If you do one thing while in Florence, it had better be a day-long trip to the Chianti countryside with The Accidental Tourist! I don't want to gush too much, but I must say my day with them was the best day I had during my two-week solo journey to Italy (Venice, Florence/Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Milan). Our guides, Steve and his son Allesandro (sp?), picked our group up in a square south of the Arno on a rainy and chilly morning. We all drove to a beautiful estate and toured the winery and olive oil making production. Despite the gloomy, cold weather, the tour was really interesting and Steve did a great job of explaining the whole winemaking and olive oil process. (As an interesting aside, Steve is an ex-pat from North Carolina but his 20-something son was born in Florence. They are both musicians and really lovely people!) The wine tasting was lovely and very fun. Of course I bought both wine and olive oil to bring back to Chicago.
When it came time for the cooking lesson, our group split and Steve was my instructor. We drove to a farmhouse in the countryside and made homemade ravioli. He was terrific and very patient with us.
Lunch was prepared by Christiana, a lovely Tuscan woman who owned the farmhouse. Her house was warm and inviting - as was Christiana! She made a delicious feast which started off with stuffed tomatoes, pizza, and a potato frittata. She then cooked our spinach and cheese ravioli in a simple, but lovely, butter and sage sauce. She also made tagliatelle pasta with a grape tomato sauce. Our feast finished with the most wonderful tiramisu - although I was totally stuffed, I couldn't help but finish my entire portion. Steve ended our terrific meal and wonderful day with a song. What generous gift to our group and touching memory for the day.
I cannot say enough good things about my day with The Accidental Tourist. It made me fall in love with Italy and although I just got back home last night, I'm already trying to figure out how to get back to Florence and the Chianti countryside.