There are so many reasons to fall in love with Italians. The way Italians communicate is high on the list. Sure, the language itself is expressive, melodious and utterly seductive. But Italians communicate with more than just words. Dramatic hand gestures (
gesti italiani) that resemble whimsical sign language punctuate most conversations. You'd be hard pressed to find an Italian who can speak comfortably with hands in pockets.
One of Rhonda and Coleen's favorite hand gestures is
Squisito! (delicious) or
Buono! (good). Your index finger moves with a rotating motion of your hand, placed on your cheek to indicate an appreciation of the food just eaten.
This gesture will come in very handy during the many delicious meals you'll enjoy during your week with Tuscan Women Cook.
A GIFT TO MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Carolyn Tonkin often dreamt of travelling to a far off land on a cooking tour. She lives in Australia on a farm in a very small, rural town and had never travelled to Europe. What would such a trip be like? Who would she travel with?
Her wonderful husband made her dream come true last Christmas when he presented her and her mother with a trip to Italy with Tuscan Women Cook. It was a precious opportunity to spend time with her 80-year old mother. This time together, all alone, away from home on this grand adventure was truly a trip of a lifetime and a dream come true for Carolyn and her mom.
Together they travelled to Italy in early June, when the sun shone gently across the Tuscan mountainside. Everything seemed new and different to Carolyn. "It was everything I imagined and more," said Carolyn. "It was like living inside a painting. Everywhere you looked was an amazing view." She really loved meeting and cooking with the local people. "It really is the best way to learn about a place, through the kindness and open-hearted spirit of the nonne. My mom and I loved cooking in their kitchens."
Carolyn recommends attending Tuscan Women Cook with your mom. "I've always been close to my mom and it was nice to spend time just the two of us. She's a better cook than me and we share a passion for food. All the grandchildren will tell you that grandma is the best cook!"
Despite their different levels of culinary skill, both were delighted with all the food they cooked on their trip. "You really don't have to have special skills," Carolyn remarked. "The Tuscan Women Cook recipes are easy to follow and that delicious eggplant Parmesan is definitely something I'll make at home."
In addition to the food, the people also left an enduring impression on Carolyn. She really enjoyed getting to know the other guests, especially the bubbly cupcake chef. Everyone shared a common culinary passion and she loved sharing meals together. Carolyn was impressed with her Tuscan Women Cook hosts, Rhonda and Coleen. "They were lovely and a great combination. They were so warm and accommodating and really looked after mom amazingly well. She felt like a queen. My mom was able to keep up with everything thanks to their help."
The day in Siena was one of the most memorable days for Carolyn. All the little quaint markets and the bustling central market was a real treat since the closest store back home is over 150 miles (250 kilometers) away. "I got lots of clothes in Siena. I expected to bring back shoes." She confided, "I love shoes! I found a beautiful pair of flats I could never find where I live." Ah shoes, the perfect souvenir. Every time you slip them on, you are transported back to paradise.
Her Tuscan Women Cook trip has expanded her and her family's horizons. "I have 18, 16, and 11 year old boys. I really want them to travel. I encourage them to see the world, because they come from such a small, isolated community." Carolyn said her boys couldn't wait to hear all about her trip when she got home. She was especially touched by her oldest son's comment. "He said he felt I deserved some time to myself."
Where will Carolyn travel next? "I really want to go back to Tuscan Women Cook. I would love to take a group of girlfriends from here. We'd have so much fun! It's going to be very hard to top this trip. I really want to go back to see, and taste it all again."
DAY TRIPPERS VISIT TUSCAN WOMEN COOK
Nonna Merle's Favorite Recipe
15 family members from 4 different families
1 luxurious Tuscan villa
1 day of glorious cooking lessons with Tuscan Women Cook
A vacation filled with memories that last a lifetime
Getting 15 relatives from four different branches of a family tree to commit the time and agree on a vacation destination is no small task. Merle Klebanoff made it happen when she enticed her adult children to Italy by renting a villa in Tuscany at the beginning of the summer this year. Merle's husband passed away seven years ago and since then she has worked hard to keep her family close, even moving part of the year from her home in Arizona to New York to live near her children. Merle has traveled extensively throughout the world and had been to Italy many times but this would be a first, making memories with her loved ones in her very favorite European destination.
Everyone loved the opportunity to be together in Italy, but it was the trip to Montefollonico that was the highlight for the family members who joined Tuscan Women Cook for a day class rolling fresh pasta, cooking, eating, drinking fine wine, and deepening their family ties.
Several years ago, Merle saw the NBC Today Show story about Tuscan Women Cook and she added this delectable adventure to her bucket list, hoping to book the trip Jane Pauley featured in her report. Once she and her kids were ensconced in their villa, it didn't take much coaxing to round up family members to join her for their Tuscan Women Cook day trip.
As soon as they arrived in Montefollonico, Merle said Tuscan Women Cook's co-owner Coleen greeted them like old friends. "She had arranged an extraordinary day for us to learn to cook with two wise and wonderful women willing to share recipes that have been passed down from one family member to the next for generations," reminisced Merle. The cooking lessons took place in the dining room and kitchen of Ristorante 13 Gobbi, one of Montefollonico's most critically acclaimed restaurants. Gourmands travel here for their riff on cacio e pepe, fresh, handmade pasta swirled in a silken, peppery Pecorino sauce.
It's the sight of her adult children laughing and hand-rolling fresh pici pasta that Merle treasures most and what will surely be her most enduring memory from her day with Tuscan Women Cook. Everyone got in the spirit of the day, rolling, stretching, and twirling the pasta dough into what would become the first course of their al fresco lunch. In addition to the pasta, family members grilled fresh handpicked vegetables and made a savory chicken dish. "Coleen took photos the whole time so we could be in the moment, enjoying every minute of the lessons," said Merle. "I brought that delicious chicken recipe with me to New York and plan to make it soon."
Merle is thrilled that the family grew tighter on their trip and that the closeness continues from Italy back to New York, where her kids now get together more often and seek out opportunities to be together, be it a boot camp work out or a shared meal. Merle enthused, "It makes me so happy to see and feel how close everyone got as a result of our trip to Italy."
So how do you follow-up a memorable trip such as this? "Ohhhh", said Merle, "next summer, I am getting a group of girlfriends together and coming back to Tuscan Women Cook for the whole week!"
Dottoressa Cristina Amberti, your guide for our day in the beautiful medieval city of Siena, will provide an expert insider's introduction to the Gothic architecture, the famous Piazza del Campo, the history of the
, and, of course, the vibrant public markets and culinary traditions. But what do you do when you're not in an all-inclusive week like Tuscan Women Cook and on your own in a world-famous city? This
recent story in The New York Times
offers some great advice, like buying tickets to museums before leaving home. Michelangelo, here we come!
MANGIAMO! PRENOTA ORA!