Talk about starting off with a bang! We were going to Cortona! Home of “Under the Tuscan Sun” – I used to joke with my family (sorta) that I was going to pull a Diane Lane and not come back…the movie version… (very different from the books – which were fabulous in a whole ‘nother way).
So, this was an early one! We had to be ready to hop on the van with Angelo, our driver for the week, by 8:30! Hey! I thought we were on vacation here? I have to set an alarm?! All jokes aside, we gladly gathered for breakfast by 7:30-8:00. I tell you, the Tuscans are not big on breakfast. Some sweet cakes and pastries, a few hard-boiled eggs, Rusk crackers (I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them and have started buying them again!), some fruit, maybe some cold meats and cheese and coffee. Paula’s cappuccinos were wonderful.
Oh. Em. Gee! I was going to the place that probably started this dream of mine; or, if it didn’t start it, definitely fed it.
On our way to Cortona, we noticed the fields of sunflowers were pretty much done, heads drooping, petals non-existent. We were pretty bummed when hark! Someone let out a shout to look to the left. Yes! One last field of sunshiny faces looking towards the sun. We begged Angelo to stop so we could get in there.
Ventia and me – the two “Camera Girls”
Cortona is built on quite the hill and Angelo was a total sweetheart to drive us up where vans are not supposed to go so we could all jump out as quick as can be to go meet up with Antonietta, our chef teacher for the day. First order of business was to go shopping for the necessities – some pork tenderloin (cinque filette di maiale, per favore), tomatoes, canned barlotti beans, eggs, rosemary, etc.
Fruits & Veggies
We made our way back to Netta’s Kitchen, donned our aprons for the first time and set about making tagliatelle. Once we had all held up our creations, it was on to stuffing the pork tenderloins with garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. These would be prepared in a pear and Chianti sauce and served with lemon rosemary potatoes, all chopped and prepared by us. We also chopped tomatoes and red onions, splash of balsamic vinegar, glug of olive oil, salt & pepper and voilà! The makings of a tomato bruschetta topping. Did the same with the beans for a second topping. Oh! And we made our own individual crostadas, filled with jam and decorated as we saw fit. I call them rustic pies. We all called them delicious!
Once everything we cooked, we settled down to eat our creations.
Pasta in the making
Me with Antonietta
Bruschetta two ways
With brown butter & sage
Michele & the pork
After all that work we were set free to roam the streets of Cortona. What was to become a standard (unbeknownst to me until this trip) was walking through cobble-stoned streets, stepping into doorways to avoid being run over by their cute little cars – which I am sure would still hurt if rolled over my foot!
Piazza della Repubblica Cortona
Alleys that go up up up
Cars that barely fit
We then went to visit “Le Celle”, the last place St. Francis of Assisi lived and did his work. His room was beyond spare and the gardens were just lovely.
We also visited the Santuario di Santa Margherita where the amazingly preserved Saint’s body lies in one piece (a miracle, considering other churches have bits and pieces of various saints for all to see!)
Santuario di Santa Magherita
Il vero volto (the true face)
Back to La Costa for a snooze or rest and then off for dinner at La Botta Piena, almost across the street from home. MaryEllen was finally well enough to join us – and a good thing too! She is a hoot and a half!
Frank and MaryEllen
There we were treated to a fabulous dinner by hosts Elena and Simone. A dinner comprised of six courses! Olive and ricotta mousse, onion flan (Oh, I have begged Linda to get the recipe from Elena – and I shall continue to harass her until I get it!) and veal carpaccio, chickpea soup with spelt and rosemary croutons, spaghetti all’amatriciana, chicken rolls stuffed with sausage and olives and pork with tuna sauce and finally a grape mascarpone charlotte. Lawsy! A total of four different wines were also served to go with each course.
Olive & ricotta mousse
Chickpea soup with spelt & rosemary croutons
Onion flan & veal carpaccio
Chicken rolled with sausage & olives and pork with tuna sauce
Grape mascarpone charlotte
If this was a sign of the rest of the trip, we were going to have to roll me out of there!