Archive | October, 2017

Still Saying “I Do!”

30 Oct

Wednesday was the last night in Cortona of our 9th stay, and also happened to be our 30th anniversary. 

We began the day with a wonderful walk through the parterre, bathed in sunshine and enjoying the magnificent October weather and views.





We ended the evening, surrounded by friends, at our favorite Tuscher Caffè.

We had told Massimo and Daniela we wanted to host a Brindisi D’Anniversario, or Anniversary Toast, with simple finger food…but of course, they always do so much more than expected. 

We arrived a bit early to find Dani and Edoardo making the final touches on the buffet…



and Massimo ready to open the Prosecco.



The food was not only delicious, but so creative! 

As we waited for our guests, Len rehearsed his toast. When all had assembled, we took our first group photo. Well done, Francesco!



After more toasts and eating, Len asked for attention. He began by apologizing for his Italian, but was quickly reassured by the group that his effort was well appreciated. Toasting our friends in his best Italian, he thanked them for their sincere friendship and for making us truly feel that Cortona is our second home.

And then he turned to me, with these words, also in Italian… “You are the butter on my bread and the fire in my heart.” Melted.

While the food was being cleared, we made some attempts at gender photos…

And then we were doubly surprised by the dessert…



First, that it was a gift from dear friends from Toronto, Carrol and Larry, and second, that all this time I thought I was married to LEN! (Technology can be great as we were able to FaceTime them in Toronto while cutting the cake!)

Such a wonderful evening, full of laughter, smiles, stories, and most of all dear friends. 

30 years ago, 



And today…

As I reflect on the the past 30 years, what comes to mind most is how blessed we have been and how thankful we are for our loving family, our dear friends, and our ongoing adventures. 

Hoping to get just one more group photo before we departed, we stopped a person walking by outside and asked him to take a photo. It was quickly evident this was not something he was used to doing… with his finger half over the lens and quite shaky!



But alas, with pure luck, he took this. A little finger shadow top left, but all in all, a great memory of a wonderful evening!



Many thanks to Daniela and Massimo for their hard work…we so love having parties at Tuscher. And our heartfelt love and thanks to family and friends, whether with us at Tuscher or from far away, for the wonderful anniversary wishes. I hope they all do come true and that we have many more years to celebrate.

And yes, after 30 years, I am still saying “I Do!”


The 2017 Olive Harvest

23 Oct

Every year, around mid to late October, many Cortonese hope to begin harvesting their olives. I use the word hope because Mother Nature plays a huge role in the success of the harvest. While 2015 was a bountiful year, the complete opposite was true for 2016 due to the dreaded mosca (fly).  And this year, the 2017 harvest was severely limited by the drought…hence,  small quantity but good quality olives depending on the location of one’s olive grove.

Nonetheless, October begins the eagerly anticipated time “olio nuovo” (new oil) signs begin to appear in restaurants and stores. And it is also a time when locals invite friends to celebrate their production. Lucky for us, friends invited us to dinner last night, but didn’t tell us they had already been to the frantoio (mill) to begin processing their olives.

As soon as we entered the cantina, we knew we were in for a treat. The bright green color and the light peppery taste of freshly pressed olive oil is unlike that of any other oil.




Lapo and Paola like to call this a peasant dinner – simple and fresh food picked from the garden or locally sourced, all designed to highlight the taste of the new oil.



New oil is traditionally first tasted as a bruschetta  – toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic and topped with the oil. We each made our own. Delicious.



We also added the oil to a dash of salt in tiny bowls – a wonderful dip for fresh vegetables from the garden.



Next came what Len calls an Italian version of hummus, this one made from ceci (chickpeas), drizzled with the oil and topped with a sprig of rosemary. Can’t wait to try this myself.



The dish that followed was a type of bread soup, pappa al pomodoro, topped with a drizzle of oil. Simple, delicious and perfect for an autumn evening. 



Now this is Italy, remember, so you know there is more to follow, and what followed was rosemary roasted chicken and potatoes, with a splash of oil of course!



Now not all olives are turned into oil, as was the case with these tasty herb and orange marinated olives, served as a side dish.



For dessert, we were treated to Paola’s delicious torta della nonna, (grandmother’s cake), a traditional Tuscan dessert with a light custard. (I forgot to ask if she added a drop of the new oil to it!) Not being much of a baker, I bought the others at a local pasticceria. 



So that’s how we celebrate the olive harvest in Cortona, enjoying what Mother Nature provides, combined with the hard work of locals who pick by hand. 

From this…



to this. Doesn’t get much better.



Our thanks to Lapo and Paola for an always entertaining and delicious evening together. Complimenti to the cook and grazie for your friendship!




Chocolate and Red Wine – Who Knew?

12 Oct

Somewhere in my past, I picked up the notion that red wine would make a stuffy nose stuffier, so all week when Len and I had meals, I drank water. 

Two days ago, I decided to check the data, and to my surprise, here’s what I found:

Red Wine: 
Red wine actually helps fight a fight a cold. (Am I the only one that didn’t know this?) Antioxidants contained in red wine, resveratrol and polyphenols, can prevent cold and flu viruses from multiplying once they’ve entered your system. 

Interestingly, a few Italian friends suggested this “before going to bed” remedy: 

Boil a cup of red wine, (thus deleting the alcohol), add a few red pepper flakes (optional), drink down and in the morning, the cold will be gone. 

Len says this is what he plans to do if he catches my cold.

Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate (70% or higher cocoa content) is loaded with zinc and like red wine, contains a lot of antioxidants which help fight a cold. While it is advised to not overindulge, small daily portions can help boost the immune system.

So there you have it, two over-the-counter remedies to consider adding to your shopping list should the cold bug strike. But then, why wait for a cold! 


And no, the wine doesn’t need to be a Brunello, but when it Italy, why not?






Fighting a Cold (raffreddore)

9 Oct

In October, when the night air turns cooler but the days are still warm, Tuscan colds are a plenty. The locals blame it on the change in weather and I’m becoming a believer. But when the sky is bright blue and the weather is in the 70’s, it’s hard to nurse a cold in bed. 

Still, not wanting to spread my germs, we headed to Lago Trasimeno for a walk and lunch. We were also curious about the lake level due to both the summer drought and more recent rains.

What we found didn’t surprise us as Umbria and Tuscany sustained spring and summer months with virtually no rain and intense heat. The lake had not only receded, it actually uncovered sandy beach areas we had never seen before.





After our walk, we stopped at a caffé for a light lunch, but more so to sit in the warm sun and be mesmerized by the clouds dancing on the ripples across the lake.



Walking back to the car, I couldn’t help but stop at this structure for a few more photos.





Tonight for dinner, we made a red and yellow pepper risotto that turned out quite well. 



All in all, a perfect way to not have a cold ruin a beautiful day! 


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