Amazing week! My wife and I had absolutely the BEST week at Organic Tuscany! After postponing for 2 years due to Covid, we went the end of May 2022 (great weather at that time of year). We arrived a day early, spending the evening in Florence to help get over the jet lag. The next day we took the train to Certaldo,... read moreMy wife and I had absolutely the BEST week at Organic Tuscany! After postponing for 2 years due to Covid, we went the end of May 2022 (great weather at that time of year). We arrived a day early, spending the evening in Florence to help get over the jet lag. The next day we took the train to Certaldo, where our rented (automatic, as I don't drive a stick shift) car was waiting for us. We had excellent instructions to drive to the Villa, and were put into a beautiful room with an AMAZING view of the pool and the rolling Tuscan hills (in the distance we could see San Gimignano!).
There is too much to describe, so I will just go over the highlights. Riccardo and Shilpa were excellent hosts, and helped with the cooking. We were a group of six lovely people, and the main cook Saranella was an excellent teacher. There was another woman who didn't speak english but aptly demonstrated what we had to do. There were 4 intense cooking sessions, and in each we learned how to make an appetizer, first and second course with sides, and dessert. If you already cook, there are good tips and recipes (as a dessert guy, I especially enjoyed the Tiramisu and Cantuccini), and even if you don't cook as much, it was a lot of fun! They even made allowances for my wife who doesn't eat pork, so that she would still be able to participate in cooking without touching the two pork things we prepared (she made the same dishes, just without adding the sausage). Of course we ate the delicious meals we prepared (and we already bought a Gnocchi board and potato masher, so we can make these at home!).
But the week wasn't all about cooking. It was also about learning about the land, the people, and the culture. We went to a gorgeous winery in the hills near Certaldo, and learned about making wine from Cesare, the son of the owner. We sampled some of his products, had a wonderful lunch, and even got to tour his family villa, which is a treasure and looks like a museum.
On another day, also had a nice guided tour of an olive oil production grove, and additionally a private wine and olive oil tasting back at the Organic Tuscany villa by Christina, who had previously taken us to the olive grove. While on one day the rest of the group took a tour of a local ceramics studio, my wife and I took the opportunity to rest for the afternoon at the villa (every day was so busy!). During the time we had to ourselves, I took a nice walk into the countryside on my own, while my wife hung out at the pool and caught some rays (the weather was perfect, and fyi there is air conditioning in the rooms when it gets too hot).
Trips included a guided tour of Certaldo and Siena, and a trip on our own to San Gimignano (easy driving instructions). Instead of taking the included guided tour of Florence on the last day (we had already been there on a past trip), my wife and I drove to Volterra, yet another gorgeous medieval city located only an hour away and surrounded by the amazing Tuscan hills. Surprisingly, driving was pretty easy in Italy, all on local roads with beautiful views at every turn.
On our last night at the Villa, Saranella prepared a special meal for us. After dinner, as we did all week, we hung out around the table drinking wine and enjoying the conversation and evening breeze. As a special treat, on the last night we were treated to a special concert of Italian folk music from a local guitarist and his son. We left the next day for Rome, and stayed over so we could get our flight home without rushing to catch our flight.
In addition to all the meals we prepared (which may vary from group to group) there is a link they give for other recipes that they teach, so you can make so much more once you get home!
One thing about Covid. It wasn't an issue anywhere we went. You need to wear a good mask on the buses and trains. We ate outside at every restaurant, and I put on my mask when I went inside a store/church.
To summarize, this was one of the best trips we have ever taken! Thank you Riccardo and Shilpa for helping to make this such a memorable trip! read less