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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

The Butcher and The Bicycles

Posted: March 26, 2013
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

It was just another day in Chianti.  Or, so we thought.  The sky, a deep, rich blue, was dotted with an occasional cloud.  The sun was bright and warm.  The hillsides were covered with vineyards interrupted by olive groves.  The air was fresh with the crisp scent of early fall.  Narrow roads snaked their way up, down and around the hills. Here and there, a hilltop was graced with a medieval castle rising majestically upwards. It was peaceful.  It was Tuscany.


Our plan for the day was to enjoy a picturesque ride through the tranquil country side and stop in Panzano for a visit to Antica Macelleria Cecchini.  Dario Cecchini is known to some as the “singing butcher”, due to his inclination to break into an operatic aria as he works behind the counters of his shop.  We had learned about Dario through a television show, "David Rocco’s Dolce Vita."

As we travelled the dips and curves on Chianti's back roads, I could not help but get the feeling I was driving in the Gran Premio d'Italia (Italian Grand Prix).  With a downshift here and there, a few quick bursts of speed coming out of the curves and up the hills my exhilaration intensified as my acceleration increased.  My driving adventure had just begun when I was snapped back into reality. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw a peloton-like group of cyclists following us.  As we rounded a corner, there were more cyclists in front of us.  None of the passengers in our car had an answer to the obvious question, “Who are these guys?”

Suddenly surrounded by cyclists, we quickly developed a feeling of being one of the “spare parts cars” in the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy).  We continued our drive, being careful as we passed more cyclists.  The peloton continued to follow us.  Was everybody going to Panzano?  Evidently they were
because as we approached town, traffic slowed to a crawl.

Luckily, as we neared the centro storico, we found a parking place close to the main piazza.  It was filled with people in a festive mood.  Every town has a weekly market day featuring vendors of crafts and clothing, fresh produce, cheeses and meats, plants, flowers, kitchenware, leather goods and works of art.  We wandered around admiring scarves, smelling handmade soaps and bought several spoons and other utensils of olive wood that were made by the man who sold them.

While strolling through the mercato we heard the sound of a horn and a man’s voice shouting “ciao ragazzi”.  Around the corner, we saw the man with the horn.


Decked out in red and white striped pants, a white shirt and an apron, he enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of the cyclists.  To avoid the crunch of the crowd we stepped backwards onto a step, our eyes taking in the spectacle in front of us.

We noticed the cyclists were wearing old-style woolen uniforms which identified them as members of various cycle teams. We moved a bit to the side to avoid blocking the entrance to a shop.  A man approaching us offered us wine.  With that, he produced glasses and proceeded to pour Chianti for us.  He invited us into the shop for a sampling of bruschetta.  As we entered we could not help but notice refrigerated display cases containing a variety of meats including the famous bistecca chianina.  It was then we realized we had found Antica Macelleria Cecchini.  

The man wearing the striped pants just happened to be Dario.  He followed us into the shop and stepped behind the display cases.  Wielding a large knife as an artist would his brush, he began slicing a variety of sausages, cheeses and fruits.  He was preparing a delicious snack for the cyclists, to replenish their energy for the rest of their ride in L’Eroica (The Heroic),  a race designed to test cyclists' ability and stamina as they pedal along the beautiful roads of Chianti.  Not only was the riders' attire retro in style, their bicycles were also vintage, meeting such requirements as being built before 1987 and of steel frame construction.  Gear shifts were housed on the "down tube" and brake cables had to be on the outside of the handlebars.

The cyclists gathered eagerly under the food filled tent in front of the shop, exchanging stories with comrades old and new.  It seems Italians have a way of enjoying life to the fullest.


Although we enjoyed this wonderful outpouring of Dario's hospitality, it was time for us to move on.  As we left town, working our way through the crowds of people and past the cyclists, we agreed the adventure in Panzano was beyond our wildest imagination. 

From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 5: A Bridge, A Reunion and Dinner At La Bottega di Cuoco

Posted: November 14, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

A short drive south of Bagni di Lucca, tucked in between the mountains and the Serchio River lies the small community of Borgo a Mozzano, home to one of the great marvels of medieval engineering, the Ponte della Maddalena.  As we approached the Borgo, our eyes focused on this most spectacular sight.  The bridge curves toward the sky, supported by several arches whose reflections formed perfect circles in the waters below.

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Historically, the bridge is believed to have been commissioned by Countess Matilda around the year 1100, so that pilgrims, travelling the Via Francigena from northern Europe would be able to cross the Serchio on their way to Rome, the destination for those on a medieval pilgrimage.  

Folklore enthusiasts know the bridge by another name, the Ponte del Diavolo or The Devil's Bridge.  Their story, handed down through the years, is that a master builder was hired by the citizens of the Borgo to build a bridge over the river to facilitate crossing.  With the construction deadline approaching the builder realized he would not be able to complete the bridge on time.  As the story goes, he was approached by the devil who guaranteed that the bridge would be completed on
time if the devil could have the first soul to cross the bridge.  In a panic the builder agreed!  Realizing later what he had done, the builder sought the advice of a holy man and worked out a solution to the dilemma..  The bridge was completed on time and the devil waited for the master builder to cross the bridge, thinking he could claim his soul.  However, in accordance with the plan between the builder and the holy man, the builder released a pig to cross the bridge first.  The devil, realizing that he had been tricked, hurled himself into the depths of the Serchio River, never to be seen again. While this tale is an interesting story, it seems that the historical account
is a bit more believable.  You decide.

We continued south past the beautiful walled city of Lucca and then on to Vicopisano

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where we had a light lunch and took a quick walk through the village.  Then we turned our sights o Casa Bellavista and a much anticipated reunion with our  friends Simonetta and Guido.  What a joyous reunion it was!  After abbracci e baci all around and the official greeting of Dante, Casa Bellavista's furry four-footed concierge, we unpacked  our car and settled in.  We had arrived late in the day so it wasn't long before we began dinner preparations around the large marble table in Simonetta's cucina italiana. 

From our experience there seems to be no such thing as a "light dinner" in the Tuscan way of life.  We enjoyed an apperitivo of freshly sliced tomatoes, ricotta cheese,  bresaola (thinly sliced cured beef), prosciutto and wine.

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While we visited and caught up on the events that had happened since last year's visit, Simonetta prepared a pesto pasta dish which was thoroughly enjoyed with another glass of wine.  This was followed by an insalata of fresh vegetables.  A cup of espresso brought the dinner to a proper close.  

One of our great joys is driving along the meandering roads of the Tuscan countryside through small medieval villages, working our way up and down hills, past the fields of sheep and the stately cypress trees.  On this particular Sunday afternoon the Tuscan sun, surrounded by the deepest blue sky imaginable, cast its warmth over the vineyards, olive groves and sunflower fields awaiting their harvest.  It was a great afternoon for what we would call back home a Sunday drive.  But today's drive would not be through the Litchfield Hills or the Berkshires.  It was a day for a drive through the Crete Senesi, the area of Tuscany that provides its visitors with a view of rolling hills  of green in the spring, golden waves of grain just before harvest or a light beige soil awaiting planting. 

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The areas of the Crete Senesi that are not part of grain growing caused us to think of what it might have looked like through the windows of Apollo Thirteen as it landed on the moon. 

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Remember when you were a child...the anticipation and excitement you had on Christmas Eve?  You helped your mom get the cookies and milk ready for Santa.  You could almost hear Rudolph's hooves touch down on your roof as he guided Santa's sleigh.  Such excitement and anticipation has not been known since then!  That is to say, until now.  While the wheels on our red rent-a-car (were we possibly in the jolly man's sleigh) guided us to Monte San Savino and our meeting with destiny at La
Bottega di Cuoco, our anticipation increased.   Guido and Simonetta had told us that La Bottega was not a typical Tuscan trattoria and that we were in for a special experience.

We entered Monte San Savino through the Porta Fiorentina, built by the Medici, their family crest firmly embedded in the arch.  The narrow medieval streets, lined with a variety of shops, led us past a bar where guests were enjoying glasses of wine along with a sampling of tasty-looking apperitivi.  Children were laughing and talking as they enjoyed their gelato. 

After a short walk past the piazza, we arrived at La Bottega di Cuoco ("The
Cook's Workshop")

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and knew immediately that we were in for a dining adventure.  Inside to the left was a long counter, a gentleman standing behind it.  To the right was a cupboard with open shelves and dishes.  Straight ahead was a large oval table with about a dozen chairs placed around it.  Above the table hung a single light which cast a warm and inviting glow.  As we entered the gentleman offered us seats.  He placed a bottle of prosecco on the table along with an apperitivo which included salume, prosciutto, liver pate`, cheese, bread, cold garlic mashed potatoes, grilled pumpkin slices with marjoram and oil and an olive pate`.  It was to be a night of adventurous eating.  There was no menu.  We would eat whatever the cook prepared.  Serving ourselves from the platters of food placed before us was family style eating at its best.

The primo piatto consisted of homemade tagliatelle  in a ragu of sausage and beef, accompanied with a bottle of wine for our enjoyment.  At this point some new arrivals were seated
and joined in the meal. 

The secundo piatto , a spezzatino (stew), was served in a beautiful large copper pot, still hot from the stove, and another bottle of wine.  Consisting of pieces of pork roast, sausage, apple and white fennel flowers, its flavor was incredible and that copper pot was passed around the table several times as we enjoyed our dinner.

Then came time for the dolce, a delicious crème caramel. As luck would have it one of the other guests was celebrating his birthday.  His wife had brought a delicious torta di cioccolata which they shared with us.  What a wonderful dining adventure...an evening of much spirited and happy
conversation around a table of good food, good wine and good friends.  Certainly, it was an evening when la dolce vita came alive.


From One Meal To The Next: Chapter 3

Posted: May 22, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Viareggio to Bagni di Lucca

The Tuscan sun was up early casting its warming glow over the seaside city of Viareggio.  From the balcony of our hotel room we enjoyed a view over the city and up to the mountains of the Garfagnana which were soon to become part of our day's trip as we travelled "from one meal to the next".  First however, it was time for breakfast and a final review of our travel plans for the day; an adventurous ride across the mountains of the Garfagnana, lunch in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a visit to the two tiered aqueduct in Barga and completing our day's travel at the Albergo Corona in Bagni di Lucca.

As we departed Viareggio our route took us through side streets of the city and past a number of marble works whose yards contained some of the most enormous pieces of marble we have ever seen.  Beyond these huge blocks of marble, rising to the sky, stood our challenge, the mountains of the Garfagnana .  Slowly, the road narrowed and soon we realized that there was no more straight road.  We were headed into a section of mountain roads filled with "S-turns" and "switchbacks".  Coming out of one of the turns, we looked up to the mountain peak and were treated to a magnificent view of a wide swath of white cascading down the mountainside.  Our first reaction was, "Oh wow, were going over a snow covered mountain!"  A few more "S turns" closer and we realized, the "cascading white" was a vein of marble


which was being quarried.  How the quarry workers were able to move all the cranes and cutting equipment to the top of the mountain is something we still have not figured out.  Nor, have we been able to figure out how they get the marble down off of the mountain!

As we approached the top of the mountain we entered a tunnel.  One and a half kilometers later, we came out the other side of the mountain and began our descent to the village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, our chosen place for lunch.  Just to the left of the main gate of the village, we located L'Aio di Piero, a delicatessen of sorts.  Once inside the shop we were treated to a visual feast


of meats, cheeses, sauces, preserves and pastas


To the left side of the shop was a small room with stone walls, wooden beams and small rustic tables and chairs.  There was a pleasant excitement about the room as people visited and shared the joy of good food and wine.  We were seated at one of the last remaining tables and after ordering a carafe of the "house red" we began to study the menu.  In short order, we decided to order a platter of prodotti tipici.  Soon, we were enjoying a feast fit for a king, including: caprino, scamorza and pecorino fresco (all tasty cheeses), salumi, prosciutto, capicola, bresaola (cured Tuscan beef), slivered radicchio, olivi, pickled cipolla rossa, calamari wrapped anchovi, bruschetta with red pepper pesto, stuffed peppers, fried fiori  di zucca con ricotta (squash blossoms with ricotta) and fried zucchini.


Following a relaxed time over lunch, we enjoyed a walk through the narrow medieval streets of this beautiful little walled village.   Our next stop...the village of Barga and a search for a Roman aqueduct.  Arriving in Barga, we stopped for an espresso and a visit to the tourist office for a map and some help with directions.  With their help, we were able to locate a bit of Roman history without difficulty. 


Marveling that it still stands today, we could not help but think what a proud testament it is to Roman engineering. 

As the sun began to set, we headed to Bagni di Lucca and the Albergo Corona, our home for the next two nights.  Settling in for the evening, we could not help but to begin to anticipate the next eating adventure.  Suffice it to say, it involves wild mushrooms and a visit to the Ponte Sospeso.

Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com

Simonetta  www.casabellavista.it

From One Meal To The Next: Part 2

Posted: March 7, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

After enjoying a satisfying breakfast at Albergo Scilla in Sovana, southwest Tuscany, we loaded our luggage into the car and traveled westward toward the Mediterranean.  Our drive through the winding back roads of Tuscan countryside provided us with a kaleidoscope of sights…cypress trees, wild flowers, farmhouses, vineyards, olive groves and an occasional flock of sheep dotting the hillsides.
When we reached the sea, we headed north toward Viareggio, interrupting our journey with a delightful detour.  We had read about the village of Bolgheri, its reputation for fine wine and Giosue Carducci's poem describing the cypresses along the approach to the town. 


The latter, symbols of Tuscany, greeted us.  For five kilometers these majestic cipressi (cypress trees) stood tall like sentinels, guarding the entrance to the village.  The village itself is a medieval town with shops and places to eat, offering visitors prodotti tipici (typical products).  Whenever this sign appears one has the golden opportunity of tasting local specialties. 


And we did, sampling a variety of delicacies:  liver pate, olive spread, tomato topping and red pepper, all served over grilled bread, along with prosciutto, salami, several slices of different cheeses, pickled onions, olives artichokes, vegetables with olive oil, cannellini and the largest, tastiest sun dried tomatoes ever. Accompanying all this was a glass of extraordinary red wine produced by Donna Fittipaldi.  We were so impressed by the wine that we bought a bottle to take to Guido and Simonetta, our friends at Casa Bellavista.


After lunch it was back through the tunnel of cipressi and on to Pisa.  As we approached the city we followed a couple of tour busses and let them escort us to a parking lot near the Campo dei Miracoli.  After walking past vendor upon vendor upon vendor of Leaning Tower souvenirs, we passed through an arch to the Campo dei Miracoli and a breathtaking view of a triple treat, the Duomo, Baptistery and Tower.  The sheer vastness of the space, the magnificent architecture and the amazing decorative and symbolic details of each building made the walk along “vendor row”  worthwhile.


Following our visit to the Campo dei Miracoli, we drove to Viareggio, a delightful city, which hugs the Mediterranean Sea.  It is clean and beautiful, offering its visitors an interesting panorama of art nouveau architecture, pines and palms.  

We checked into the Tirrenia, a charming boutique hotel, managed for forty seven years by the same man and his wife, who mixed with the guests and added cordiality and great customer service to the comfortable, colorful surroundings.  We drank a glass of wine on the balcony of our room and watched the sunset until our evening passeggiata lead us down the promenade past beautiful art nouveau buildings and interesting shops. 

We reached Gran Caffe` Margherita and our much anticipated dinner.  The Caffe` itself is a work of art.  Its ceilings, balcony and walls feature beautiful ceramic decorations with magnificent patterns and colors in yellow, green and blue.

We opted for alfresco dining so that we could enjoy the warm evening.  We sipped wine leisurely as we studied the menu.  At last we made our decisions...for me, spaghetti con frutti di mare,  which was a wonderful blending of shrimp, clams and calamari in a hearty broth.  Edie ordered a maccheroni con verdure e funghi in salsa di vino (small squares of pasta with vegetables and porcini mushrooms in a delicious wine sauce). We were equally pleased with our choices.  Then we selected verdure alla griglia (grilled vegetables), which were perfect.  To put a cap on our dining experience we concluded with caffe` correto, one with amaretto and one with grappa. 

After a pleasant night’s rest, we packed our bags and headed downstairs, where we were greeted with the most abundant presentation of breakfast foods we have ever seen:  meats, cheeses, cereals, a variety of breads and pastries, a fruit compote, a basket of fresh fruits, eggs, juices, coffee and more. 

Our trip to Viareggio had been fun…a special dinner, a fantastic breakfast.  Today’s travels would take us past the many marble works of Viareggio and over the mighty mountains of the Garfagnana to our next adventure as we travelled Tuscany “from one meal to the next”.

Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com
Simonetta  http://www.casabellavista.it

2012: # 1 of a series: From One Meal To The Next

Posted: January 3, 2012
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Our trip to Tuscany began as all our trips have, with research and more research. Experience has shown us that a thorough plan with a trip itinerary provides the foundation for a more enjoyable and relaxed trip. However, this year our research took us "outside the box" of traditional tour guide books to books such as” A Culinary Traveler in Tuscany" by Beth Elon among others.

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As we read and studied our books, we noted with particular interest the author's mention of local osterias and trattorias in the many hilltop and seaside villages of Tuscany. As our research continued, we found that our itinerary was being developed based on places where we thought we might like to eat. The more we researched, the more anxious we became to start our trip. Our taste buds longed to savor the flavors of authentic traditional Tuscan cooking. And so begins this, the first in a series of blogs designed to share with you our joy as we ate our way through Tuscany "from one meal to the next".

The flight was smooth and we touched down at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport right on schedule. Having cleared customs and picked up our rental car, we headed up the A -12 on our way to Sovana, a medieval village in southern Tuscany. The village itself is small and is home to two interesting churches: St. Maria and the cathedral of Santi Pietro e Paolo. These are a "must see" if you visit this wonderful village. Sovana is also home to the first eating stop on this year's trip, Taverna Etrusca.

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But, before the long anticipated evening meal, a riposo was in order to be followed by a visit to the neighboring town of Sorano, an ancient Etruscan settlement sitting high on a tufa ledge. The drive to Sorano was a welcome challenge, with breathtaking roads cut through tufa rock complete with Etruscan tombs and arched niches for urns and ashes. It was well worth a few "s" turns to visit this very beautiful village of arches, alleys and flowers.

Returning to Sovana, we enjoyed a walk around the village ending with dinner at the Taverna Etrusca.

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Facing the Piazza del Pretorio, the Taverna welcomes its visitors to a warm and comfortable dining area. Though renovated, the charm and authentic atmosphere of the medieval period of history has been maintained. The restaurant participates in the '0 km" project, which means they buy local food stuffs whenever possible, assuring freshness and the best local ingredients.


Having been seated at a comfortable table for two, we began our perusal of the menu as we enjoyed a delightful puree of potato served in a martini glass. Blended with tasty herbs it was a delightful preparation for the marvelous culinary adventure we were about to take. The menu provided a multiplicity of choices. Our waiter demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the menu as he answered our questions about various selections.

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Our decisions were difficult because there were too many good items from which to choose. After what seemed like forever we were ready to order. Edie chose gnudi con tartufi neri. Gnudi is considered by some to be a type of gnocchi, while others describe it as “the filling without the ravioli”. The ingredients in this gnudi were ricotta cheese, spinach and a little flour. A delicious sauce of delicate herbs completed this fantastic dish. I ordered pici (farro) al maremmeno served con ragu al cinghiale e scorza d'arancia caramellate. Pici is thick rolled pasta sort of like fat spaghetti, made with faro flower and in this case served with wild boar sauce with caramelized orange zest. This dish is considered to be a local variation of pasta con cinghiale served in the Maremma region of Tuscany. To complement our dinner choices, we ordered a bottle of a bianco di Pitigliano (a white wine from the nearby community of Pitigliano). The perfectly cooked al dente pasta was showcased in sauces which featured tastefully combined herbs and spices. For the contorni, we shared a serving of spinachi con bianco uva passa and pinoli (spinach with white raisins and pine nuts).To satisfy our sweet tooth, for dolce, we concluded diner with crema cotta con cardamom agrumi con carmella crocante; an absolute delight for our taste buds.

We capped the evening with a relaxing stroll through the village as we listened to the singing of the birds and the tolling of the church bells. It was a sweet serenade to the end of a perfect day in Tuscany. The adventure would continue the next morning with a trip over country roads through the Maremma to the coast and then north to the city of Viareggio on our way “from one meal to the next”.

Buon Appetito
Edie and Dave

A Summer Visitor

Posted: January 10, 2011
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Our excitement increased as we navigated our way through the traffic on the "Hutch", over the "Whitestone" and down the "Van Wyck". We were headed to JFK to pick up our friend Filippo. His dad had put him on the plane earlier in the day at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. And now we were standing in the International Arrivals of JFK awaiting his arrival. As luck would have it, his place arrived right on schedule and after the airline officials verified our identity, Edie, Filippo and I began the return trip to Connecticut.

Other than a wrong turn onto the Merritt Parkway instead of I-684 and a terrible thunder and lightening storm, the trip home was uneventful. Of course, the visiting was nonstop. We talked about trying out new Italian recipes, some fun activities that would be an added plus to his visit with us and the most important part (to Filippo's mama), helping him with learning and understanding English. He of course would be helping us with our Italian.

We knew from previous trips that fishing was one of Filippo's favorite things to do.

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And so the first day of his American adventure began with a trip down the hill to the pond behind our home. With a little luck, he might land a good sized bass. But more likely than not, it would be a strike by a Bluegill that would give him his thrill. The latter proved to be true. In talking with Filippo about his love for fishing, I asked him if he fished much at home in Tuscany. His reply was in the negative. I inquired as to why since he seemed to be enjoying himself so much. "It is easy" he said. "I have no pole and I have no pond". Ah, the clarity of youthful thinking.

Our conversation turned to talk of food and what we should prepare for "la cena". We settled on Torre di Melanzana.

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After a little more fishing, we returned to the house and began to prepare dinner. We began by slicing eggplant, dicing tomatoes, whisking eggs. Then we put some seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl, picked fresh basil from our garden and sliced fresh mozzarella. After frying the breadcrumb - egg encrusted eggplant slices, we constructed the "torre". Our dinner was delicious. (See recipe below)

Following dinner we played a rousing game of Scrabble. Since we wanted to learn each others language, we played using both Italian and English. We considered it a part of our language skills development program.

During the three weeks that Filippo was with us, we did a fair amount of cooking. Working together in the kitchen is a great way to learn about different languages. Our mutual interest in cooking gave us good reason to "go to market" quite often to pick-up ingredients for dinner. One day, he saw some nice lean pork chops.

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These he thought would be very good for making Braciola di maiale alle erbe aromatiche or as we might call it, "herbal encrusted pork chops". (The recipe is included below)

Well, needless to say we spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. But we also took time to work on the English tutoring as well as a little "R and R" for Filippo. We spent a couple of days at the Connecticut shore where in addition to time on the beach and in the water, Filippo quickly learned toplay a fast-paced gave of "chicken-foot" dominoes.

One evening we took a night of cooking off and headed to see the New Britain Rock Cats. It was the first time Filippo had seen a baseball game. As luck would have it, the young man from Tuscany went home with a foul ball as a souvenir of the great American past time. And, he got to meet Rocky, the teams official mascot.

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We were also able to work in a bit of time at a horseshoe pit as well. After all what's more American than baseball and horseshoes?

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It was a great three weeks....language skills (both Italian and English) were improved, new games were learned, sounds of laughter abounded, and great food was preparedand enjoyed.

We hope you enjoy the recipes below...Buon Appetito!

Dave and Edie - www.fototoscana.com

Simonetta - www.casabellavista.it

Torre Di Melanzane



3 Eggs


Mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala if available)

Tomatoes (San Marzano if available)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt / Pepper

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction


Peel and cut eggplant into slices (about 1/3 inch thick). Slice mozzarella into thin slices. Spread breadcrumbs on sheet of wax paper. Blend the eggs together. Dip the slices of eggplant into the eggs and coat the eggplant with breadcrumbs.

Heat up the extra virgin olive oil and place the eggplant slices in the pan and fry until the slices are a light golden brown. Remove the eggplant from the jpan and place on paper towels to drain excess oil.

Dice tomatoes and cook in extra virgin olive oil, mixing and mashing to make a fresh sauce.

Not it is time to build your tower. Place a slice of eggplant on cookie sheet. On top of eggplant, place a slice of mozzarella. Repeat until you have three slices of eggplant and two slices of mozzarella. Repeat this process until you have the number of towers you wish. Place cookie sheet into preheated oven (275 degrees) for 3 or 4 minutes to help soften mozzarella.

Remove from the oven and plate the towers. Top with freshly made tomato sauce and drdizzle with Balsamic reduction. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

Pork Chops With Herbal Rubbing


Pork Chops






Salt and Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Mince the garlic and herbs and add them to the olive oi land breadcrumbs, mixing them together.

Rub the mixture into each side of the pork chops.

Finely chop garlic with herbs and add oil and bread crumbs. Put mixture by crushing the pork chop. Heat bay and garlic with oil in saucepan and cook the steak with the lid on for about 5 min. per side.


Sunday at Casa Bellavista

Posted: March 28, 2010
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

The warm rays of the Tuscan sun peeking through the shutters of la camera verde called us to a new day at Casa Bellavista.  As we opened them we overlooked the olive grove and fruit orchard.  The sun cast lazy silhouettes of trees on the soft green carpet below. 

Casa Bellavista, a Tuscan Bed and Breakfast sits on a hilltop once occupied by the Romans.  Written record of the homestead dates to the second half of the 18th century, when Casa Bellavista was a farm producing extra virgin olive oil, grains, and tobacco used for the famous Toscana cigar.  
Giving its visitors a commanding 360 degree view of Tuscan hill towns and the Val di Chiana, it is an ideal place to spend a sunny Sunday.   The side yard, which overlooks the hill town of Montepulciano and majestic Monte Amiata, is an ideal location to enjoy   breakfast, offering its usual fare of fruit, meats, cheeses, breads and homemade jams as well as delicious Italian coffee and a homemade torta.  After this bountiful breakfast and “taking the coffee”, we take a leisurely walk along country roads. 
Upon our return, Guido, Simonetta’s husband, was busy preparing the porcini mushrooms


which we purchased the day before from a roadside vendor.  We had been returning from Poppi and noticed him.  Not being able to resist the display of his produce, we stopped.  By the time we got onto the autostrada, we had negotiated for and purchased an entire box of porcini mushrooms as well as chestnuts.  Now Guido was preparing them with bay leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  After some time in the oven he would serve them with a drizzle of olive oil and servings of the chianina beef which we purchased earlier at the macelleria in Sinalunga. 

To grill the Chianina beef, Guido built a fire of cypress wood fire in the fire place.  Soon our lunch was ready…the porcini mushrooms, the Chianina beef and an insalata from their garden.  For dolce we enjoyed a simple offering of roasted chestnuts and vin santo.
An important part of the Tuscan culture is the festa del villaggio, a festival celebrating the joy of community.  After a brief riposo we headed to the community of Fratticiola, a short ride down the winding road from Casa Bellavista.  The narrow streets were lined with local farmers offering their products for sale.  As visitors to the festa we had choices to make.  Would we buy some wine or perhaps some honey?  The locally made formaggio and sciacciata along with the porchetta were also tempting us. 


But, there was more to see…more to experience.  As we walked along the street, we were approached by a team of Chianina Beef Cattle pulling a cart loaded with people enjoying the celebration.  There were displays of hand painted antique farms carts which caught our eye.


The smell of roasting chestnuts over open fires filled our senses.  In the distance we could hear the sound of a live band and see people dancing in the street.


Families laughed together, young couples walked arm in arm as they enjoyed the festa and the nonni present shared knowing smiles and memories with one another.   

Later that evening, back at Casa Bellavista, we relaxed in the side yard, under the Tuscan moon and enjoyed some of the wine and cheese we bought  at the festa di Fratticiola.  Una bella domenica in Toscana…It was a beautiful Sunday in Tuscany. 

Thank you for reading our blog:
Dave and Edie

Autumn And The Fig Harvest At Casa Bellavista

Posted: January 24, 2010
by: T.Alexander

Autunno un tempo e appassionante e fantastico  in Toscano!  (Fall is an exciting and fantastic time in Tuscany.)  The rolling fields of grains in the val di chiana and the val d’ orcia have been harvested.  The fields of sun flowers that all summer long lifted their faces to the warm Tuscan sun have also been harvested.  The vineyard owners are preparing for vendemmi.  The months of hard work by the farmers and vineyard operators is now rewarding them with bountiful harvests.

The windows of la Camera Verde at Casa Bellavista overlook Simonetta’s and Guido’s garden which includes olive trees, fig trees and apricot trees. Settembre è il tempo per raccogliere i fichi a Cassabellavista.  (September is the time to harvest the figs at Casa Bellavista.)  We could see a basket of freshly picked figs on the marble topped table in Simonetta’s kitchen.  Simonetta had been out early in the garden, enjoying the morning Tuscan sun while carefully selecting only the perfectly ripe figs from each tree.

As we enjoyed the bounty of the breakfast table, we appreciated the crop of last year’s figs, spreading a tasty fig preserve Simonetta had made on warm pieces of bread.  Over breakfast, Simonetta explained that it was important to pick only the fruit that was “ripe on the tree’.  If it was passed ripe, the canning process would make the figs to soft and the texture would not be as good for the torta.


She harvested her figs over many different days, assuring that the fruit was just right.
While Simonetta was busy in her kitchen making tortas and canning figs,


Edie and I headed out for a relaxing tour of the Tuscan countryside.  What town(s) would we visit today…Pienza…Bagno Vignoni…Montepulciano…or might we dip down into Umbia and visit Panicale?  Whatever town(s) it would be, we knew that when we returned to Casa Bellavista, the house would be filled with the aromatic scent of fresh Torta di Fichi.


Perhaps there would be a piece or two to be sampled. In the event you would like to try your hand at making Torta di Fichi, we are happy to share the recipe with you. 

Boun Appetito!
Dave. Edie and Simonetta


Canning figs is very easy...


• 1 kg. of figs (very ripe - molto maturi)
• 200 gr. sugar
• 200 gr. brown sugar
• 1 lemon
• ½ glass of rum



Lavare I fichi e metterli in una padella larga aggiungere I due tipi di zucchero e il limone tagliato fine, un bicchiere di acqua e cuocere per almeno 1 ora e mezza cercando di toccarli il meno possibile.

Quando sono pronti aggiungere il rum e spegnere il fuoco.
Metterli nei vasetti (jar) subito e tapparli e rigirarli fino a che non sono freddi.

Wash the figs and put them in a wide pan.  Add both of the sugars to the pan, a finely chopped lemon and add a glass of water.  Cook at least one hour and a half, touching them as little as possible.
When they are ready, add the rum and turn off the stove. Put them in jars and close them immediately.  Turn them over until they are cool.
Località  Creti – 52044 Cortona (Arezzo) – Italy   -   Tel 0039 0575 610311  fax 0039 0575 610749
info@ casabellavista.it – www.casabellavista.it




• 150 gr. Farina bianca 00
• 120 gr. Nocciole tritate
• 150 gr. Burro  
• 3 Uova
• 120 Zucchero
• 1 Bustina di vanillina
• 10 Fichi
• 50 gr  Zucchero di canna
• 1 Cucchiaino di lievito


Accendere il forno a 180°

Lavorare il burro con lo zucchero, aggiungere la farina e metà delle nocciole, aggiungere le uova ed un pizzico di sale e la vanillina e per ultimo il lievito, lavorare molto bene l’impasto.

Mettere l’impasto nella tortiera e metterci sopra i fichi aperti a metà e le nocciole rimaste, per ultimo mettere lo zucchero di canna.

Cuocere per circa 40/50 minuti .

Servire con una salsa al caramello.

Località  Creti – 52044 Cortona (Arezzo) – Italy   -   Tel 0039 0575 610311  fax 0039 0575 610749
info@ casabellavista.it – www.casabellavista.it




• 150 gr. White flower 00
• 120 gr. Minced hazelnut 
• 150 gr. Butter
• 3 Eggs
• 120 Sugar
• 1 Envelope vanilla extract
• 10 Figs
• 50 gr  Cane sugar
• 1 Teaspoon of yeast 


Preheat oven to 355 degrees

Work the butter together with the sugar, add the flour and half of the minced hazelnut. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt, the vanilla and finally the yeast.  Work together well until you have a nice mixture.  

Put the mixture in a cake pan and put the sliced figs on top with the remaining hazelnuts.   Then finally, sprinkle the cane sugar on top. 

Cook for about 40 to 50 minutes. 

Serve with a caramel sauce.

Località  Creti – 52044 Cortona (Arezzo) – Italy   -   Tel 0039 0575 610311  fax 0039 0575 610749
info@ casabellavista.it – www.casabellavista.it


Posted: August 23, 2009
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

Having enjoyed a marvelous breakfast buffet at Casa Bellavista, our friends Bill and Marg and Edie and I headed out to travel some of the winding roads of rural Tuscany, on our way to Montefollonico.  The breakfast had been delightful…muffins, fruit, cereal, a selection of meats and cheeses and that marvelous Italian coffee. 

As we drove down the driveway of Casa Bellavista, we enjoyed the view of Cortona (some call it the Grandmother of Rome) but today was a day to meander the back roads and visit the picturesque medieval village of Montefollonico, a village that is “off the beaten path”.  To reach Montefollonico, you are required to drive through the beautiful countryside of the Val di Chiana and down some back roads that wind through farmland and fields dotted with olive orchards, fields of wild poppies and broom. 


Some have called Montefollonico a “miniature medieval city”.  At one time it was surrounded by medieval stone walls complete with seven round towers.  Today, the village is still entered through large gates, the main gate being Porta del Pianello.  It was once complete with a drawbridge.  The 12th century buildings of Montefollonico are built on the site where Etruscan and Roman settlements had previously been built. The name in part comes from the Latin word fullones, meaning “wool workers”.  Montefollonico was once a place where villagers and area farmers raised sheep and where wool was worked.
After a relaxed walking tour of this beautiful little hill town enjoying the narrow streets and beautiful flowers, we decided to have lunch at Ristorante 13 Gobbi located on Via Lando Di Duccio 5.


The terrace of 13 Gobbi was a charming and an inviting scene.  The menu offered a variety of traditional Tuscan foods and the wine selection was superb. Our lunches consisted of a tasty selection of ce ci e salvia, insulate, grilled vegetables and fagioli e olio. A delicious local vino rosso complimented our lunch.

The trip back to Casa Bellavista took us over more beautiful countryside and past the majestic hill town of Montepulciano, home of the world famous Brunello di Montepulciano.

The sweet fragrance of the jasmine drifted through the air and mingled with the scent of the roses at Casa Bellavista.  We were enjoying an early evening Tuscan sunset and a glass of wine.  The table had been set for al fresco dining.  Simonetta informed us that the dinner she and Guido were preparing included insalata di cavolfiori (cauliflower, olives, peppers, oil, garlic and salt and pepper), pasta carbonara a Guido, grilled melanzana flavored with a touch of olive oil and some formaggio and fruit for our dolce.  For our wine, we would be having a Rosso di Spaltenna from the vineyards at Spaltenna, the castle in Gaiole in Chianti where Guido is the General Manager.  Tonight, however, he was our chef and was preparing us his recipe for pasta carbonara. 


As we sipped our Rosso di Spaltenna we talked of the true treasures of Tuscany…the beauty of the countryside, the rich history of the hill towns, the respect for the culture of art and architecture, the relaxed pace of living and of course, the Pasta Carbonara a Guido.   


Buon Appetito,

Edie, Dave and Simonetta


Pasta Carbonara a Guido
· 1 lb. Linguini
· 5 Eggs
· Pancetta or Prosciutto [2 or 3 slices about ¼ inch thick – depends on how  much you like it]
· 3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 1 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese [May us ¾ cup if desired]
· 1/4 Cup onion, finely diced [If desired]
· Black Pepper
· Salt
· 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh garlic [if desired]
· Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Cook pasta until just under al dente.
· While pasta water heats and you cook the pasta, dice pancetta or prosciutto and sauté in extra virgin olive oil until it is a bit crisp.  When crisp, drain excess fat and set aside.
· Mix eggs in bowl and grate a generous amount of black pepper [to taste] into eggs and mix.
· Add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to egg and pepper mix and whip until smooth creamy texture.
· Add pasta to pan with pancetta or prosciutto and mix well
· Add egg mixture, whisking quickly until the egg mixture thickens, [but do not scramble the eggs]
· Toss until pasta is well covered with mixtures and serve hot.


Posted: July 18, 2009
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

To the people of “Toscana”, it is called asparagi.  To those of us in the “Stati Uniti” it is known as asparagus. Either way, asparagi or asparagus, it provides a wonderful foundation to a marvelous sauce for pastas such as pici, trenette or tagliatelle.  But alas, I am a bit ahead of myself.  Let me start at the beginning of our day in Tuscany.

After a sumptuous breakfast at Casa Bellavista our B & B of choice for Tuscan holidays, we enjoyed a morning visit to Lucignano, a medieval village near Casa Bellavista.  As we travelled through the Tuscan countryside on our way back to the B & B, we anticipated a pasta making lesson around the marble topped table, the “command center” of Simonetta’s kitchen.  This would be the first cooking lesson for our friends Marg and Bill who were travelling with us. 

When we returned to Casa Bellavista, we learned that Simonetta had been to market and bought fresh asparagi with which to make the sauce for the primo piatto of our dinner.  Immediately our curiosity was peaked.  As we entered the kitchen to begin the pasta making lesson, we noticed  that Simonetta’s  “mama” was busy helping prepare the aspiragi.  We eagerly anticipated our cooking class and the dinner to follow.


It was not long before mounds of flour with volcano like centers were filled with eggs and a little extra virgin olive oil. 


The mixing of the ingredients began and soon the blend of flour and eggs was transformed into a golden dough.  Now the fun for Bill and Marg began...the moment of getting their fingers into the pasta dough.


and kneading it on the marble topped table until it was smooth and ready for the pasta machine and cutter. 


It did not take long until the “pasta fresca”  was ready.  Bill and Marg made sufficient pasta dough so that lasgna and tagliatelle could be made. 

The lasgna pasta would be used to make melanzana alla  bechamella. While Bill and Marg made the pasta, Edie had been preparing the melanzana and the bechamella sauce.


The “melanzana” was for a weekend party Simonetta was planning.  The tagliatelle con asparagi was for the primo piatto of tonight’s dinner.

As Simonetta and her “mama” continued working on the asparagi, Bill and Marg finished up the pasta project. Focus now turned to the stove where the asparagi was being cooked.  Later, the pasta would be cooked in the same water, bringing a fuller flavor to our primio piatto.

The cooking class was pretty well complete.  Pasta had been made.  The melanzana alla bechamella was completed and chilling in the refrigerator.  La cucina was cleaned and the sauce for the night’s primo was just about complete.


It was time to enjoy a glass of wine as we set the table for an evening of outdoor dining and the beauty of a Tuscan sunset.

We had experienced a marvelous afternoon at Casa Bellavista, learning the true joy of la cucina Toscana.


Incase you would like to try this fantastic sauce, the recipe (in Italian and English) follows.

Buon Appitito:

Dave Galusha

Foto Toscana


· gr. 400 trenette o tagliatelle
· gr.500 asparagi
· gr. 300 piselli
· 1 cipolla
· sale e pepe
· buccia di limone
· parmigiano
· olio extra vergine di oliva


Bollire la parte inferiore degli asparagi in acqua bollente salata, quando sono teneri, scolarli. Nella stessa acqua bollire per pochi minuti l’altra parte degli asparagi.

Tagliare finemente una cipolla, metterla in una pentola con un po’ di olio e rosolare, aggiungere la parte bassa degli asparagi e dopo pochi minuti frullarli, aggiungere un po’ di acqua della cottura e aggiungere i piselli cucinare fino a cottura, sale  pepe e la buccia del limone grattugiata e le punte degli asparagi. Nel frattempo bollire le trenette nella acqua di cottura degli asparagi, scolare e condire ed aggiungere il parmigiano.



· 400 grams of trenette or tagliatelle
· 500 grams of asparagus
· 300 grams of peas
· 1 onion
· salt and pepper
· Rind of lemon
· Parmasian cheese
· extra virgin olive oil


Cut the asparagus in to pieces about one inch long.  Boil the lower parts of the asparagus in salted water.  When they are tender, remove them from the water.  In the same water boil the other parts of the asparagus for a few minutes.

Mince the onion finely and brown in a pan with a little oil.  Add the lower parts of the asparagus and after a few minutes whisk (use of a blender or food processor is ok) them adding a little of the cooking water and the peas, cooking them until finished.  Salt and pepper and add the grated rind of the lemon and the points of the asparagus.

In the meanwhile boil the trenette or tagliatelle in the water used to cook the asparagus.   When cooked, drain, combine with the sauce, season and add the Parmesan.