Saturday, August 31, 2013

Panzano Wine Festival and Art Under the Stars in Florence

The days are getting closer.  Soon (13) day's until we arrive in Rome for a restover before we head to Tuscany.
I recently discovered a lovely wine festival of all organic wines in #Panzano Italy. 20 wineries will be attending with food booths and live jazz Saturday and Sunday.  The group is very excited after I spilled the bean in an email to them. Oh well, they will still be excited just to see this Tuscan town square.
Aperitifs and Art is a new exciting event at most museums in Italy. Every Thursday evening from 6-9 enjoy cocktails and art in a later event. Most locals enjoy this time to spend with the great art #Italy has to offer.
So looking forward to our Thursday evening at the #Uffuzi  and #Academia in #Florence
Busy Saturday here in Dallas today so gonna run. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Getting There

The road to Tuscany is sometimes long.
Just the other day our guests were telling stories of how they came to be on this coming trip.
I really enjoy getting to know our travelers before we get to the destination.  It makes the trip more enjoyable.

Just 22 days and counting, the excitement is frenetic as our first timers are preparing.  In the words of the Italian language instructor, you will never re-live your first time to Tuscany but you can see it in the faces of the first timer.
I so look forward to seeing Joyce and Kelly as their eyes light up and they try to drink it all in at once. They will be absorbed by the beauty that is Tuscany.
On the train as I write this so have to go, tunnels =no signal.
ciao for now.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Closer and Closer

Early Sunday evening in Dallas playing with the puppies and loving life. It has been a wonderful birthday.
Last night went to the Granada Theater to see my friend Eric Tessmer open for Monte Montgomery who was also celebrating his birthday.

I just realized we leave for Rome in 4 weeks. Everyone is excited.  We have been inundated with calls and questions about next years spring trip.
People are curious about how the private villa works. It is very simple actually. They work just like a hotel. Every guest room had it's own bathroom.  The villa is staffed for all amenities like chefs and household staff. The private estates are very large and within walking distance of a quaint Tuscan village.
Once the callers have discovered it is similar to a hotel but with only the group staying there the more excited they become and want to bring more people with them.
Funny how that works.
Oh well. Getting late gotta run.
ciao for now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tuscan Sundays - "even the grapes taste like purple"

Woke up dreaming about Sunday mornings in the Tuscan region.
Last year at Villa Casa al Ponte I awoke around 8:00 a.m. local time to the sounds of the church bells in the village at the bottom of the hill, Figiene Valdarno. A modest village that is mostly working class has some of the friendliest Italians I have ever met.  Always willing to help no matter how bad my Italian can be, they seem to only care that we are trying to assimilate to the Tuscan way of life.

Year before last we arrived in mid-November, a bit late but I needed yet another Italian fix and the villa beside of Sting was open. Anyway, yet I digress, the biggest news in Valdarno at that time was the opening of the new COOP, the equivalent to a new Tom Thumb or Kroger opening. 
Well needless to say my friend Kim and I had a ball just mixing with the locals and hearing the excitement in the air about the opening, it was truly a red carpet affair for this little village.

Oh yeah, back to Sundays in Tuscany. The same excitement for that grocery store opening is the same excitement the Italians take toward life, either going to mass or to the store for supplies, the excitement and gusto by which they live their lives has always amazed me. I learned this early on from my own Mother , God rest her soul. She always exhibited this kind of love of life.

That line from "Under the Tuscan Sun" still reminds me of the day to day life that is savoured in the cooking, the wine and the life.

Ok, back to reality, waking up here in Dallas to yet another beautiful day that will be filled with church, friends,brunch and swimming till my heart is content.

40 some days until we depart and there are still 2 places available, let's talk if you are up for a spur of the moment adventure in the heart of Tuscany.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday In Tuscany

What to do, what to do! Saturday in Tuscany is filled with lots of activities. All the village squares are packed with locals getting special items for the Sunday dinner after church: breads and pastries from the local bakeries, cloths from the local linen shops to be used only for "special occasions" and all the homemade pastas hanging to dry..
 I love seeing all the local villagers out and about on their errands.
The later it gets in the afternoon you sit in the cafes and watch the promenade start. Sipping some wonderful Montepulciano wine in the local square it only seems natural to watch everyone get ready to start the stroll at the appropriate time. I love this parade. :-)
Well time to get back to reality, I have guests arriving soon and need to start preparing dinner.
See you in Tuscany, Ciao

Friday, July 26, 2013

Italian Language Classes Have Started

What a beautiful start to the day here in Dallas. We have added even more guests to our May/June scheduled trips in 2014. It seems the advert in Preston Hollow is getting us a lot of attention.  The website experienced a surge in visits since last Friday when the ad appeared.

Wednesday started our series of learning Italian here in Dallas. Our professor from WyZant is wonderful. It has to be his name is Bill.......
Our first class consisted of basic culture and the differences in lifestyles between Tuscany and Rome, (we have a few first timers traveling with us). When the instructor found this out he made a very profound statement, he said "you can never relive your first time to Italy, but you can certainly recapture the feeling by watching the excitement in the eyes of the first time visitor), that Bill is so wise. :-)

We have scheduled the classes every Wednesday for two hours, prior to the class starting we are participating in preparing our dinner and snacks for the class. This time we prepared anti-pasta plates and enjoyed every single morsel. Next week promises to be more challenging, I think we will start with caprese salad and try our hands at lamb chops. YUM YUM!!!

OK, gotta run, more work to do here before we leave in 47 days!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Slow Travel in Tuscany

The complete itinerary is shaping up. I polled all the guests this trip and everyone agreed it would be better to take the train to Venice from Florence. It is only a 2 hour train ride as compared to the 4 hour motor coach excursion. It will be a growing experience for all the guests, allowing them to live like a local.  Plus it gives Riponi a day off!!!! He will certainly enjoy that! Plus it gives us an extra 4 hours in the city to do all those wonderful tourist thngs: gondola ride, check, Murano Island, check, run through the square making the pigeons fly, check!

The first time I was in Venice was with Fiamma, we were having dinner at this little restautant, (note to self, re-read diary to get the name) when we suddenly realized there was a group of 15 Texans behind us what a hoot, so much fun.

After they left, we struck up a conversation with this older couple who were speaking Italian, French, German and English, well that certainly made us curious. After introductions we discovered he was the publisher of a magazine called e'space bleu, a rag that was dedicated to the wine industry. She was Swiss and had lived in NYC for a large part of her life and was now livinig St. Jean Cap Ferrat.

Anyway, after sharing a few glasses of wine the gentlemen introduced us to the owner/chef of the restaurant, what an experience of a lifetime. More on this later.
The first full day in Tuscany is going to be a short hop to Arezzo and Cortona only about 30 minutes from our beautiful villa. Our friends at To Tuscany found this beautiful villa that accommodates 20+ people with 12 bedrooms and baths. For heavens sake it is a small hotel and filled with Tuscan charm. The pool area has several separate areas to lounge as well as a huge farm house table to enjoy lite meals overlooking the pool.
The more I think of it looking at my pool, I need to get that landscaper busy creating my own oasis here in Dallas.

The first Monday we are in Tuscany we travel about 2 hours to Pisa. There is not really much in Pisa besides the tower but our farm experience awaits us in the morning along with a cooking school in the late afternoon. Arianna updated the menu as follows:
Panzanella (typical bread salad with tomatoes and cucumbers)
-Tagliatelle with zucchini flowers and zucchini sauce
-Beef in red wine sauce and cheese 
-Traditional tiramisu
We are baking the bread for the salad as well as making the Tagliatelle but only after we make the Tiramisu first (it needs time to chill).  That kitchen is going to be a mess as this is hands on, unlike some tours that only allow you to see a demonstration before you have your meal. This will be a very interesting experience because everyone on the trip is a terrific cook.

Well, I cannot divulge everything so it's time to go for the day!