Back-Roads Touring – Puccini, Porcini and Prosciutto: Part 5

Cookery class making our moats Tuscan cuisine: wine tasting tours and cookery classes
13 pairs of hands plunged into bowls of flour, warm water and yeast.  Within minutes the more experienced cooks in our group were enjoying the therapeutic sensation of kneading warm, neat balls of dough whilst the rest were bemusedly studying hands coated in a sticky beige substance that adhered to every crevice.  There was much good-natured laughter, and fortunately Chef was on hand to rescue even the gloopiest mixture, transforming it into something that would eventually resemble the tasty Italian bread: focaccia.

Master Chef Federico adds juniper berries to the smoker This was part one of our cookery lesson with Master Chef, Federico, at the Villa La Palagina, deep in the Tuscan countryside and another magical moment on our 9 day Tuscan Treats and the Cinque Terre Tour with Back-Roads Touring. Part two required us to make a moat of flour, drop eggs into the centre and, after breaking the yolks, swirl the liquid with our fingers whilst drawing in flour from the walls of our moat.  It all sounded so simple yet several walls collapsed allowing rivers of egg to escape and invade neighbouring moats.  Chef darted around with his scraper and eventually everyone was rolling out their ball of pasta before cutting it into tagliatelle of various thicknesses and lengths. We would later enjoy the surprisingly tasty fruits of our efforts at lunch on the terrace overlooking vineyards and olive groves, accompanied by the hotel’s own smoked prosciutto and plenty of ruby red Chianti.  

Carlo caressing his wine Traditional Tuscan fare is hearty, peasant food and those of us of a certain age will remember buying raffia-covered bottles of rough Chianti wine to accompany a romantic night in, thereafter re-used as lamp shades or candle stick holders.  Nowadays the emphasis is on quality and purity of produce and after some mediocre meals and surly service experienced in Florence, it was a joy to meet enthusiastic organic farmers and wine producers as we ventured deeper into the heart of Tuscany.

Throughout the region, farms are turning to Agriturismo as a means of supplementing their income: converting outhouses into accommodation; running restaurants and cookery classes using produce from the farm to prepare culinary delights such as antipasti, breads, ravioli, risotto, pasta, gnocchi, soups, sauces, tarts and tiramisu.  

The team at Sant’Agnese Farm Our first wine tasting tour was led by Carlo at Sant’Agnese farm where he proudly showed us around his balsamic vinegar, olive oil and wine producing areas before seating us in their restaurant to share samples of the wines, honey, olive oil and truffle oil, along with a plates of bruschetta, clove of garlic, and chick peas, also produced on the farm.  This gastronomic experience concluded with a taste of their delicious fruity balsamic vinegar poured over vanilla ice cream.  Carlo, his wife, and his brother Sandro are clearly passionate about their family business and are extremely modest about their charitable works:  I discovered that every year they use profits from their more expensive wines to hire vans and take food supplies, in person, to a village in Kenya.  Whilst I couldn’t quite run to a bottle of their 170 euro Magnificat, produced by the farm for the Pope until the 17th century, I happily purchased a bottle of their fruity white, wonderfully-named “Easy to fall in love”.

Roses in the vineyards I noted they also run cookery classes and cannot imagine being taught by a more delightful family.   

Our second formal wine tasting experience was on our final day and included lunch at the Castello di Verrazzano, set high on a hillside overlooking Chianti countryside.  We were greeted by Jillian, a charming escapee from Essex who had visited Tuscany in the 1970s and stayed.  We enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Castle’s 1,000 year old cellars, learning about wine production, the strict quality controls, and why we often see a rose bush growing at the start of each row of vines (they are the first to catch and exhibit signs of a disease that affects vines, alerting vintners to the need to take immediate action.) 

Wine samples lined up at Castello di Verrazzanon Over a lunch of roasted vegetables, breads and cold cuts including tasty pork cheeks and pecorino cheese, we were tutored in the art of wine tasting: lift the glass, look, smell, swirl, smell again and enjoy!  Definitely no spitting out.  After several tastings of red, a generous portion of dessert wine was served with instructions to dunk our biscotti (sweet almond biscuits) and leave to soak before eating.  Grappa – a somewhat acquired tasted – accompanied coffee.  This was a lovely way to finish our tour, considerably enhanced by Sergio our driver who, unable to join us in the wine tastings, took to the piano and kept us entertained with his repertoire of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra classics.

I look forward to revisiting this beautiful, passionate part of Europe.  Meanwhile, the hills around my South Yorkshire home are alive to the sound of Bocelli and Pavarotti, and filled with the aroma of freshly-baked, rosemary-topped focaccia.

Carole and John enjoyed these experiences during an 8 night/9 day tour “Tuscan Treats and the Cinque Terre” through Back-Road Touring.

•  Read Puccini, Porcini and Prosciutto – Part 1
•  Read Puccini, Porcini and Prosciutto – Part 2
•  Read Puccini, Porcini and Prosciutto – Part 3
•  Read Puccini, Porcini and Prosciutto – Part 4

231 people found this helpful

Share Article:


Social media manager, freelance writer, photographer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.