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 Maiolica di Montefollonico   
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Ufficio del Turismo




The village of Montefollonico, our Tuscan Women Cook home base, has remained our little bella secret for quite a long time, unknown to the average tourist. We were so surprised when, a few years ago, a Tourist Office popped up just inside the stone gate of the historic center. It was a kiosk, about the size of a telephone booth, and hardly ever open.



Years later, there's now an Ufficio del Turismo on the little via just outside that gate. It's 10 times the size of a telephone booth-(Okay, I'm a Texan, I exaggerate. Maybe 7 times the size of a telephone booth!). Though our village of 500 residents is still unspoiled, travelers are getting savvy, and they find Montefollonico to be a perfect spot to get off the beaten path in Tuscany.

For excellent advice on all things Montefollonico, stop by the tourist office, and meet our local sweetheart, Signorina Elisa Mozzini. Elisa was born outside the gate, bursts with pride when it comes to showing off her homeland, and speaks excellent English.



"I love to make people happy, to guide them to find out about festivals, sporting events or concerts, to discover one of Montefollonico's special restaurants, or our Il Tondo park, that is lovely for a picnic or to enjoy the walking and biking trails. Often they come back and thank me for my suggestions! " she says.



In 2011, 800 tourists from all over the world stopped by the Montefollonico Tourist Office and signed the official guestbook. In 2012 that number nearly doubled. Among these visitors are former Tuscan Women Cook students who return to the place they fell in love with during their school week. Elisa also meets travelers who saw Tuscan Women Cook pictures, and come to discover that this heavenly-looking place is for real!


And you can become a fan of Ufficio Turistico Montefollonico on Facebook.














January-February 2013. Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

Thank you for all your positive responses to our earlier newsletters. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do putting them together.


In this issue, we're featuring Iolanda Marcocci. She was one of our very first cooks and she set the bar for everyone else. She worked in the kitchen of La Chiusa before teaching classes for Tuscan Women Cook. Regretably, she has retired from teaching, but her ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers, her handmade pici with sugo di campagna, and her ribollita were all beyond compare, and her phenomenal tiramisł will always be remembered with love. Be sure and watch the video below of Iolanda and her granddaughter Celeste making tiramisł.


One of the most sought after ceramic shops in southern Tuscany is in our village. Mariella Spinelli is the artist in residence at this incredible shop. Located in our village's oldest restored and desanctified church, her studio is a must-see.


With only 600 residents, Montefollonico now has a full time Tourist Information Office. Read about Elisa Mozzini and other volunteers who are happy to assist our visitors.


Our classes are filling rapidly this year. Eight of the eleven weeks we are offering are either sold out or have very few spaces remaining. We just opened the week of June 2-8 to meet demand. October is a gorgeous month in Tuscany and it's when vendemmia (grape harvest) takes place. The good news is we still have availability for our October classes.



-Bill and Patty Sutherland
 Iolanda Marcocci, Our Tuscan Nonna  


"She's just like my nonna (grandmother)!" We hear this from Tuscan Women Cook guests again and again, the moment they set eyes on Iolanda Marcocci. Iolanda is a five-foot tall powerhouse signora, who has been cooking Tuscan classics ever since she could stand up. She recently retired from teaching, as she's getting on in years. We'd never ask her age, but figure her to be nearing ninety.


Still, Iolanda's generous spirit is strong as ever, so often we bring students to visit her in her little village home. She sets the kitchen table with a lace tablecloth and serves coffee from delicate china cups. And always the typical Tuscan grandmother, she doesn't hold back, immediately launching into personal questions, even with someone she's just met: "Are you married? Have children? A boyfriend? When are you getting married?" Even for those who don't speak Italian, she makes herself understood. All who enter get an arrivederci kiss on both cheeks from Iolanda, and an unforgettable memory of spending time with a genuine village matriarch.



Our introduction to Iolanda was memorable. We were interviewing local women to teach our first season of classes. Most of them were home cooks, but we'd also heard about Iolanda, who for 27 years had cooked at La Chiusa, the local Michelin-starred restaurant. Iolanda appeared and flip-flopped our interview process. She insisted on interviewing us, in our kitchen. She arrived, checked out our stove, then each pot, pan, and knife. By the time she was done, we were so grateful that we passed inspection.


It's this determined, a bit rough around the edges style, that has endeared Iolanda to us and our guests. And she does have her sweet side. Whether she's serving coffee, rolling pici (the thick spaghetti specialty of our region), or making tiramisł (the BEST in the world), Iolanda brings joyful passion to classic Tuscan cooking. Or just mention the name of her granddaughter, Celeste, and she lights up like a ball of sunshine. Over the years, we've watched Celeste grow from a wide-eyed child standing by Iolanda's side in the kitchen, to a stellar high school student who adores her doting nonna.



Since Iolanda has lived most of her life in Montefollonico, she can fill your ear with gossip about every man, woman, and child in the village. Most fascinating are her stories from World War II. Her mind is amazingly sharp, and she'll bark out every detail and date. December 8, 1943: When Fascism fell, the Germans invaded, and she escaped with her family into the woods, where they lived for two months. January 7, 1944: When bombs struck, and she took refuge in the building that is now the Hotel La Costa. April 25, 1944: When peace was declared, and the village rejoiced upon the arrival of American soldiers.


Inevitably, whenever we visit, Iolanda shows us one of her most prized possessions: a bag of letters she's received over the years from Tuscan Women Cook visitors. There are thank you notes and holiday cards with family pictures. One by one, she holds each letter to her heart. If anyone has left their phone number, Iolanda's been known to dial them up, simply to ask how they are. It may be shocking to answer your phone and hear the deep, gravelly voice of this signora, babbling away in Italian from thousands of miles away. In this modern age of e-mail, texts, and SKYPE, who talks on the phone anymore? Iolanda Marcocci does, keeping up this old world tradition, Tuscan Grandma style.


If you attended classes when Iolanda taught, please consider printing some photos you took of Iolanda and send them to her with a note at :

Iolanda Marcocci

via della Madonnina, 57

53049 Montefollonico (Si)



She would love receiving your photos and cards.



 Click on the photo above for a video of Iolanda making tiramisł! 

Mariella Spinelli's Maiolica di Montefollonico

As soon as we enter Mariella Spinelli's Maiolica di Montefollonico workshop and studio, we hear oohs and aahs from our Tuscan Women Cook guests. Mariella is a welcoming, consummate artist, who masterfully renovated this medieval church, the oldest in our village. Tables are filled with her ceramics, which bring a unique touch to the traditional Italian craft. There are beautiful serving pieces, dinner plates, coffee mugs, lamps, vases, and kitchen tiles. Mariella's style ranges from vibrant reproductions of Renaissance patterns to modern designs. There are also stunning monochrome pieces and plates whimsically painted with wildflowers or grapevines, inspired by our Val d'Orcia surroundings. In addition, she custom-designs pieces, personalized with initials turned into elegant crests.  




Mariella is originally from the northern town of Padua. She studied art in neighboring Venice, at the renowned Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Her paintings have been displayed at prominent gallery shows in Rome, Florence, and Verona. Today her Montefollonico ceramic business is thriving, and she runs a busy workshop, with apprentices Matteo and Alina by her side. Once a week, from May to November, Mariella teaches a hands-on class, so travelers can get an experience of traditional ceramic making. If you stop by, you may even meet Mariella's adorable teenage daughters, who share a passion for art and craft making with their Mamma.




Many of our guests can't resist buying a piece, or even a whole dinner set. Mariella packs and ships for her customers, so that for years to come they'll have lovely souvenirs of their time with us at Tuscan Women Cook.


Check out Mariella's website. Click here for info about Wine Country Ceramics classes



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Again, our classes are rapidly selling out. If you are considering joining us this year in Tuscany, you should enroll soon to assure your reservations.


Bill & Patty Sutherland
Tuscan Women Cook, LLC

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