San Casciano and the Castello di Poppiano
Spend the morning gathering ingredients from local producers and vendors. Prepare your lunch in the medieval borgo surrounding the Castle of Poppiano. Built as a fortress in the first line of defense for Florence, it's now outfitted not for war but for the production of wines and olive oils. The castle's old workshops, stables and farmers' homes are now artists' studios, craftsmen's workshops and Elaine's kitchen outfitted with an old-fashioned 15th century hearth and a new-fangled stove sponsored by the Viking Range Corporation.

Cooking Lesson:

Olive Oil is the secret ingredient for making tasty foods from antipasti to dolci following the local culinary tradition of using few, good, fresh and natural ingredients. Make and taste your own traditional, multi-course meal accompanied by local, genuine wines. Recipes provided.

Producer Visits:
Meet a cheesemaker and witness the magical process of transforming highly perishable milk into long aging cheese. From the same materia prima, raw materials, in this case sheep's or goat's milk, slight variations in the production process result in a wide array of cheeses with different textures and flavor profiles.

Meet a butcher, learn how he makes Tuscany's insaccati, cured meats, visit the aging cells and taste the results.

Learn about the origins of schiacciata, Florentine flatbread, as a baker prepares the dough and slides the breads into his ovens.

Meet a winemaker, walk through his vineyards to understand his approach to the land, farming and grapes; cantina visit and tasting to understand how it all comes together poetically in the final product, the wine.

Loro Ciuffenna and Arezzo
To experience a little-known area of Tuscany spend a day in the Valdarno Superiore (upper Arno valley) striking out from Loro Ciuffenna, a tiny Medieval castle turned Renaissance village in the olive and vine covered foothills of Pratomagno mountain. Tour the village, walk over the Romanesque bridge and experience the way villagers have lived here for centuries. Visit with the miller who grinds chestnuts into flour in his hydraulic powered mill, the blacksmith at work at his forge and the butcher under the tower. In the hills above the village, visit olive groves, a Romanesque church with spectacular naive sculpture and walled mountain hamlets with a cool breeze and vast view. Lunch at one of the excellent country trattoria where the chefs make the most of local ingredients, including several Slow Food Presidi, finish up with the best gelato in Tuscany (he gets my vote anyway). Afternoon hiking on the mountainside following the old foot paths that wind through the chestnut forests between one hamlet and the next or visit to Arezzo, just a half an hour down the Setteponte. Arezzo is a vibrant modern city within its old medieval structure with great art, a well-stocked enoteca, nice shops and an antiques fair on the first weekend of each month.

Chianti Classico
An entire day dedicated to the typical productions of Chianti Classico (not just Italy’s but the world’s first wine denomination). Historic family companies and first generation artisans work in harmony with the land to produce food and wine that mirrors the history and territory of Chianti. In the zone of Greve in Chianti meet producers to learn about and taste wine, cheese, olive oil, saffron, bread, pasta, beef... season depending. Two visits in the morning and two in the afternoon with a lunch at the producers’ favorite trattoria in the middle.

Artisan Food Walk in Florence
Florence’s artisan quarter l’Oltrarno (literal translation: beyond the Arno) preserves the feel of the city’s old residential neighborhoods as well as the tradition of making food specialties from the countryside available within the city limits. From the time the Medici took over Palazzo Pitti in the mid 1500s the area was a mix of artisans’ workshops and noble palazzi. Goods produced by tenant farmers on the country estates of the nobility were sold in the city from small shops on the ground floors of their imposing palaces. The tradition continues today in the the neighborhood’s coffee bars and enoteche tucked in between the same artisan workshops and noble palaces. Making stops during a walk through Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood we’ll learn about and taste natural wine, cheese, bread, salumi, olive oil, truffles, coffee and gelato.