If you are on a holiday in Florence, Siena or Lucca, you would better consider Walks Inside Italy’s “more than a cooking class in a farm“, as you can read in the paragraphs below.
All over the world this region is celebrated for its great wines, the rolling hills of its countryside, the unforgettable landscapes dotted with cypress trees, the splendor of Florence, the amazing Medieval towns of Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca…. the way Tuscan painters depicted the expansive scenery of the region in the Renaissance, the lifestyle of both Lords and peasants, have been influential to contemporary local administrators engaged in the preservation of the raw beauty and the gentle elegance of the natural landscape.
The Val d’Orcia is exemplary in all respects, reflecting the highest standards of environmental sustainability, tourist accessibility, aesthetical pleasantness and magic atmospheres, which make this place worth a cooking class in a Tuscan farm.
Val d’Orcia is part of the province of Siena, and consists of a wide hilly area surrounded by holm oak and beech woods, roughly 45.720 acres large, managed by the five Communes of Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani, and San Quirico d’Orcia. The name derives form the Orcia creek that runs across the valleys for 35 miles before flowing into the second largest river in Tuscany, the Ombrone.
Due to the uniqueness and the ageless charme of the place, it was ranked by the Italian Government
as a “Natural protected area of local interest” in 1999 and declared a Unesco World Heritage in 2004.
Our itinerary is set in this unspoiled area, which hosts a farmhouse on a hilltop mid-way between Siena and Rome, run by a family that bucked the trend many years ago.
At that time most of the local farmers were decreasing the amount of home produced goodsin order to reduce maintenance and labor costs, while the current owners of the estate settled down here 28 years ago with the purpose of creating a self sufficient farm, support sustainable agriculture, experience life in a natural environment, and provide a laid-back lifestyle to their children.
It was not easy at all but when they achieved the goal, the farm became a social and economic model for the whole valley.
We drive from Siena or Florence, it is not a long way, and begin with a tour throughout the whole estate, and you will see with our eyes what this supply chains is about. Flocks of 200 sheeps, 70 goats of Verzasca, Saanen and Camosciata breed, produce enough milk for 25 different types of raw milk cheese in the dairy factory of the owner.
According to the seasons the nearby kitchen garden is plenty of colorful and crispy vegetables, surrounded by saffron plants and 5000 olive trees for an excellent homemade extra virgin olive oil.
Further ahead are fields of organic durum wheat, spelt and rye regularly grown for the production of diverse flours, and types of Pasta manufactured in the Abruzzo Region.
Opposite to the main building, down a steep slope it’s fun to see the little pigs rooting and running around under the watchful eye of their mothers, you can count 25 of them!
A group of donkeys is grazing quietly in the paddock, away from the nervous ram in the next enclosure, staring at the hens and the chickens running along the fence.
In season wide stretches of vineyards enliven the landscape with bright green color, not too far from the manor house, which consists of a restaurant on the ground level and a large kitchen where your private cooking class is held.
Sandra, the owner’s wife, helps you prepare the mosttypical dishes of the season with the home grown ingredients, wine included! Just to mention a few, Rye saladflavored with the farm’s vegetables, Pici -hand rolled pasta- with “briciole” sauce based on roasted chopped bread tossed in olive oil and garlic, or with fresh Cerry tomatoes, Basil and Garlic.
The poultry, porks, and sheeps raised on the farm provide excellent ingredients for the production of traditional cold cuts, like Tuscan salami, finocchiona, cured Prosciutto, Lard dressed with aromatic herbs….. your cooking class continues with a wide range of prime cuts for baked meat dishes, like Chicken cacciatore style with red peppers, Florentine style Arista. If you are not crazy for meats, the vegetale garden provides excellent ingredients for savory tarts, delicious quiches, and Tuscan bean based dishes.
Today desserts are also based on vegetables sometimes, like the Pumpkin cake garnished with Custard,the raw milk Pudding with salted Caramel sauce, aside from the Apple Tart with Almond cookies from the apple trees of the orchard. You can also apply for the Tiramisu, although we strongly recommend you to stick to the local tradition!
In the end lunch or dinner, if the cooking class takes place in the afternoon, is served in the charming restaurant of the farm a few steps away form the kitchen, for a relaxing meal in a fascinated ambience. It will be not just a cooking class in a farm for sure!