What’s better than learning to cook authentic Tuscan dishes right at the source? Learning from two expert cooks in their family kitchen with authentic Tuscan ingredients!
Last September I had the privilege of experiencing a hands on cooking class from Paola & Simonetta, sisters and owners of Toscana Mia Italian Tuscan Cooking School.
I was invited to participate with several other visitors to this beautiful villa tucked in the foothills of Gaiole In Chianti, Siena, Italy.
Driving up the long, winding driveway to the traditional villa was an experience in itself. The gorgeous countryside is something I’ll never tire of seeing.
As I pulled up, two women waited our arrival. The first to introduce herself was the lovely and lively, Paola.
I immediately loved her warm welcome. She gave us a small tour of the villa and then, as all Italians do, offered us espresso.
Once all of our party had arrived, Paola went through the menu and explained about the organic, local ingredients that we would be using to create the meal we would later enjoy.
We moved into the huge Tuscan style kitchen and before we started the chopping, slicing, mixing and stirring we were offered wine from carafes laid out for us.
Now this is MY kind of cooking! Happy as a lark, I was ready to start cooking!
After donning on keepsake aprons, and listened as both Paola and Simonetta explained where the ingredients came from, why they are used in the Tuscan dishes we were making and how the dishes originated.
I was surprised how simple the recipes were. No fusion herbs, difficult mixtures or processed foods where anywhere in sight.
We all got our hands dirty mixing and forming handmade pasta, chopping fresh vegetables, and rubbing fragrant garlic on crusty homemade bread.
Once the sauces were made, pasta was cooked, dessert was baked, we carried our production out to a beautifully set long banquet table.
We all sat and enjoyed bowls pasta, gorgeous organic olive oil, delicious and perfectly cooked meats, bread, wine, water I couldn’t help but wonder how many meals were shared in this 14th Century home.
Who were the original builders? What family did they raise here? What meals did they cook?
I’m connected to Tuscany in a way that I don’t understand myself. It’s a longing in my soul when I’m not there and a fulfillment when I am.
I’m not sure if it’s the knowledge that there are thousands of years of tradition and that, for the most part, Tuscans try to keep as close as possible to them.
But, sitting there amongst people from every corner of the world and our hosts who made this meal possible, I realized how lucky I am to have experienced this cooking event.
What makes this particular cooking experience special is the palpable passion the two sisters have for the service they offer tourists.
For them, it’s a labor of love that comes through in their food. They offer the perfect mix of traditional food, warm and friendly companionship in their own home, and lots of love.
Dessert was served and we all mingled for a while over espresso, Limoncello, and lots of laughter.
As the day ended and the others left one by one, I lingered, not wanting the day to be over.
It was hard to pull myself away and I suspected that Paola and Simonetta knew this as they continued to tell me stories of how they started the school in 1990.
We talked a bit more and then it was time for me to leave. After biding them farewell and being invited back any time, I headed back to my villa; belly full, perpetual smile on my face and new friendships forged.
That’s the beauty of Tuscany and why I love it so much. Friendship and family are often gained over delicious food, wonderful wine, laughter and generosity.
You’ll get it nowhere quite like Toscana Mia Cooking School. You not only learn how to cook traditional meals but you come away with friend!
I can’t recommend this experience enough if you are in the Siena area. For more information here are the details. And don’t forget to tell them that Marie from Seriously Travel sent you!
Phone: + 39 334 2476098