Monday, October 3, 2011

La Dolce Vita with a Sweet Giveaway


Villa Rucellai - it's a true Tuscan dream. A sonata, an aria.  If Ireland is a poem, Italy is music. The Villa lulled me into Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt for hundreds of years, it whispers you into sweet contentment.


In the Great Hall, my theatrical genes bade me to believe I was all of Shakespeare's Italian heroines: Juliet, Beatrice, Katherine.



Sitting out in the gardens until late at night, husband and I would whisper to each other, "Can you see it? How it was - then? 12th centruy? 14th century? 15th century?"


Yes. We could see it.


Open my heart and you will see, engraved inside of it, "Italy." - Robert Browning


Smiles from a villa - the ducks. (I have a passion for ducks - they always make me smile, often make me laugh and forever delight me.) I take a lot of photos of ducks! (And no - don't eat them!)


You surrender in a place such as this. And find yourself rewarded with its inner music - its heartbeat.


I wandered the olive groves - knowing there would be some fruity, just-pressed olive oil that would grace my dinner table for months to come. I counted on their olive oil to evoke this special time again and again.


And we had a picnic every night in the formal gardens. Lest you think I am bewitched - I will let you in on a secret. The reason for the picnic is simple: the road to the Villa is one lane - barely large enough for a goat and with no barriers between the car and the drop off. But it is two-way traffic (not including those hearty bicyclists and walkers). There are hairpin turns and at one point our GPS seemed to be tell us to turn right and drive off the cliff! It wasn't a road I was aching to do after dark (when you meet another vehicle on the road - someone has to back up or down - and you really don't meet them until you are literally face-to-face - it's all windy turns). So for two nights we had a picnic - of fruits, cured meats, cheese, bread and wine in the gardens. It amused our elegant host - but that decision calmed me!


As you can see, a picnic in the garden was not a hardship.


And we were joined by the villa cats. (Because they just knew Husband-person always shares his food with furry ones!)


We started the day eating simply - knowing the wealth of food that was in our daily horoscope.



Proof that scairdy-cat Claudia (and husband) who-are-afraid-of-heights made it up and down the "hilltop" every day...



... knowing full well that if I conquered my fear, a Tuscan sunset would be in my future. More on the history of the villa as well as luscious photos can be found here.


I was delighted to pick up this book in Bologna - in English. It contained many of the recipes we sampled on our journey. When I saw it again - at the airport - I realized it must be somewhat common for Italians - but with recipes such as Mozzarella in Carrozza from Campania and Walnut Liqueur from Emilia Romagna, I was intrigued enough to bring two of these cookbooks home. The measurements are in grams (easy to convert) and the sauces are Italian - they don't smother their pasta with sauce - they flavor it! The book is divided into courses: starters, breads, sauces, first course (usually pasta), meat dishes, fish dishes, vegetable dishes and sweets. And it will be soon heading to one of you! Simply leave a comment on this post today through Sunday, October 9th and I will randomly choose a winner through that random generator thing. No hoops to jump through - just a comment! (Apologies: the offer is for the USA and Canada only.) Create your own Italian dream in your kitchen. 

Tales of Italy complete with recipes are forthcoming. And I will begin visiting again very soon! For I have missed you.

37 comments:

Pegasuslegend said...

Omg I am so appreciative on this fabulous post. Your pictures are breathtaking, just to sit and marvel over, my dream trip. I looked at that crusty REAL Italian bread. Just amazing, I want some! I love the countryside hills and plush greenery. Your a natural in these photos... just gorgeous! I love the giveaway.. keeping my fingers and toes crossed, glad your back.. but what a trip thankyou for sharing with us!~

Anne said...

Welcome back! Your trip looks so fantastic with the scenery ,the food, and the sunset. Wow! I would love to have that wonderful cookbook! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful trip!
Anne/Choices

Taste of Beirut said...

I love Italy and the Italians! Part of it is blood connection (my great grandmother came from Trieste) and part of it is I feel they are our cousins so to speak; this villa is a dream and I am planning on visiting Italy soon once I am stationed in the middle-east for a while. This cookbook sounds wonderful too.

Wanda..... said...

I'm amazed you came back, Claudia, especially after viewing the link! Just kidding....but it sure looks like it would be a hard place to leave.

Vibey said...

Ahhh you're back! And with such wonders to show and tales to tell.

How can a person pine for a place she's never been? But she can, she can. That's the pull of Italy.

Rosemary said...

Why does it look like home! I so, so, so want to go there! Your pictures are gorgeous. I'm sure you're having the time of your life. Anxious to taste more through you!

Kim said...

This is the most beautiful blog. The photos are amazing! I love the Italian culture, people and the food. Look forward to your recipes.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Welcome home, Claudia! You've been dearly missed but I know that you will delight us with many more wonderful posts about your trip. Villa Rucellai looked like a beautiful place to stay. Some of my favorite meals in Italy were evening "picnics" of bread, wine, olives, cheese and fruit that we had bought during the day.

The cookbook sounds intriguing!

Reeni said...

Your pictures are stunning Claudia! I don't blame you for having dinner in the gardens - the road sounds frightening and how could you resist it's beauty? Can't wait to hear and see more!

Mari said...

Want a beautiful place. I am glad you enjoyed it there. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. Dinner in the garden...beautiful and romantic. I see myself in Italy with my hubby, hopefully my wish comes true soon!

Hugs

That Girl said...

What a romantic villa!

Jeannie said...

What lovely photos! That windy road sounds a bit intimidating but the view from the top surely made up for it!

Angie's Recipes said...

Beautiful photos of Italy! I would love to sit in that garden for my dinner too! Just amazing!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

Glad you enjoyed my home country!

FOODESSA said...

I envy so much your time in the embracing Italia...not the face to face 2way streets of course. LOL

I can only imagine that you'll have many more memories to share with us going forward Claudia. Any shared cucina secrets coming up? Can't wait to read more about Bologna ;)

This giveaway is very generous. Here's wishing us all the luck to have this join our bookshelf ;o)

Welcome home my dear and of course...flavourful wishes.
Claudia

Lizzy said...

Oh, I should have hidden in your suitcase! Gorgeous photos!!! I'm so glad you didn't follow the GPS and are back home safe and sound. Love your giveaway, too...who wouldn't want this lovely cookbook????

My Little Space said...

My goodness, what a gorgeous place this is. I'm sure you're having such fabulous vacation. And the giveaways sound wonderful as well. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy & load of fun.
Blessings,
Kristy

Lucia said...

the pics made me want to get on a plane and go and the giveaway has come at a perfect time as winter approaches us I will have lots of time to try out recipes!

Beth said...

Welcome back! It's so nice to have you posting again. I loved your photos of Italy. And your comments reminded me of two nights we spent in the Pyrenees. Our hosts made us dinner, but our plan was to drive down and spend part of the day in the valley. But the trip up was so white-knuckle that we decided to stay put until we left!

Tupper Cooks! said...

Beautiful pics of a fabulous place.

One of these days.......

Velva said...

Claudia, I love it! if only those walls and hillsides could talk, what a story they would tell. I know without a doubt, that this was an amazing journey. So glad you are sharing it with us.

Those hairpin turns? i experienced them in Croatia. I totally understand having a picnic in the evening (laugh). I have worn my stomach on my lap with those turns ( 2-way traffic and one lane).

Cheers to you!
Velva

Fingers crossed that the random generator picks me!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

What a truly enchanting place Claudia. No, picnics there would be no hardship. I love the idea of musing about what life would have been like there in the 15, 16th centuries. Welcome home.

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

wow looks like heaven so happy for you Claudia hugs

Barbara GF said...

Oh, Claudia - I am enchanted! That is a dreamlike place, where I could picnic for eternity. What lovely photos and musings. And I love those villa cats. (Ducks always make me laugh, too, but I have never met any Italian ones!)

theUngourmet said...

I loved reading your post, Claudia. What a spectacular trip! Your photos are fabulous! The part about the GPS and the cliff made me chuckle. :) Looks like a terrific book as well. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

-Kim

Linda I. Duggan said...

I could always see myself living within those pictures! Great photos.

fromBAtoParis said...

What an incredible trip for you Claudia...the scents, the scenes...breathtaking! I feel SO glad for you...I know how much you will treasure this!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I'm not eligible for the giveaway as I live down under - but just wanted to drop by to say hi! This post makes me want to go travelling so badly.

The Food Hunter said...

What a beautiful villa...I feel like I've been there through your photos. Thanks for sharing and thank you for such a wonderful giveaway!

Island Vittles said...

I love old places -- and I mean real age, like this beautiful villa...I can spend hours, just wandering the grounds, trying to get just a feel of past centuries. Thank you for the tour! Theresa

Amy said...

What a lovely recipe book and thanks you so much for thinking of us and share in a giveaway. :) Yes, would love to win and try out all the recipes. I love Italian cuisine.

amy [at] utry [dot] it

Laurie said...

Oh Claudia.. this is SO SO lovely!!! I love that you and your husband still share whispers with each other.. ooh, and in the Italian countryside!

And I think a fig tree would be the perfect gift for your own Italian garden! Treat yourself bella signora!!! :) xoxo

Gina said...

Thank you for letting us spend the time reveling in your memories. I love the idea of just hanging out in the garden for dinner. Why rush, it would be over too quickly.

Bring me next time, please, pretty please.

Welcome home.
-Gina-

Cake Duchess said...

Claudia-My heart just skipped a beat. I miss Italy so much when I look at your beautiful post and photos. I'm so happy you were there. ti mando un bacino. xo:)

Susan Audrey said...

Your pictures are so beautiful - thank you for sharing those with us. It's easy to believe magical places like that are just something you see in the movies, but your photos prove otherwise!

And thank you also for the chance to win that great cookbook. I've been trying to expand my abilities in the kitchen and would adore something that explores the details of Italian cuisine.

Roz from 'la bella vita' said...

You are living my life-long dream Claudia. I loved every word and photo and feeling of this post. Simply beautiful in every way. I look forward to many more posts of your journey! Would you consider sending me how you planned your trip, who you went through, all of the stops, and trattorias etc.? I don't even know where to begin and who to trust. Thanks, Buon Viaggio! Roz

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, I am so happy for your beautiful stay in Italy. Your post had me dreaming!! I am glad you overcame your fears and climbed the hill. I am sure that your memory is just filled. What a nice blessing to have. Thank you for sharing the stay and the magnificent photos.
Blessings, Catherine xo