If I say the words- Tuscany, food, Diane Lane… and the film, “Under the Tuscan Sun”…. Most of us sigh and remember the film well. …..the beauty of Cortona, Italy and the images of her cooking up sumptuous dishes in the midst of construction works on the villa she had impulsively purchased! Seeing the film I added “Buy Tuscan villa and/or book food and wine adventure in Tuscany” to my bucket list. It’s still a “to-do!”
This week is very special. We are lucky to have Maureen Moffatt from Nova Scotia in Canada join us as a VIVA Creative Contributor. Maureen appreciates food and wine with knowledge and passion. Some years ago, Maureen headed to Cortona, Italy to take part in a week long food and wine experience hosted by Les Eglantines: Gail Norton (The Cookbook Company), Rosemary Harbrecht (formerly of Brulee Bakery), and Judy Wood (Chef, Mise en Place)
Over the next week we’ll travel with Maureen and experience the delights of Italian food and wine culture through her eyes. Let’s go….
What has made me travel across the world to a small town in Tuscany? The obvious, great food, and delicious wine and the opportunity to experience this part of the world with a team of experts does not seem to provide the full answer to this question. I am left wondering what else there could be.
I am on the train pulling out of Rome’s Termini station. As the train starts to move I can feel the stress from jet lag, lost luggage and the party that Rome is, leave my body. I am exhausted and ridiculously energized at the same time. The train soon stops at the Rome’s next main station, Tibutina, and then within minutes we are in the countryside. I am surprised that we are so quickly in a rural landscape, until it dawns on me that, yes of course, food isn’t grown on the streets of Rome no matter how beautiful or historic they might be.
I arrive at Terontola station some time later and walk towards the station house. No one knows when I am arriving having missed my scheduled train attempting (unsuccessfully) to track down my bag. Yet I am trusting in the gods that someone will come and meet me. Giving up on the telephone, I am about to sit down when Rosemary sticks her head around the corner. I fall gratefully into her arms, in my mind anyway. Immediately I am swept away into her warm welcome and then just as swiftly into the van with Judy at the wheel. Now, sitting in the back I am over the moon with relief, anticipation and joy. It is all OK now.
We chat excitedly, get caught up, and soon turn down a lane lined with cypress. A sharp left turn and we are in the courtyard of I Pagliai, our home for the next week. I take my first deep breath. It is, in a word, perfection!
I spot Linda, one of our group of seven. She appears in the doorway with a glass of what I imagine to be Prosecco. She disappears and seconds later re-appears at my side wordless with a glass for me, and a hug. Linda smiles that secret knowing smile she has. I am shown my room and plunk down my overnight bag on the stone floor. My room has a large iron bed and high armoire. Through the window I can see the lawn which leads to a garden that seems to stretch all the way to the hills. Turning back into my room I notice a little writing table with a tray holding a bottle of Prosecco, some chocolate and cheese. I am startled by this wonderful welcome. I don’t unpack my small bag (did I mention I still don’t have my luggage), but quickly head out to greet everyone and to begin this adventure.
Everyone else seems to have settled in. Gord with guitar is sitting in a chaise on the lawn by a large lavender bush. He waves his free hand while the other cradles a glass. Leslie, Debbie and Tracey all appear with hugs and offers of clothing, shoes, underwear and just about anything else that is legal. I am just overwhelmed by such kindness. A quick toast, a shower and change and it is dinner time. Tom has appeared with the rest of the group. The table is set outside by the laurel trees. All I can see is a long stretch of candles, glasses and wine all on a backdrop of white linen. It is stunning! After a most delicious meal and my first Tuscan wine I sit back and look at these new friends and then up at the moon. I notice that it will be full during our stay.
Later securely under the heavy blankets I look up at the wooden beams in my room and turn off the light.
Feature Image with thanks Gaetano Sessati
Other images with thanks Maureen Moffat and Oleg Demakov
Gail Norton The Cookbook Co. Cooks Culinary Escapes to France www.cookbookcooks.com
Rosemary Harbrecht chef at Hastings House Country house hotel, Salt Spring Island BC Canada
Judy Wood a chef at Meez Cuisine, Calgary CA https://meezcuisine.com