Tuscany/Umbria – everything about this place completely blew me away; the people, the food, the scenery. I actually didn’t want to come home.
This was my first time driving by myself abroad, so I was pretty nervous about it, but it was fantastic – I loved it. Yes, some of the roads are pretty scary (especially when you’re at the top of a mountain and the roads are super narrow), but thankfully I managed to get by without any accidents.
Paciano – a place I’d never even heard of until I found out about Country Slow Living. When I collected my car from the hire shop, no-one there had heard of it either, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s a beautiful place, full of Italian charm. I didn’t stay too long (just for 1 day), but this was my favourite day in Italy.
I met Alina and her family at their perfect Fontarno farm house and immediately fell in love with the place and the family. Lucia is the Mum of the family, when I arrived she gave me a tour of the beautiful gardens and house, then I met the lovely Alina, who told me all about their Olive mill. I learnt so much about olive oil and the benefits of it, it was enlightening. For example, did you know that olive oil should be stored in a dark bottle? This helps to keep out the light. Glass bottles are also important, if you get olive oil in plastic bottles, the chemicals from the plastic can seep into the oil.
Then onto the cooking – if you love Italian food, then booking a cooking class with Alina or Lucia is a must! This was the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. Everything about the class was perfect, we even had Alina’s daughter, Stella helping us out too, which was so cute. She loved to dance around to the reggae music we had playing.
We made lots of different types of pastas, my favourite was this simple but absolutely delicious tomato based dish. We made the pasta with only selmolina flour and water. Alina doesn’t use measurements when cooking, but for those that need it you use double the amount of flour to water.
How cool is this chittarra pasta cutter? This was GREAT (so great I had to buy myself one to bring home). You literally just roll out the dough, really thinly, then place it on top of the chittara and roll again, the spaghetti just drops out underneath. Then you can leave it on a drying rack to dry.
I’ve found a few places you can buy a chittara in the UK. Amazon and Sous Chef. If you buy from Amazon, make sure that the strings are wire, not cotton as it won’t work as well.
For the sauce the only ingredients we used were organic canned tomatoes (we used San Marzano tomatoes, but you could also use organic canned plum tomatoes or very ripe fresh tomatoes), sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.All the ingredients Alina uses are organic. I was shocked that a dish with so few ingredients could taste so delicious. I think making homemade pasta really does make all the difference.
And if you want to try to be a bit more fancy, you could add red wine to your pasta dough (this was AMAZING).
Cooking with Alina was so much fun. I love the laid back vibe of the place and the slow-paced way of life the Pinneli family lead. You get a true and authenitic Italian experience on this course. I loved that it takes place within the family home, and there was different family members in and out throughout the day, who were all so welcoming and helpful with recommending places to visit too for the rest of my trip.
Alina even managed to introduce me to the world’s best winery (according to the BBC) and the only coppersmith left in Italy, which is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. They both were amazing experiences.
The day doesn’t end there either, Alinas brother (who was over visiting his family from Rome for Easter) gave me a tour of the wine cellar and told me all about the family history with wine making. We also tasted the wine (at 10am!! I guess it’s never too early for wine in Italy) and it is to die for.
Just look at how amazing the place is, it really did blow me away.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy soon and want an authentic and educational cooking experience, I would definitely recommend it. This was the best cooking course I’ve ever done and the food was so simple, yet so delicious.
Thank you so much to the Pinelli family. I hope to see them again soon, I can, without a doubt can say that I will definitely be making a return visit.
I’ll be updating my blog soon with some other Italy recommendations so keep an eye out.
The other places I visited on the trip were: Scansano, Saturnia, Val D’Orcia (Bagno Vignoni, Pienza), Montepulciano and Cecina.
See you soon Italy.
Ciao Bella x