I scanned the equipment on the table in front of me with more than a little trepidation. Slicers, dicers, chef’s knives, and immersion blenders waited patiently to be placed in the hands of the talented cooks who had gathered at Palazzo Donati to learn about vegan cooking. Anyone who knows me will shake their head in disbelief that I would attend a cooking workshop by choice. Simply put, I do not cook. I’m lucky if I can prepare an omelette without scorching it. With no home (and thus no kitchen) since 2009, any culinary ability I may have had as a younger woman has evaporated.
The only thing keeping me somewhat calm was that our teacher, Jenny Sugar, looked as nervous as I felt. Like me, Jenny’s path to joy has been a circuitous one. Originally from Venezuela, she lived for many years in the U.S., Europe, and Israel, until a fateful vacation to Italy. “I knew instantly that I had to move here,” she said. It took three attempts, but she finally settled in Milan, where she opened a gourmet pasty shop. Read More
The deep-throated cooing of pigeons in the rafters roused me from a delicious sleep. I stretched and yawned before climbing out of bed to watch the sunrise. As the sky blushed deep orange, lights winked on across the valley, marking tiny hilltop towns that are invisible during daylight hours. I glanced at the clock and groaned. 5:30 a.m. Too early for me to be up. I crawled back into bed and drifted off for another hour – until the donkey started braying. Rather than fight it, I reset my internal clock and headed out to take photos of this working farm in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.
Montestigliano was established at the end of the 18th century by the aristocratic De Vecchi family from Siena. They built the first part of what is today the central property. It changed hands twice more through the centuries, with each owner expanding the property until it included several palazzos for the owners, a small chapel, a granary, and houses for the farm manager and workers. Its fourth owner, Luigi Donati, acquired it in 1953, but by then the once prosperous property was in a run-down state. Read More
One the many joys of wandering around the Tuscan countryside is discovering astonishing artwork found in every village, no matter how tiny. During my stay at the luxury Tuscan farmhouse of Montestigliano, I visited the tiny town of Sansepolcro, Italy, the very last town on the eastern border of Tuscany prior to crossing into the Le Marche region. At first glance, it seemed like just another cute Italian village. However, I soon learned that it had much more to offer than its weekly market. Read More