Category Archives: Florence

Florence, Italy

Sightseeing and shopping day

We today was ‘David’s day and what an interesting day it was. We had booked tickets to see David in the morning. Our booking was 8:30am and we were asked to collect our tickets at 8:15am.

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of the Academy of Florence”, is an art museum in Florence, Italy. It is the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. It also has other sculptures by Michelangelo and a collection of Renaissance paintings.

There was a strike on so we were asked to come back at 9:50 to collect our tickets. So off we went for breakfast. Then after that we headed back to the Galleria dell’Accademia and collected our tickets, only to discover that all the people who had booked after us and at the same time and some from the next block of people, were all crowded into the street outsie the gallery. We had to then join the queue which was about 70metres long, down the street and around the corner. Looked bad but we actually moved in very quickly.

Next we spent some time with David and some of the other pieces in the gallery.

Boy and his dog.

Our next a reacquaintance for me with the Duomo. And a few Kms on cobblestones and mingling with the crowds some more.

We walked through Piazza Signorina, and saw a carousel. The sun was shining and we walked past some amazing shops, Like Dolce &Gabbana, Zara, Apple. We had lunch in the piazza. One Minestone, and Spaghetti with bolgnaise sauce.

After lunch we finally found our way to the Ponte Vecchio. It was crawling with tourists and it was the end of a lot of walking on rough surfaces. Google maps was not very reliable that day either and we covered a lot more ground than we had hoped to.

It was not a long walkabout (3kms) in the scheme of things but it was a warm day and it was time to go home for a rest, so along came a taxi and we were pleased to take advantage.

Leather shops everywhere
The laundromat man – a superhero with tokens
Sabrina’s bike – she gave us great haircuts
 Sabrina for Hair РVia Faenza, 59, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Men in the street
Ponte Vecchio
River Arno
Doors of character

The next stop is Cortona south east of Florence, where our next adventure will involve driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Cooking School Day

Thursday 10th October, 2019

We arrived on Wednesday, 9th October and found our way through security between flights in London within the hour to catch our next flight to Florence. It’s been 40 years !!!!! since I was here last, and I still have fond memories of my time here, with my cousin Jill. There are things that are just the same, and a lot of modern inclusions just to make life a little easier.

There is wifi but uploading images takes a long time so may have to wait until the service is more reliable.

On our arrival, we decided to take the easy road, and catch a taxi to our hotel. It was fun and on instruction I asked the price before we left – 25 Euros – 22 plus 3 for the bags.

The hotel where we are staying is Hotel Palazzo Vecchio and it is good. Bed is great, breakfast is adequate and the view is marvellous.

We have a balcony and it is quiet on the 3rd floor. We are about 300 metres from the train station and about a block from good food and wine.

Florence is busy but feels efficient – and as our new friend says “Florence is full of tourists”.

We have been through the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station twice yesterday on our way to our meeting point for our Cooking Class in the Tuscan countryside, and on our way back to the hotel.

Yes, lots of people and most of them standing in the middle of the concourse gazing up at the boards to locate their platforms. We will do the same on Sunday. Now that will be an adventure – stay tuned.

Meeting our Chef

We arrived at our meeting point having crossed the road twice to find it. We didn’t know how we were going to find our people. But as soon as we crossed back a very confident woman stepped towards us and asked. “Are you here for the cooking class?” “Yes.” We said. “Which one?” she asked “I don’t know,” says I. “Well you have to know because there are many companies who run cooking classes.”

Well, I suddenly started burrowing into my bag for the paperwork, and then looked on my phone for the receipt. Found the right name and our new contact was happy. She then contacted our driver who pulled up nearby like some bad kidnap movie.. It did cross my mind.

Cooking Class in Tuscany Farmhouse

Yesterday we had the most marvellous day in the hills of Tuscany, about 40 mins outside the city, where old twisted and pruned olive trees stand at the side of the roads, and now empty, grapevines stretch towards the sun in astoundingly straight lines.

We were driven (thankfully) through hillside villages and past farm machinery businesses, past properties owned by famous families, like Medici, and Gucci, who are said to be the heart of the Tuscany region.

What a very cute stove. I want one.
Tuscany farmhouse on our way.

Our mission was a cooking class at “The factory” Fattaria Palaia in the hills of Tuscany.

Once we arrived at Fattaria Palaia we met the other staff who would be assisting with some of the prep work in the kitchen downstairs. We would be working upstairs with the Chef – Antonella. She was/is an amazing woman who was a terrific teacher and genuine person. She liked the wine we were served too and made sure our glasses were not empty for long.

Following is the process we went through – for your information. We had never made Tiramisu so have included that in detail. Cheers!

Cook the meat first.

We started with a beautiful pork loin to be cooked for about 2 hours so it needed to be in the pot soon. We cut up carrots, onions and celery to go in the pot with a fair pour of Extra Virgin Olive oil to cook. Once the veggies are caramelized in goes the pork to be seared on both sides and then…. 1.5 bottles of Chianti from the vineyard on the property, and a bay leaf, rosemary, and sage. Before the pork went into the pot it was rubbed in a goodly amount of salt stabbed several times to create holes for garlic cloves, cloves and peppercorns.

Tiramisu

Next started with Tiramisu because we had to make some extra ones for lunch guests who’re coming later. We separated egg whites and yolks and sugar was added (about 10 dessert spoons to about 8 eggs) and it was beaten until it became a lovely pale yellow, the whites were beaten to stiff peaks and mascarpone was added once they were combined and then beaten some more. A tin was then edged with a crunchie sugar covered biscuit called Savoiardi.

Biscuits for Tiramisu

On a few we added some of the mixture to get them to stick to the sides and then dipped the next layer very quickly into coffee and out again to line the base of the tin. “No drips!”

Each layer had the cheese and egg mix spread over it and then more biscuits after dipping, then more mix. The final finishing touch was sprinkled chocolate.

Finished.

Pasta

Next we prepared the pasta.

One egg to 100gms flour per person. Mix, knead, rest.

Resting pasta dough – very exciting.
Our finished product – tagliatelle – tomato sauce to be added after cooking.

We used a circular cutter to practise creating Tortellini and cut a square to make Ravioli, and pasta sheets. Cant wait to get home to practise.

Once we had drunk more wine and cleaned up, we went to the dining area and sampled our wares. The cook from the main kitchen grilled some zucchini for us to accompany our pasta and it was delicious.

Later Roberto – the owner – came in to see if we preferred Prosecco or sparkling Ros√©. We chose the latter – like we hadn’t had enough already, phew! It was very nice – even unchilled.

We gave some aprons to the participants in our day – the two kitchen ladies and our driver and of course our champion Antonella.

Antonella told us one of the women who was given an apron said she didn’t like wearing them but this was her favourite colour so she was very pleased to wear it proudly.

Kitchen genie.
Antonella the magnificent!

A fantastic day was had by all and a lifelong friend made. We thank you Antonella for your fun, laughter and knowledge – you were magnificent and bellissima.