Baracchi Moments

An unforgettable week in Tuscany:

I have chosen to call this holiday the Baracchi Moments because the whole event was based around Cortona, the Baracchi estate and events that took place within close proximity to their holdings.

We stayed at the Locanda Del Molino, which is a lovely traditional Tuscan Bottega or Inn just east of Cortona, it is owned by the Baracchi family and admirably managed by Stephano and Anna Marie Coley. The Locanda historically was a mill on the Esse which is now a little stream which runs alongside the terrace; it has a Michelin recommended restaurant.

We flew into Pisa Airport on Saturday 13th September, departing at 08.30 from Gatwick and were at the Locanda by 15.00. Because we had not eaten, the staff prepared a snack for us which we ate sitting on the Terrace. The snack was, bread and Olive Oil, cold meats and wine – what a delightful way to start a holiday (fig 1), we had arrived!

Whilst we were sitting having our snack, the Chef came out, went past us to the herb garden and returned with fresh herbs for the evening meal, I think that was fantastic , even the path to the herb garden was rustic too (Fig 2).
I wasn't sure about how suited we would be to the place or the food (both seemed quite rustic), Locanda del Molino prides itself on providing traditional Tuscan cuisine, which can, at times, be a little too rich for me, but I did not need to worry.
The "Rustic" was delightful (Fig 3 &4) and the dining was superb; added to this was the quality of the wine, Baracchi of course and the staff were terrific.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4

 

We dined on such foods as: Picci with Duck Ragu, Griddled Pork with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Rabbit Risotto, Italian Sausages (to see recipe click here), Gnocchi, Baked Aubergine with Parmesan (Fig 5), Pork and Beans (Fig 6) Chianina steak (that's the big white cow with Horns) and Arrosto Misto. I also discovered Zuppa Inglese is Italian for Trifle.

Along with 4 other people, Jan did her cookery course with Silvia Baracchi at Il Falconier on the afternoon of Sunday 14th. This was a great success, especially as we got to eat the food afterwards. Silvia was kind enough to allow me to join in with both the Picci rolling (Fig 7 & 8) but also eating the food, it was a fantastic experience.

Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8

 

Whilst Jan was having her tuition I wandered around the estate with Jacko the family dog (Fig 9), I enjoyed the views, I relaxed in the Lemon House, watched the Falcon (Lilla, Fig 10) flying and generally had a great time sampling wine and Canapes.

Part of the reason for returning to Italy again this year was to get to know Cortona better, it's such a lovely little town, therefore on Monday we spent the day wandering the streets checking out the alleyways and shops (Fig 11), we had lunch overlooking the Piazza, then went off to look for Bramasole, the home that Frances Mayes wrote about in her book "Under Tuscan Sun". We didn't find her home; however, we did have a fantastic drive around the countryside.

Figure 9 Figure 10 Figure 11

 

In the evening we were excited to have Frances Mayes with her husband Ed and a couple of guests eat in the Locanda restaurant. Frances is a great friend of the Baracchi family as well as Stephano and Anna Marie. She was gracious enough to spend a little time talking to us, but I was aware we were intruding, so we politely left them to their meal.

On Tuesday we visited Arrezo, this is a town we wanted to visit whilst staying in the Cortona area. It's a beautiful little town with so much history; it has a medium sized Piazza (Fig12), it also has several other small ones; Arrezo is not as crowded as Sienna. There is an old ruined Amphitheatre in a lovely shaded park several churches and we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the pedestrianized town centre with its unusual street decorations (Fig 13 & 14).

Figure 12 Figure 13 Figure 14

 

Of course we stopped off for the obligatory Ice cream in one of the smaller Piazzas and watched a bread making demonstration. We then had a meal at Il Falconier, it's such a fantastic ambiance there and the food is special. We dined on such foods as Chicken Parfait (Fig 15) and Potato and Porcini Mille-feuille (Fig 16), Suckling Pig (Fig 17), Wine poached Apricot (Fig18) and the cheese platter with Pear/honey was divine (Fig 19).

Figure 15 Figure 16 Figure 17 Figure 18 Figure 19

 

Wednesday was taken up by a visit to St. Gimignano which is a walled, medieval hillside town well known on the tourist trail. It was a town we had heard of in the province of Siena but had not managed to visit before. We took the opportunity whilst in the area. Once again, as is so good in Tuscany, the town was a lovely example of a well looked after and presented citadel.

It was a great day out, we had a lovely meal in a quiet Piazza, to start, Jan had Pear and Pecorino drizzled with Honey (Fig 20) and I had fried egg covered in truffle (Fig 21), we both had Picci (me using my by now well used Napkin clip)! As part of our day we found a jeweller (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), who worked with us to design and make some jewellery for us both; I think he will be making Napkin clips by now, he was very impressed by my clip (Fig 22).

On Thursday we had a relaxing morning, we went into Cortona because we had arranged to meet up with Marcus Cottrell the founder of #Cortonatwitter and other such links in order to get some Tee shirts (Fig 23) , it was great to meet up with Marcus and get his slant on Cortona. We were then booked into the Baracchi winery for a tour of the vineyard/ winery, wine tasting and Lunch.

Figure 20 Figure 21 Figure 22 Figure 23

 

It was fantastic, we watched the grapes arriving and being processed (Fig 24), toured the cellars to see sparkling wine being turned, I took the top off a bottle of Prosecco using a sabre (Fig25) we sampled lots of wines, then we sat under the trees and had a delicious lunch; Jan had Gnocchi with Squid (fig26 ) and I had Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms (Fig 27), followed by Monkfish wrapped in Pancetta (Fig 28) with peppers and Jan had Seared Tuna with Green Tomatoes (fig 29) with lots of different wines; the Sommelier (Alberto) is a great guy, who quickly works out your palate.

Figure 24 Figure 25 Figure 26
     
Figure 27 Figure 28 Figure 29

 

We returned to the Locanda, but could only manage an Omelette for me (fig 30) and a pot of Earl Grey for Jan (Fig 31).

On Friday we then went for a drive round the local area to look for the local Franciscan Monastery which is a beautiful place set in the tranquil countryside just outside of Cortona (Fig 32 & 33). It is steeped in history with close links to St Francis who spent a lot of time there.

Figure 30 Figure 31 Figure 32 Figure 33

 

We then went looking for Bramasole once again and this time after doing some research we found it tucked away down a small side road. This had the affect of putting all of Frances' books into context for me. Frances was in the garden at the time with Ed and I think it was her builder so we didn't stop to take photos; next year perhaps.

We then attended what was for me, the highlight of the trip, the grape stomping, a once in a lifetime experience, wonderful. Food and music provided we danced and stomped grapes until the early hours, but sadly it was our last night and we had to get up early the next day to fly home, so we had to govern our drinking and we did leave before the end to go to bed. Silvia, Riccardo, Anna Marie and Stephano were there for the night, it was also Riccardo's birthday so everyone had a wonderful time (Fig 34, 35, 36, 37, 38).

Figure 34 Figure 35 Figure 36 Figure 37 Figure 38

 

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of afternoons around the pool at the Locanda and a terrific lunch in AD, Cortona.

  Pool

 

The holiday was a fantastic experience, enriched by the food, the wine, and also the fantastic people we met, Moments to cherish, Baracchi Moments.