Italy-Part 3-Life on the Edge!

Life on the Edge!

I believe this was the Happy Travelers most exciting day–it was a real cliff-hanger–it was death defying—it was exciting—and our near miss of an unfortunate disaster was an interesting way to start the day.  We had a full day planned with an olive oil tasting, exploring, eating, shopping, and our first wine tasting, cooking lesson and dinner with the Tuscan Mammas.  First, our olive oil lesson and tasting….

We started our day with the olive oil tasting at Muricciaglia – a beautiful property owned by Mimma and Franco Ferrando, located in Radda in Chianti.  Mimma, of course, is one of the Tuscan Mammas.

We learned about  olive oil processing and grades of oil.  “If you wanna’ know, you’ll have to go!”  Bottom line – there is no way to produce both cheap and genuine olive oil.  The olive oil we buy in bulk here in the United States is what some in Italy refer to as “lamp oil.”  Extra virgin olive oil, which is the best grade, accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries.  Of course, I wrapped my precious bottle of oil in my dirty clothes to bring home.

The Happy Travelers with Mimma

On our way out, we had a quick olive taste with Franco

OUT, is the operative word here.  We couldn’t get out.  Here is where we hit our first major snag in the trip.  Mimma’s driveway is very steep.  Our van could not get up the incline.  We were spinning our wheels and slipping and sliding.  I suggested that we stop and back up to get a running start.  HOWEVER…..the car was filling with dust and no one was looking as we were backing up!  Finally, someone yelled – STOP!  We were literally one inch from the edge.  Immediate fear set in and we all piled out…except our fearless driver.  Two ran back to Mimma’s to request help from Franco.  You see, the issue with this new van was, whenever we stopped on a hill and then started to take off, it rolled back.  Our fearless driver was learning how to compensate for that problem, BUT… this situation it was too risky-we needed help!

No kidding…no room to roll back…and over the edge we go!

Franco came to help, he enlisted more help, a rope and a tow.

Wow, that was close and slowed us down just a bit.  Next stop – Castellina in Chianti-known for their beautiful car-free streets in the town center and interesting sculptures.

We were hungry and thirsty…can you believe it? I was feeling the need for a drink after the little event in Mimma’s driveway.   So we settled in at a little outdoor restaurant called Il Fondaccio. I ordered a Tuscan brewed beer – Birrificio Math: la 16 (amber, jasmine scented) – it was poured in a large wine glass, and looked like and tasted a bit like a fuzzy cider.  It was delicious.

Tuscan brewed beer – Math: la 16 amber

We shared 3 pizzas…4 actually

Gorgonzola – with tomatoes, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheese

Prosciutto E Funghi – with tomatoes, mozzarella, cooked ham and mushrooms

Bismark – with tomatoes, mozzarella, speck and egg in the middle- you can’t see the egg here because we ate most of it with our first tastes.

AND, the best pizza of all….

…..Nutella-delivered with a kiss!

 This Nutella was served on a warm soft dough with just the right amount of sweetness.  After returning home and with no recipe, I tried making it using plain pizza dough, buttered and baked, then added Nutella mixed with a little mascarpone and heated through.  It was just not the same taste experience as in Italy.  I believe atmosphere and liquor have a lot to do with any flavors and textures remembered from a trip…of course, a cute pizza guy helps too!

My sad “Maine” Nutella pizza-just no passion happening here…

Back to Castellina-Could this day get any better?  We had defied death, we had eaten pizzas for lunch, including the best dessert pizza in the world, we were shopping and exploring…YES, it could… we were off to our first cooking class with the Tuscan Mammas at Podere Ciona winery, Franca’s estate.

Tutti A Tavola – The Menu

Crostini caldi con mozzarella e acciughe

Crespelle alla fiorentina

Pollo al limone e rosmarino

Cipollotti in agro-dolce

Dolce bianco ai frutti

Here we go…we got serious with our cooking and wine tasting…

Crostini caldi con mozzaarella e acciughe

On to serious crepe making…

How many cooks does it take to make a crepe?

Filling and rolling crepes

Bechamel for crepes

No crepes left uncovered

Cipolloti in agro-dolce – (flat onions-butter-vinegar-sugar)


Pollo al limone e rosmarino (chicken-lemon zest-rosemary)

Dinner is served and it was all spectacular!

Lastly, Dolce bianco ai frutti-(yogurt-cream-sugar-fruits)

With permission I am able to share a recipe with you for the appetizer using anchovy filets.  But, for the rest, well…you’ll  just have to go and experience it.

Crostini caldi con mozzarella e acciughe


Baguette or other crusty bread cut into thin slices

Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced and patted dry

Anchovy fillets

Butter and olive oil


Preheat broiler

Cut anchovy fillets to adapt to size of bread slices, set aside

Brush bread with a bit of butter, top with mozzarella & place on baking tray

Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil and broil until cheese melts

Place a piece of anchovy on each crostino and serve immediately

Apps and laughs – delicious!

It was another extraordinary day – full of fun and excitement – what a way to experience Chianti/Tuscany.   Next up – Italy-Part 4 – Life on the Run and Singing for Dinner.

Ciao!   Susan

3 thoughts on “Italy-Part 3-Life on the Edge!

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