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Easter in Italy

FWe're rejoicing with the rest of the folks in Montefollonico for the first arrival of Primavera (Spring). It was an especially harsh winter - one day in early March, over 2 feet of snow piled up on our doorstep! Now buds are poking through the branches of our olive and chestnut tress, splashes of green are enlivening the fields and vineyards.


Springtime rituals to welcome the rebirth of nature have been going on in this rural community since pagan times. These rituals now blend with Pasqua (Easter), the Christian celebration of the resurrection.

Food is essential to any Italian celebration and Easter brings its special delicious treats. In the grocery store in Montefollonico, you'll see a sweet bread, called Colomba, that's molded into the shape of a dove, symbolizing peace. You'll also see loads of colorful foil-wrapped milk chocolate shaped eggs-the egg symbolizing the new beginnings spring brings. Some of these chocolate eggs are hollow and have trinkets inside for children. Others are adult versions, often custom-made, and have been known to hold more age appropriate goodies-such as car keys or an engagement ring.

On Easter Sunday morning, Montefollonico women gather eggs from their chicken coops and bring them in baskets to the church to have them blessed. These fresh, divine eggs are then brought back to their kitchens to be cooked into the midday feast. Typically there's a soup - Brodetto Pasquale - with an egg mixture is stirred in to thicken it. Roasted young Spring lamb, also from the Catholic tradition, follows on the day's menu.

The Italians are famous for stretching out their celebrations, and they do so officially with Easter. The following Monday is called La Pasquetta (Little Easter), and it's also a National Holiday. This day is a time when friends and families gather for picnics in the countryside, often with leftovers from the Easter feast. It's the first time they've had all year to really enjoy the outdoors. Villages often hold fairs where there's dancing until well after sunset. All generations feel the surge of happiness and vitality that comes with days of more sunshine and warmth.

Our Dear Friend Iolanda

Everyone who has been to Tuscan Women Cook remembers the memorable times learning Tuscan cooking from the master herself - Iolanda.  Recently her health has not been good, and many of you have asked how to contact her.  It would be nice if you would send her a note and even a photograph of your time with her.  You can send mail to Iolanda at:

Iolanda Marcocci
via della Madonnina, 57
53049 Montefollonico (Si)

cooking class group

Easter 2010. Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

We had an unbelievably positive response from everyone to our first newsletter. Thank you! 

As the economy has begun to stabilize, our enrollments have increased tremendously. Many of our scheduled weeks have already sold out, so we are attempting to add additional weeks to our current schedule. Please check back on our 2010 Calendar page frequently for the status on current and future weeks.

We think you will enjoy our articles this month. The first is about Flavio Andreucci's new style of wine making.  We have also completely renovated our website with new pages, regional informationm and 100s of new photos and videos.  Also, please have a look at our new Facebook and Flickr pages. Pasqua (Easter) is a very special time in Tuscany, with the first spring foods making their appearance.

We hope you can join us in Tuscany one day in the future. 

Meet the Super Tuscan

DA visit to our friend Flavio Andreucci's winery is a highlight of our cooking week, particularly for our female guests.  In a country full of handsome men, Flavio is at the top tier - or as Italian women say, Flavio is "MOLTO Bello!"


That distraction aside, the main reason we have Flavio on our itinerary is that in this region of extraordinary winemakers, Flavio is one of the most extraordinary. His intense dedication and his innovative approach to wine making have turned the eyes of the world onto his small Tenimenti Andreucci Winery and won him high praise. Most outstanding is his Regale, an elegant blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot.

Flavio's passion for wine making is rooted in his family, who has had a vineyard here for over 300 years. He honors their legacy with his wine label design that includes a copy of a bill of sale from Napoleon, who the Andreucci family supplied wine to 200 years ago.

Although he shows respect for tradition, Flavio is a true 21st century winemaker. He focuses on using scientific analysis when it comes to farm work. He used all he learned from his Geology Degree from the University of Siena to plant his vineyard, not even breaking ground until he had carefully analyzed soils, calculated just the right positioning of the vines for the best exposure to sunlight and ventilation. His goal is to produce the highest quality of grapes he can, and his motto has always been: "My wine is only as good as my grapes. A perfect quality of grape makes it possible to make a good wine."

Flavio also used the best of what he learned from local Brunello makers and then took off on his own path. In one of his many radical moves, he built his winery adjoining his vineyard. Normally, harvested grapes arrive at a winery at least 4 or 5 hours after they've been picked, so the fermentation process has already begun in route. But Flavio's grapes are carried just meters in small crates to his winery for inspection, arriving no more than fifteen minutes after they've been picked. Each bunch is examined for approval. "If one grape in the bunch is bad, we don't use any of it," he says.

Despite his genius approach to wine making, and despite the fact that he and his wines have been honored at such prestigious spots as The Waldorf Astoria AND The White House, Flavio still retains the humbleness of a classic Tuscan farmer. Montefollonico natives call him by his childhood nickname, "Chicco," which means grape. They remember watching him as a kid of only about 7, driving his father's tractor around the vineyard, showing his enthusiasm for farm life early on. Flavio's retained that enthusiasm and it's a joy to be around when we visit the Tenimenti Andreucci winery, where he lives with his girlfriend Lara and her 15-year old son, Matisse.


"It's not work, it's a lifestyle," Flavio says. "There are thousands more businesses you can get into that will pay you more money. That's not what this is about. This is about us living here, under the sky, under God. We are working carefully, patiently to grow the best grapes. The biggest satisfaction I get is when people come to visit. When I talk to them about what I love to do and they taste it, I can see in their eyes that they really appreciate the work. That appreciation, that connection I've made with people from all over the world-that is better than anything money can buy."

For more information on Flavio Andreucci's winery, Tenimenti Adreucci Winery, please go to his new website.

Our New Web Site!

E These are the words that immediately came to mind when we first had an opportunity to view our new website that just came online a couple of days ago.  If you have not viewed it yourself, click on www.tuscanwomencook.com and you'll immediately understand what we mean.


We have added hundreds of luscious, vibrant photos: steaming bowls of pasta, golden vineyards, joy-filled faces of our students and teachers in our cooking class kitchens, along with the Tuscan hills in glorious bloom.

Nearly all the pages of our new website feature it's own video - circling the top of the Duomo in Florence, harvesting grapes during Vendemmia (wine harvest) and an excerpt from the Fine Living channel, where we share the story of how we first fell in love with our Montefollonico farmhouse.

In addition to videos, several pages have wonderful slide shows with photos of guests, cooks, food and spectacular scenery.  Our favorite slide show is on the Calendar page, as it incorporates so many friends and the essence of Tuscan Women Cook.

Additionally, take a look at the new La Chiusa page with photos and video of one of Tuscany's most beautiful hotels and the people who make it that way.  You will readily understand why we chose this special place for you in Tuscany.

Our Raves page now has lots of fun video of past guests talking about their time with us.  When the 2010 classes begin, we'll be regularly updating the video so your friends and family back home can click in to see what delicious fun you're having.

Our very favorite new addition to our website, is the new Cooks page, where you can meet all thirteen (a lucky number in Tuscany) of the local women who teach our classes. The video that shows these amazing cooks in rolling pasta, stirring sauces, chopping garlic, pouring wine, along with the fresh garden grown ingredients we use for each meal.  This page perfectly captures our delightful cook's vibrant spirit, which is the heart and soul of Tuscan Women Cook.

We hope you enjoy our new website as much as we have enjoyed making it.  We love seeing all the photos and videos of old friends and new.  For everyone who has joined us at Tuscan Women Cook in the past - go open a bottle of Flavio's wine, click on our new website and enjoy the fabulous memories.

Raves 2

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We love what we do, and we love having so many wonderful guests join us each year in Tuscany.  Hopefully, you will come (or come back) to be with us again soon.
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Bill & Patty Sutherland
Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

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