you want. Your size will depend on what sauce your serving it with. Then we bring all the delicious food upstairs. Finally we feast on a wonderful lunch. That taste will forever be in my memory, and that unique learning experience. Our four hours were filled with laughter, sharing, sapori deliziosi, lots of learning and most importantly fun. I couldn’t keep the smile of my face even if I tried with all my strength. I walked in there an ok cook and I left an awesome cook all because of the fabulous people that take their knowledge and share it with the world. 😃

Tuscan Time

Tuscan Time

Okay, even as I’ve nagged the rest of the family to post to our blog, I’ve been laggardly… Over a week since my last note and we’ve seen so much since Venice!

I could blame it on slow wifi. (I won’t even try to post a photo, given the snail-like upload speed here.) But mostly it’s because we’ve been on “Tuscan time” — first in our “barn” stay in the hills outside of Montegonzi, on the edge of the Chianti region, and now, for the past four nights, on the lush and spectacular Island of Elba.

Sure, we’ve done things, I suppose. We did a cooking class, a small hike, and a day trip to Siena while in Montegonzi. We’ve chased fish in the Mediterranean, explored Marciana Marina and the ridge top town of Marciana, and checked out the seaport shops (and one very good restaurant) in Porto Azzurro.

Mostly, though, we’ve let simply basked in the warm, unhurried, autumnal vibe of Tuscany. The weather has been perfect. A threatened thunderstorm yesterday never appeared. Dark clouds have shuttled past occasionally and always revealed glorious sunsets over the western ridges and hills of both Montegonzi and Porto Azzurro. We have slept in, eaten well, walked and walked, watched an excellent documentary on Netflix about the centuries-old Palio horse race to help us better understand Siena, learned how to make and to savour Italian cuisine (pasta, pesto, zucchini squares, turkey breast and the best tiramisu of my life) in a olive farm in Chianti, and simply enjoyed the leisurely pace of life in this corner of the world .

We have felt the sun on our backs as we floated in the sea. We have sat outside on the stone patio in Montegonzi (with the AirBnB host’s three dogs and one outdoor cat) and balcony in Porto Azzurro and read or just closed our eyes and listened to the breeze. (Actually, right now we are listening to one of our neighbours tune his Vespa — that’s definitely part of the soundscape of Elba!)

Alas, we leave tomorrow… for three nights (our last in Italy) in Cinque Terre. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to return to see more of Tuscany, to enjoy more time in a place that truly knows how best to spend —and bend and extend —time. Another time, I guess.


Today we arrived in Elba. An island just off the mainland. Elba is a very popular summer destination for Italians and others because of the warm ocean and sandy beaches. In May of 1814 Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba after his army was defeated. Nine months after he was brought to Elba he escaped to France. Once in France he raised and army which at first had some success before being destroyed in the battle of Waterloo.

Follow every Calle

Follow every Calle

We set out to Venice by train from Bologna early in the morning, only to be delayed by 25 minutes at the station. After a café macchiato while we waited, we eventually boarded and by the time we arrived in Venice, the rain was sluicing down the train windows. On the steps of the station, vendors were doing a swift business in selling brightly coloured ponchos. For once, I felt my chronic underdressing in Italy had paid off—I was wearing hiking pants, a Mountain Hardwear jacket and a Blue Jays cap. I was ready for this pioggia.

Venice views.

We had seven hours to spend in a very rainy Venice and chose to start out in the less populated Canareggio area, which includes the old Jewish ghetto. There was almost no one there, and it was possible to walk the streets and imagine what was like centuries ago, before cruise ships and jet planes. The Venetian Jewish ghetto was formed in 1516, the first in the world. Jews were confined to the area by night and forced to wear red caps during the day to identify them. A.J.’s class in school is studying Shakespeare, so we have been applying what we saw in Venice to the story of Merchant of Venice.

Jewish ghetto

The Canareggio neighbourhood in Venice.

My favourite part of Venice is the calles, the narrow streets. It seems there is a story behind every one. The Venetian republic forced landowners to leave a small distance between buildings— apparently how Venice ended up with this maze of fascinating calles.

One of the many calles.

There are surely a million stories in Venice. I was overwhelmed the number of ancient, evocative buildings and bridges. There are also a million tourists in Venice, which we felt when we made our way to Piazza San Marco. There were throngs of tourists and massive groups of cruise ship passengers being herded and counted.

Briar must be growing, because she could have eaten the entire Veneto region. We threw her apple slices, mini paninis, peanuts and granola bars, and readers, she remained in the Republic of Hangry. But, we still managed to get in a tour of the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace. A special exhibition on Rubens was on, which we toured along with vast, lavishly decorated rooms dedicated to justice and political affairs of the Doge, the leader. The sights included armour and, my favourite, the ancient prisons. I loved the room showing slabs of graffito from the prison walls.

The Doge’s Palace courtyard.

Along with the Doge, we also visited a modern and interesting exhibit called Personal Structures: Open Borders at the European Cultural Centre in the Palazzo Mora as part of la Biennale di Venezia. Some of the art was perhaps not so appropriate for kids, but they did have a toilet, so it evened out.

A last view before the train ride to Bologna.

Briar refused to continue without more food, so we found a café and ordered her a huge cheese pizza so she didn’t eat us on the train ride back to Bologna. A.J. chose a pizza covered with French fries on top, something only a 13-year-old boy could consume. Thanks to the free art exhibit, the restaurant, and the Doge visit, we spent seven hours in Venice (with Briar!) without spending any Euros on public toilets. Sorprendente!


We arrived in Tuscany yesterday afternoon. This is our first Airbnb in the country. It’s a nice change to get out of the city. This is my favourite Airbnb so far not just because there is three dogs and two cats but because I like to be out in the nature. It also has a very pretty pool surround by olive trees. We have to bundle up because it is colder in the mountains. The Airbnb is cozy and AJ and I finally have our own beds!!! Montegonzi is a 30 walk from where we are staying, and Montevarchi is a 25 minute drive. So this is the first time we have to drive to get groceries. But that’s ok because we can do a couple big shops. We all really like it here and I think we are really going to enjoy our stay.



When we arrived in Venice it was raining quite hard. So we went into the first ghetto in the world. Then we walk along some quiet non touristy streets. After we went in a art gallery with a bunch of different types of art. And we used the bathroom there because they were free. When we got out the rain had cleared so we went on a gondola ride through the quiet streets of Venice. We went under a bridge that was 1000 years old. You are not aloud to eat the fish in the ocean in Venice because it is polluted, but you can window fish for fun. We also went to the Doge where the people that ran Venice lived and had meetings. There was also a art gallery and a armour gallery. And don’t forget the creepy dungeons that we walked through. In the dungeons there was a collection of things that the prisoners wrote and drew on the walls. Then we went on the Rialto bridge and the bridge of size,  both with spectacular views. Finally we went to have a very late lunch at a quiet restaurant down an alleyway. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.