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2012: La Cucina Toscana and Tuscan Extra-virgin

You know how it is: there’s someone really special in your life, someone you want to make happy with just the right gift. And if you’re reading this blog, that someone is probably a food lover—cook, chef, pursuer of great aromas and flavors—and probably also an Italophile  just like me. (But isn’t everyone at heart an Italophile?)

Well, here’s a perfect present, for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Hogmanay for that matter: Give him or her, better yet give both of you, five days and six nights in the tranquil beauty and quiet elegance of Tuscany’s unique olive oil resort, Villa Campestri, high in the hills of the Mugello just north of Florence. “The cradle of the Renaissance” is what Italians call the Mugello and it’s easy to see why artistic giants like Giotto and Fra Angelico found their métiers here in the unfolding beauty of this lovely valley.

Spring artichokes “cimaroli”

At Villa Campestri I’m making great plans for food-loving Italophiles in the year to come, starting with a spectacular pre-Easter introduction to all of Tuscany’s springtime traditions, including of course the Easter/Passover lamb, fragrant with rosemary and garlic, bathed in white wine and olive oil, and served with tender artichokes and early fava beans. I’ll be joined by Villa Campestri’s chef Jerry Zanieri in a program we call “In Cucina Parliamo Toscano”—Speaking Tuscan in the Kitchen. Together, Jerry and I will introduce you to the fresh flavors of a Tuscan spring, foraging wild greens for a risotto and turning early wild asparagus into a frittata made with uova benedetta, Easter-blessed eggs. We’ll show you how to make our salt-free bread and Tuscan-style pizza and focaccia, as well as lovely light gnocchi and tortelli, the sumptuous potato-stuffed ravioli for which the Mugello is famed. We’ll taste local wines and cheeses, prosciutti and salsicce, and we’ll visit markets and restaurants in neighboring towns as we explore why la cucina toscana is hailed as one of Italy’s greatest.


Mugello’s favorite pasta: tortelli

It all takes place from March 23rd till the 30th and we have just a dozen places available so don’t wait—sign up on the Villa Campestri website,

After the great success of our very first olive oil seminar, AmorOlio, in 2011, we’ve decided to make this a doppione, a double hit, with a first week, from October 20th to the 26th for those who are just beginning to find their way with extra-virgin olive oil, and a second, November 2nd to the 9th, for people who feel a bit more sure of themselves but still recognize that there is so very much to be learned about this essential ingredient on our tables and in our kitchens. Food lovers of all kinds will want to attend the first week, while professional chefs and food writers may find the second week more to their liking.

Tasting under Chef Jerry's watchful eye

Tasting under Chef Jerry’s watchful eye

Whichever you choose, I can guarantee you, no matter how much of an expert you are, you will discover lots that is new and revealing as we make our way through a week of guided tastings (the good, the bad and the ugly in extra-virgins), experiments in the kitchen, visits to other producers and restaurants, and above all the thrilling experience of harvesting and making our own super-premium extra-virgin olive oil right here at Villa Campestri’s own frantoio.

Again, full details of all these programs are available on the Villa Campestri website:

Price for each program is expected to be around 2,500 ($3,400 at today’s exchange rate), six nights, five days, all meals and all transportation within the program. Reduced prices are available for non-participating partners.

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  • Reply Suzanne Heller December 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Nancy, this all sounds great. I’m tempted to join you for Easter/Passover .

  • Reply nancyharmonjenkins December 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Do come, Suzanne! It will be so much fun–and great to have a fine cook like yourself along for the ride.

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