The traveler is coming to town

Join the “ Albergo diffuso” a widespread hotel or scattered hotel, from the concept of “a village as your hotel”, alternative to the typical hotel in one single building.

panoramapeccioli

 

More than holiday apartments, the widespread hotel allows to be part of a village life benefiting of fundamental functions of a hotel like a reception, centralized booking, assistance, services like bars and restaurants. It’s a way in to the traditional way of life of the place where the traveler stays absorbing local cultures and traditions.

The apartments scattered throughout a small town or village, in old palaces, buildings or single unit houses are part of a centralized network supervised by a single organized entity that ensures the guest a reference for any information or issue may occur.

Due to the unique authenticity, this type of accomodations offer, along with privacy and relax, the chance to experience new places not only visiting but being part of a local community, sharing the vicinity and evaluating a different way of living.

chianni

Two examples of widespread hotels in Tuscany are “The medieval village of Peccioli” and “ The medieval village of Chianni”. Both villages in the Valdera area of the Pisa district are of ancient origins, with a lively community of residents and placed in an enchanting tuscan landscape of sweet hills with olive groves and vineyards.

If you are an independent traveler seeking a true experience, take a chance and come and stay in an Albergo Diffuso in Italy, you’ll see the difference.

Tuscan chestnut cake

Fall in Tuscany, in many households traditional recipes reflect what the fruits of the season offer, and one of these are chestnuts. Its trees are widespread throughout the region, from Valdichiana to the Maremma, from north of Siena to the Mugello and Garfagnana, chestnuts have always been a food resource for the tuscan population.

castagnaccio

What we describe here is the recipe for Castagnaccio, a simple chestnut flour cake (from “castagna” which means chestnut). The word cake here can be a little improper since this dish isn’t exactly “sweet”, the light sugariness tasted comes from the raisins and chestnuts, there is no sugar in it, there is also no baking powder or yeast.

Here the recipe as we know it from our family.

Ingredients:

  • 350 g of chestnut flour
  • 500 ml of water (flexible quantity according to flour quality)
  • 85 g of raisins
  • 100 g of pine nuts
  • 4 walnuts coarsely ground
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • about 40 needles of rosemary
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat oven at 200 °C

Oil (use 1 tbsp of the above) a large tart pan

Put the raisins to soften in a cup with some little warm water.

In a bowl sieve the flour and, slowly while strirring, pour first the water and then the olive oil and salt, you need to obtain a thick but fluid batter, not too liquid. Still mixing, add then pine nuts, walnuts, well drained raisins.

Pour the batter in the pan, the thickness should be more or less about 1 cm high. Spread the rosemary needles on top of the batter without stirring.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until some cracks appear on its surface. Remove from the oven and let it cool. It can be served in slices just plain or with some fresh ricotta cheese.

This is Arianna & Friends’ recipe and it can be directly learned hands on, in one of its tuscan cooking classes in Tuscany, Italy.

 

Torta della Nonna

Torta della nonna ( grandmother’s cake ) is a very traditional and popular dessert in Tuscany, a simple and tasty recipe with pastry crust filled with custard and pine nuts on top. It can be found across all the tuscan districts sometimes with slight variations like almonds instead of pine nuts.

torta della nonna

Here we propose the classic recipe.

Ingredients for the pastry:

250 gr of white flour

15 gr of baking powder

125 gr of white sugar

125 gr of butter

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 spoon of icing sugar

pinch of salt

100 gr of pine nuts

Ingredients for the custard:

50 gr of white flour

50 gr of white sugar

3 egg yolks

½ lt of milk

1 lemon

Directions:

Preheat oven at 180 °C.

Butter and flour a tart pan of about 24 cm.

Prepare the pastry making a well in the flour and put in the egg yolks, the butter previously softened at room temperature, a pinch of salt, the baking powder and vanilla extract. Combine and knead all together until the dough comes smooth and even, then set aside for half hour.

In the meantime start the custard by putting the eggs yolks and sugar in a medium saucepan and whisking until well combined, add then slowly, while still mixing, the flour, the milk and grated lemon zest, cook over moderate heat, strirring, until it bubbles and becomes thick, set then aside to cool.

Split the the pastry in 2 pieces, one a little larger than the other, and roll out 2 dishes, the larger should be able to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan, spread the cooled custard on top of the bottom dish pastry in an even layer. Set the smaller dish of pastry on top of custard layer trying to avoid air bubbles trapped in, press the edges together to seal the cake and cut out the excessive dough.

Spread on top the pine nuts and bake for 35 mins, Remove from the oven, let it cool, and then sprinkle some icing sugar on top.

In Tuscany this cake is usually served with a good glass of Vinsanto wine.

This is one of the many recipes that can be directly experienced with Arianna & Friends tuscan cooking school, all year round, in the Valdera district of Tuscany, Italy.

A modern organic farm in Tuscany , old time tastes and flavors

We are in a scenic hardly inhabited area of central Tuscany, close to the old town of Peccioli, the “capital of cereals” and the motto is – let’s cultivate the diversity -

Here old grains variety like Etruscan wheat, different types of Farro (spelt), Millet, Oats, Barley, Fenugreek are cultivated, milled, transformed and packed respecting the strict organic specification, this is why all the products from this farm are “top quality” and their flavor and taste easily witness it.

These people focused on selecting varieties of cereals to grow, suitable for use in organic farming in different climatic and soil conditions and at the same time recover the nutritional qualities of the old varieties.

In the 70′s when many where fleeing the lands to find work in the cities, the founder of this farm decided to buy many hectares (over 300 right now) in this little paradise of the Pisan hills.

In these fields can now be found grains that are ideal for making bread, produced here with natural yeast, and grains perfect for different kinds of pasta, also made here.

pastabread

 

 

 

 

 

The flour comes from a stone mill, not an old fashioned one though, here all is very modern and technological with great attention to hygiene and control of the product’s purity.

The farm has actually 2 sections, one has fields and stone mill, the other with more fields and the bread and pasta factory with a shop and almost all the cereals production is locally transformed in breads, pasta and baked products.

There is a dedicated guided tour of this organic farm available and organized by Arianna & Friends , the local tuscan tour operator, and the opportunity to taste the products offered is not to be missed.

 

Lajatico, history, culture and good living

Lajatico is a hilltop tuscan village in the district of Pisa in the Valdera area and separates the river Era from the Sterza stream, its territory lies between 50 and 628 meters above sea level.

lajatico

The first settlements have a roman and etruscan origins while the oldest records can be traced in the 891 AC when the place was a property of the counts Pannocchieschi D’Elci.

During the Middle Ages the castle was contested between Pisa and Florence and when in 1435 the florentines finally recaptured it, the wall and the fortress were dismantled.

On the main square stands a turreted structure, once (13th century) the Palazzo Pretorio, used as a prison. On the façade, can be seen the coats of arms of the Corsini family and the Camaldolese monks who lived there when the building was a monastery.

A historic symbol of the Era valley (Valdera) and once part of the Castle of Lajatico is the Civic Tower located in the west part of the village with its bronze bell dating back to 1279.

Worth of mention are:

  • The Church of San Leonardo erected in the 3rd century and transformed in the 19th century
  • Villa Fattoria Medicea Corsini once hunting residence of Lorenzo il magnifico, now a large farm
  • The Mofetta of Lajatico a natural phenomenon of muddy water affected by a carbon source of geothermal energy
  • Rocca of Pietracassia one of the most ancient defensive buildings in the region of Valdera
  • The Windmills, the remains of two mills built in the 17th century placed in spectacular panoramic position
  • Teatro del Silenzio, a natural amphitheater, a brilliant idea from singer Andrea Bocelli to promote its homeland with music and culture

Lajatico is also part of an important step on the Wine road of the Pisan Hills, a route where visitors can find quality agri-farm hospitality, wine culture that stretches from tasting and enjoying fine tuscan wines, savor a local typical dish or visiting vineyards and wine cellars, to be part of a cultural event.

Lajatico is a point of interest all year around and Arianna & Friends, a local tour operator, can be of great help in order to make a worthwhile experience of this territory in terms of food, wine and culture.