Since Under the Tuscan Sun was released in 2003, my Aunt has wanted to rent a house in Tuscany. She wanted the whole family to come along so that we could reconvene as a family, eat food, drink some amazing local wine and experience everything that Tuscany had to offer. And as the loving niece that I try to be, who was I to deny her that? So, last June, my aunt, my cousin, my sister, her fiancee, my husband and I made the trek to Cortona for a week of soaking up the Tuscan sun. It was an incredible vacation and I am so happy she had this dream!
Hands down, the best thing we did while we were there was take a Tuscan cooking class. I’d looked into quite a few classes before we went, and it seemed we had a few options for an inclusive day. An Italian woman that spoke no English, an American woman teaching Italian cooking and an Italian woman with fantastic English. As we don’t speak Italian, the first was out. And as it seems ridiculous to go all the way to Italy to learn about Italian cooking from an American, that was out. And so we booked Alessandra, which was the best decision of all.
Alessandra is loud. She is funny. She is direct. She is generous. She is so warm, so kind and so wonderful! We met Alessandra at a coffee shop in town to go over the menu, drink some coffee and run through what the day would be like. Then we followed her through town to do the shopping… grocery store, butcher, produce store.
And then we gathered in her home, where we drank wine, cooked amazing food and learned so much about Italy! She told us about living in Italy, about the healthcare system, about bidets… no question was off limits and I learned a lot more than simply the proper way to cook pasta. I think one of the best parts for me was really spending time with an Italian family, in an Italian home. Those things that you don’t really get a feel for when you’re staying in a hotel, or just passing through a town. How they live the everyday life… how it was different from my everyday, and how it was so similar. We ate together and more than overstayed our welcome. It was all around the most amazing experience!
If you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, no matter the country, do it! I think food says so much about a culture and it’s one of the most amazing ways to really learn about the place that you’re discovering. Take it to the next level and learn to make it for yourself. My husband and I make Alessandra’s dishes regularly back in the States and we’re constantly referencing the recipe book she gave us. Hands down, it’s one of the best souvenirs we brought back from Italy!