Kitchen Table Travel in Italy, Part Two
Our Adventures continue on day five, Thursday
Sacro Bosco, aka The Garden of Monsters, has long been on our wish list as a place to visit so we were positively ecstatic to be there! Built in a wooded area of Viterbo in the 16th century, this fantastical garden of giant mythical creature rock sculptures is an absolute delight. It had been forgotten or ignored until the 1930's when Salvador Dali visited. Interest was renewed and today it gets the attention it deserves.
We had a bit of lunch before we hit the road for our next destination, the Sabina area of Lazio. Part of the Roman countryside, this area is rich with olive trees, natural beauty, and charming medieval villages.
This next part of the trip was really dedicated to food and all things culinary. We based everything around Grano & Farina, the famed Roman cooking school. The owners, Julia and Pino Ficara, have been working on doing a few culinary programs in the countryside and we jumped at the chance to work with them! Julia and Pino are experts and professionals and incredibly dedicated to the love, care, and responsibility that goes into feeding others.
They welcomed us all with some prosecco and nibbles for a little happy hour. While we chatted Julia and Pino were in the kitchen putting the final touches on our dinner. And what a dinner it was! Seriously, we were so excited and hungry that we forgot to take pictures of the food. Sorry. But it was phenomenal, truly!
Day Six, Friday
Friday was olive oil day! We were picked up in the morning by Johnny Madge, international olive oil expert and all around good chap. Johnny spent the first half of the day showing us the olive groves of Sabina and explaining how olive oil is made from seed to milling. At the end of the tour we went back to Julia and Pino's place where Johnny led us through a professional olive oil tasting. Julia and Pino prepared foods that we could pair with different olive oils. It was very cool to taste the olive oil in new ways and learn how it can help open up flavors in food.
After tasting, we had some downtime before the next fabulous dinner made for us by Grano and Farina.
Day Seven, Saturday
Cooking class day! The team gathered at Grano e Farina for a hands-on lesson that culminated in a delicious lunch. The ingredients were locally sourced and everyone got to go to the farm next door and pick some ingredients themselves. Julia instructed everyone in the art of handmade orecchiette (takes some practice!). Pino instructed how to prepare a perfectly roasted chicken, the potatoes, and the greens.
After our big lunch, we drove into the Village of Poggio Mirteto for a little stroll. As in most small villages, most of the shops and businesses were closed for a few hours in the afternoon but we got to do a little sightseeing. That evening we all voted on a quite evening at home.
Day Eight, Sunday
The day dawned bright and clear and we all got into Large Marge to meet up with Lucio of Immersions into Landscapes for a nature walk in Cottanello. Lucio creates "a rural experience that is not limited exclusively to wine & food, it includes learning about plants and animals, agricultural systems, old varieties of cultivated plants, local sayings, beliefs and popular imagination, little minor architectural monuments and ancient building techniques, past societies that shaped landscape and landscape evolution to date, and much more ..." Pretty cool, right?? For today's excursion, we started in an old area that was once full of cheesemaking huts. Well, the huts are made of stone so it is a bit more than a hut, but the idea is that cheesemakers would move into the higher altitudes with their animals so they could make cheese using the delicious summer milk. Nobody really does that anymore so now the town is occupied by goats, pigs, sheep, and some other farm animals. It was a bit surreal but so interesting. Our walk was gorgeous and informative and Lucio is a wonderful guide! We'd brought a picnic lunch packed by Julia and Pino after finding some tables to eat at, some very clever pigs and a very enthusiastic sheep dog surrounded the table hoping for some scraps. Our picnic turned into a pig-nic!
After a bit of rest we had our farewell dinner at Grano e Farina. Julia and Pino outdid themselves here. We had appetizers of truffle bruschetta, olive, salami, and sparkling red wine. Dinner was a salad, homemade pasta, veal saltimbocca, and panna cotta with salted caramel. It was incredible!
For our next post, we'll have part three of our trip, where the whole gang and Large Marge depart for Rome!