Our Tuscan food and wine tour draws to a close with these last 2 diary entries from our inspiring writer and friend, Maureen Moffatt. What an adventure its been! I’m reminded of a quote by Robin Leach, ” In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” Gail Norton (The Cookbook Co. Cooks) and Judy Wood (Chef, MEEZ Cuisine) continue to offer culinary tours to Italy and France and details can be found below. For those of us who still have a foodie trip on the to-do list stay tuned for my article- ” Armchair travelling – in style.” in next week’s Viva70. But for now, let’s head to the final leg of our Tuscan adventure………
I wake up early. It is our last full day and I refuse to miss a second. I take a little more care with my dress because today we are lunching at the fabulous Il Falconiere. However, first we visit Cortona for market day.
Our group looks particularly splendid today all dressed in beautiful jeweled colours. I am so looking forward to seeing the market and doing a final bit of shopping. The market is similar to the one we visited in Camucia in terms of products. However, the setting is spectacular in the Piazza della Repubblica.
Having finished, I review my purchases. I am glad that I have taken Rosemary and Gail’s advice and have bought the olive wood salad bowl, though I closed my eyes while paying for it. “You will never regret it”. Those words are echoing in my head. I have one more stop before lunch and I head back up Via Nazionale to Molesini’s Enoteca for wine. I find everyone is either inside ordering wine or outside sipping espresso. I tell Marco please send me something delicious, not available at home and lots of Vino Nobile – surprise me!
It is time to leave for Il Falconiere with chef Ricardo Baracchi and his wife Silvia who manages the hotel. It is part of the famous French Relais and Chateaux chain of locations. They are renowned for their quality and service and guaranteed by the 5 C’s; character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine. Having enjoyed other such establishments I know that we are in for something extraordinary.
We follow a single track lane lined with manicured trees which eventually leads us to a tall iron gate. We walk through into quiet gardens with their fall look – all perfectly groomed but with that half hazard old world appearance. The Chateau itself is grey stone with colourful awnings and a glass covered terrace. We go through the glass doors and downstairs into the restaurant. It has beautiful rich décor of quiet elegance with fabrics of brocade and silk in subtle colours of blue and green and yellow. After a warm greeting from la Signora we are shown our table. It is like our table at I Pagliai, a large square impeccably dressed with the finest Italian linen, silver and glassware – understated, yet eloquent in its simplicity.
What followed was officially a four course lunch. However, in reality it became so much more. We started with a pecorino crème brulee with pumpkin and black truffles, then pasta, then fowl with foie-gras and truffles, then pears with Vinsanto sabayon. Added to this were the amuse-bouche and other little delicacies in between to keep us going. The food was a work of art but I found that the wine selected for us was superlative: an Az La Pria Prosecco di Valdobbianene, followed by my favourite, a Tenuta Angelini Busillis ’04, a Mazzei Belguardo ’00 and Antinori’s Mufato della Sala. Tracey was particularly appreciative and quick to note, “someone here knows what they are doing!
In time we each get up and move reluctantly towards the door. I am again reduced to a dreamlike state. I look around to take it all in one more time. I want to remember everything and this time and such beauty.
The evening is spent with a hands-on session. Debbie and I learn the intricacies of bean soup under Gail’s watchful eye. Others are making chicken and dessert. I am relieved to be busy. It is our last night and the mood is changing. Now I feel so at home. I can’t even fathom that I will be in Paris tomorrow night.
The group lingers over dinner but I want to go outside and walk. It is a cool night and I walk across the lawn to the pool. I never did try it out. The moon is bright but no longer full. I suppose that is how I am, waning too. Fatigue takes over and I am off for my last night’s sleep at I Pagliai.
I open my eyes, but stay in my warm bed this morning – no need to rush anywhere. Most everyone is leaving early but I am leaving with Debbie on the noon train to Rome. I won’t even pack until I say good bye to everyone else.
We all meet for our final breakfast. I can see Gail, Judy, Rosemary and Linda are tired. I can well understand as they put so much into this first Italian adventure. I imagine they will be happy to have the afternoon and evening to relax before the next group arrives. I think that they might even be too exhausted to realize what an extraordinary experience they put together for us and perhaps we are too. They busy themselves with work and problems at home as well as the last details of our leaving. People are busily packing up. Most have moved on in their minds to their next destination. It is a luxury not to have to rush, but a little sad to be left behind. Slowly Leslie and Tom leave in their car, Linda, Gordon and Tracey go off to meet their trains. I wave wordlessly from the gate briefly indulging in the fantasy that I am staying and my friends will be return next season. Debbie and I decide to leave early for the train to give everyone more time alone.
Could I now answer the question I asked on the train leaving Rome only a week ago? I’m not sure I can and I am not sure I really want to either. The idea of the open question is delicious. It is incomplete. It implies returning. I think too of my lost luggage. It surely must have had an impact on my experience. There I was in Tuscany for a week without frippery or artifice – just as is. It dawns on me too that this how the people we met were: those who make their lives here off the soil and the sun and the air; those who have come to us, entering our existence with nothing but their deep love of the land and tradition and with innate generosity of spirit – just as is – and that is much more than enough.
Maureen Moffatt is a passionate foodie who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada
“ Food brings people together. What we eat, how we eat, even where we eat reveals so much about a culture, a way of life and values.”
Tuscan Food and Wine Tour
Fall 2019: September 29 – October 6 – 6 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Fall 2020: September 27 – October 4 – NOW BOOKING
View Itinerary and Tour Information 2019 (PDF)
also Il Falconiere , Cortona offer cooking classes