The 12 things I learnt in Tuscany (and want to learn again)

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MGG and I have just been in Tuscany for just over a week, and whilst there are many things that I’ll write about in more detail, I thought you might like a taster of 12 things we learnt (and would happily learn again, given most of them are food and drink related). Here goes:

 

Cappucinos only come in one size in Italy

  1. Cappucinos only come in one size: perfectly sized. No buckets here. And don’t order it after about 11am. Yes, it really is not the thing.

 

Italian pastries are delicious

2. Italian pastries are delicious. From freshly filled cannoli to mini sfogliatella, we loved them. We couldn’t pronounce some of them properly, but we got there.

 

The way to start every good Italian meal

 

3. Antipasto was our favourite way to start a meal. Meats, cheeses drizzled with honey and a selection of bruschetta were almost a meal in themselves, and truly delicious way to start a good evening.

 

Our first cooking lesson at Tasty Tuscany

4. Learning to cook food from a variety of Italian regions at Tasty Tuscany was an excellent way to spend 6 nights of anyone’s holiday. So many wonderful dishes and techniques, definitely highly recommended by us.

 

There's more to Italian wine than Chianti

 

5. There’s more to Italian wine than Chianti. The one on the left was my favourite, but as it’s about £30 a bottle here then I’ll be saving it for great days.

 

You should always follow the queue

6. Sometimes, it’s worth following the queue. This is Pizza Da Felice in Lucca. Always queues out the door, but darn tasty pizza by the slice.

 

Because pizza isn't always round

7. We discovered pizza isn’t always round, harking back to its starting point and buying what you could afford by the slice.

 

Salad can be the most colourful thing on the menu

8. Salad can be the most colourful thing on the menu. And regularly was, with a whole load of different flavours. This one was carrot, beetroot and apple.

 

Coffee art taken up a notch

9. The Italians like their coffee art colourful and full on. Not just swirls in the milk for them. Or maybe just this one place in Certaldo.

 

Florence Central Market Food Court

 

10. Florence Central Food Market was probably our favourite sight in the city. Let’s face it, it was 30° outside, and crowded. And the food was better in their food court than most other places around. We had 3 meals here.

 

A breakfast table with a difference

11. Our favourite hotel of the trip had the most incredible breakfast spread. Given this was just one of the tables, and there are only five (wonderful) rooms, then Relais San Lorenzo in Lucca gets a huge thumbs up from us.

 

A Spritz and a snack, perfect

 

12. The Spritz is my favourite apertif. Keeping this one going, Aperol on its way to the house shortly (Ocado have a third off currently).

So, lots of great stuff to follow. If you’re tempted, there’s space at Tasty Tuscany in August.

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Bringing Venice closer to home

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I’ve been sent a beautiful book to review, called Cicchetti, which are the Venetian version of tapas. And it certainly has plenty of recipes that I’d love to get making, or eating. I mean, cocoa dusted baby onions? There is no other recipe in any of my books for that!

 

Cicchetti

 

There are just so many beautiful things to make, especially if using great seasonal ingredients. Broad bean tartines would definitely be on my list at this time of year. In fact the whole section on veg is gorgeous, including aubergine patties and radicchio and Gorgonzola bake. And then there’s the all important aperitifs, everything from the Bellini to Vov.

If you don’t want to cook it yourself, then you have to get yourself to Polpo, definitely my favourite place to have the Venetian experience in the UK. I love it here, and it’s a great place for every kind of lunch. Except if you want a nice quiet one, as it’s all about hustle and bustle, and I love it.

There is no lovely small bar downstairs, I would never ever use it, it’s not a great place to retreat from the madness of Oxford and Regent Street and the drinks are awful. Don’t go there. Please. There’s no room. And there are certainly no decent cocktails. So give it a miss…please.

If you do get to Venice, then I’m reliably informed by the two couples I’ve recommended it to, that a dinner at La Zucca is an amazing experience. I have a feeling that originally this recommendation came from Edd Kimber’s parents, and he’s never eaten there either, so it feels like we have both missed out! BFF certainly describes it as amazing food and met really interesting people there too. Not a bar, and not really about cicchetti but definitely about great seasonal vegetable dishes. The meat eaters needn’t feel worried though, everyone is catered for

Personally, I’m going to grab a bottle of Aperol, a bottle or two of prosecco and make a few cocktails, with a few plates of cicchetti to hand around whilst the sun shines. I can imagine that the air is possibly fresher here in the heat than Venice might be in this kind of heat!

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