(For the full review and many more photos, see the July 2019 issue of our magazine)

Good Tastes of Tuscany are based on the 13th century Pandolfini estate in Lastra a Signa, a village just outside of Florence.

They offer accommodation, tours and more and I visited them to take part in their single day cookery class (they also offer multi day classes for those wishing to delve further into the intricacies of Tuscan cooking). There were 4 of us taking the course. Our teacher was an experienced local chef who’d worked in many of Florence’s 5 star restaurants and knew the Tuscan cuisine inside out. Many tips came our way during the course of the day such as don’t tip the pasta out of the boiling water when it’s done, instead use tongs so you don’t damage the pasta and you retain the water for use in your pesto so you can thin it to your taste.

Having spent the morning preparing stock, tomato sauce, walnut pesto, ribollita (Tuscan peasant soup), handmade pasta, eggplant parmigiana and artichoke salad under Chef’s guidance (he allocated us individual jobs and we worked together to complete each task) we sat together and ate it together with a bottle of the estate’s own wine. An excellent day, and certainly the most informative cookery class I’ve ever taken.

After class I took a walk on the dirt track that skirts the Pandolfini estate. It leads up the hillside and past the old villa of the opera singer ‘The Great Caruso’. Walking to the left of the Caruso villa’s main gate I passed a pool on my left where his maid used to wash the singers laundry. Further on the landscape opened out to reveal slopes of olive groves on my right drawing the eyes to mountain ridges and distant villages. The area is well known for it’s traditional character but such is the draw of Florence that few tourists venture here. In the 2 short hours I walked the track it showed great promise as a trail running or mountain biking route and I’m sure that as the famous ‘white roads’ of Tuscany get busier and more commercial then this area will see an increase in traffic.

Within days I was back in England cooking a vegan version of eggplant parmigiana for my family. I did a great job, I’m told by my sister, and for that I have to give thanks to the cookery course. We bring many things back from our holidays – t shirts, postcards, fridge magnets, etc – but the knowledge to cook for your family and please them has got to be one of the most useful, and valuable souvenirs from a great trip.

To check out all of that Good Tastes of Tuscany offer see their website https://tuscany-cooking-class.com/