my davinci storyteller experience 2014

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After climbing into a minivan at Peretola, the airport in Florence, our driver Filippo expertly navigated the road toward the Casale di Valle, a 15th century hunting lodge set among vineyards in Tuscany, the place that was to be the home of the DaVinci Storytellers for the next week, I struggled to keep my eyes open. I didn’t want to miss my first-ever glimpse of the Tuscan countryside. Toscana! And I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing out of the window was real.

My eyes were bleary and my head felt fuzzy, like the fleece blanket wadded up in my tote bag, which I’d hoped would be just the comfy thing I needed (along with an eye pillow) to help me sleep during my overnight flight. I never sleep on planes – or trains and automobiles for that matter – and this time was no exception.

Was I dreaming? Up until now, this vista of rolling land, patchworked with vineyards, distant rows of cypresses and ancient stucco farmhouses had always been just that – a beautiful series of images stored up in mind from studying art, books and photographs.  [Read more…]

a week in tuscany

The long stretch of summer calls for a long tavola.

We need a table outdoors, the longer the better…inevitably guests gather – friends from home, a relative’s friends from somewhere else who thought they’d say hello…and new friends, sometimes with friends of theirs. Add another handful of pasta to the boiling pot, add a plate, a tumbler, find another chair. 

~ Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

I’m thrilled beyond belief to share that I have a chance to spend a week in Vinci, a town in Tuscany – I do! I was chosen as one of 12 finalists in the 2014 DaVinci Storyteller Experience. It’s down to popular vote now; one finalist with the most votes from each of 4 categories will travel to the Chianti region of Tuscany this fall, to spend a week soaking up the Tuscan sun. Along with amazing food, culture…and wine, of course.

I admit I’m not comfortable begging asking for votes (I’ll never run for office…), but that’s what I have to do. Can I tell you that this could be my first trip to Italy? I feel such a strong personal connection to my heritage; it’s really the soul of my cooking and the very inspiration for this blog.  Spending time in Italy is in my life plan somewhere; and not only for eating and drinking wine, but because I feel the need to connect the dots between the culture I grew up in, the food on all the tables I’ve sat around, and the origins of the ancestors I’ve never known.

My great-grandparents arrived in the United States from Italy in the late 1800’s, along with millions of other peasant Italians escaping poverty, disease and failing farmland in the Mezzogiorno. One family story is that my paternal great-grandfather Vincenzo has roots in Arezzo, the heart of Tuscany. After trying his luck in Argentina, he landed at Ellis Island in 1894. He was 23 years old; his occupation “farmer”.

I promise you that if I win and spend a week in the birthplaces of Leonardo da Vinci, the art of the Renaissance, and the cradle of Tuscan country cooking, I will bring it all back home to you. For the next month, I plan to cook and share recipes from Tuscany, for inspiration and good luck.

In the meantime, please think about voting for me as often as you can, along with talented finalists in the other categories. The voting page is on the DaVinci Wine Facebook  page; vote every day until July 31.

Grazie Mille!


photo above by Francesco Carrani