Ciao i mili lettori preferiti!

It’s all happening! We are off to Italy to enjoy a week at Tenuta di Spannocchia, the sustainable agriculture estate south of Siena. There are ten of us participating in the adventure so watch this space for further anecdotes!


Friday, November 6th

Arrival at Spannocchia

5:00 pm:

Historical Tour

A host guides you through the numerous areas of the Castello including the Villa, Tower and Fattoria you will learn about the architecture of the Castello, the histories of the Cinelli and Spannocchi families, the mezzadria sharecropping system, by which Spannocchia operated for centuries, and past and present agricultural activities in the property. The tour will also visit Spannocchia’s own Catholic Chapel which was once used as the community church for the estate and the museum, which houses ancient Etruscan archaeological  artifacts from multiple Tuscan sites. Lastly, climb Spannocchia’s medieval tower for a breath-taking view of the 1100 acres of rolling hills and farmland surrounding the Castello. All of the sites and information presented throughout the tour will help Spannocchia guests to better understand the history of the area, the importance of preservation and our passion for Spannocchia past, present and future!

7:00 pm: Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm: Dinner

Note: We may revise the weekend schedule in order to include another formal garden estate, pending availability.

Saturday, November 7th

8:00 am Breakfast

9:30 am – Depart for Poggio Alloro Farm Visit

Poggio Alloro Farm Visit, Wine Tasting or Meal near San Gimigniano

A family-run organic farm about 5km from the center of San Gimigniano with a breathtaking view back to the town. They produce saffron (a historically significant DOP product from the area), chianina beef, pasta, olive oil, salt cured meats, honey and wine. A tour of the cantina and tasting of their Vernaccia, a typical white wine from the area, or their Chianti red.

“Here we grow all our best biological products: wine, oil, and cereals. We rear, with our biological production of fodder, corn meal, barley flour and sunflower flour , cattle of SELECTED CHIANINA BREED. This is one of the most ancient Tuscan breeds, once sung by Latin poets and portrayed in the Roman bas-reliefs, and today considered the best bovine breed for meat in the world.

From this breed, as by Tuscan tradition, we cut the “fiorentina” steak, that is thick, underdone, succulent and strictly barbecued.

At our farm FATTORIA POGGIO ALLORO we organize dinners with our guests, serving only our products: meat (beef, chicken, rabbit, galeeny, pork), vegetables, home-made pasta (“tagliatelle” and “lasagne”), typical Tuscan soups (“ribollita” and pelt soup) and dishes with the ancient flavour of the purest saffron of San Gimignano. Every day we create a different menu, totally natural and wholesome.

All is matched with our D.O.C.G. wines: the traditional and stately VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO and the CHIANTI COLLI SENESI, and, as dessert, a good glass of “VIN SANTO with cantucci ” and the GRAPPA made with Vernaccia marc.

Lunch at the Farm

2:30 pm Depart for Siena

15:15 English Speaking Guide, Ilaria – San Domenico Church for Palazzo Publicco & Duomo


22 kilometers northeast of Spannocchia

More than any other town, Siena can claim to be the most typically Tuscan. It is as beautiful as Florence, and the historical center is as old and large as Florence’s, and while Florence’s immediate surroundings consist mainly of suburbs, Siena is surrounded by the beautiful Chianti countryside. Legend has it that Siena owes its name to Senio, the son of Romulus. It is certain that the Etruscans had a settlement on the site which then passed under the control of Rome. Siena became an important city in the medieval period, and by the 1100s had trading links with much of Europe. In the Middle Ages (12th – 14th C) Siena became a republic and flourished on trade and banking. But dissention reigned. Siena fought with the Florentines, who in 1230 catapulted dead donkeys and excrement over its walls to start a plague. Rivalry between Siena and Florence was bitter and the two cities were almost always at war until Siena was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1559. For a long time the Sienese fought as Ghibellines under the banner of the Emperor, while the Florentines fought as Guelphs with Papal sympathies. In 1260 the Florentine troops again threatened the town. The Syndic (mayor) and the people then dedicated Siena to the Virgin, seeking her protection. A few days later the Florentines were bloodily defeated at Montaperti. After that battle, Siena’s greatest victory, many prominent Sienese were excommunicated. In the 16th C the virtual monopolization of Papal sympathies by the Medici in Florence finally overcame Sienese resistance and after a long siege the city surrendered to imperial forces and was given to the Medici as an imperial fief.  The following are a few highlights of Siena:Piazzo del Campo, Palazzo Publico (Town Hall), Duomo, Piazzo del Duomo, Basilica of St. Dominico, and the Pinacoteca


Restaurant Trattoria Papei

19:30 reservation “spannocchia”

Piazza del Mercato 6


Ph: 0577-28-08-94

Take the second steet from the right as you face the Torre de Mangia-dead ends in the Piazza del Mercato.

** Order off the menu 30-40 Euros per person

Sunday, November 8

8:00 am Breakfast

9:30 am Depart

Garden San Giovanni D’Osso

Il Bosco della Ragnaia

Half an hour from Buonconvento and 20 minutes away from Abbazia Monte Oliveto there is a natural woodland garden that you can visit from sunrise to sunset. The perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of touring, this garden, created by an artist (who wants to stay so low key that his name is impossible to find!) is on the outskirts of San Giovanni d’Asso and in the heart of the Crete Senese.

15:00 Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Daniela Casarin arranged guide – “spannocchia”


Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

36 km southeast of Siena, about 50 km from Spannocchia

Located five km east of Buoncenvento, the Monastery is open 9 a.m.—12:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m.—7:00 p.m. with a restaurant, herbal shop and lodging on grounds. (Tel: 0577/707652).  As headquarters of the Benedictine monks, this is one of the most interesting churches in Tuscany. Crowning a peak that drops dramatically down through a forest of cypresses to steep gorges and low hills of bare rock, Monte Oliveto Maggiore stands majestically amid a whispering of olives. In 1319 a nobleman-turned-ascetic had a vision of monks climbing a silver stairway to heaven from this place where he’d lived for many years as a hermit, and so he built a church and founded an abbey on the spot. Today’s monks continue to live according to the Benedictine Rule, combining prayer, work and study, and tending to the modern day pilgrims who come to pray and marvel at the extraordinary High Renaissance fresco cycle that rims the Great Cloister. In 36 panels of color and movement, reverence and exuberance, devils and saints and fallen women, two artists tell stories from the life of St. Benedict, the 6th century founder of Western monasticism. Luca Signorelli, whose work greatly influenced Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, painted nine panels; the other 27 are by Il Sodoma whose figures exude sensuousness and emotion. The large monastic library up the stairs contains many rare editions and unique manuscripts, while the still-thriving herb garden supplies the monastery’s chemist with the ingredients for the world-famous Benedictine liquors. Evening vespers in the Baroque chapel resonate with Gregorian chant. And, there is a beautiful Della Robbia mezzaluna over one of the doors to the entrance of the Monastery grounds. There is a very adequate restaurant at the entrance as well. The monastic community offers a guesthouse for overnight visitors who wish to meditate. A beautiful and serene monastery, located in the Val d’Orcia region, that is home to some of Lorenzini’s most beautiful fresco work.  The twenty-nine frescoes that line the corridors depict the life of St. Benedict.

7:00 pm Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm Dinner at Spannocchia

Monday, November 9th

Traditional Tuscan Cooking Class

The cooking class begins at 9 am with a tour through the vegetable garden at Spannocchia with the garden manager, who will describe the cycle of the various crops through the year and her methods for providing the kitchen with fresh, flavorful products. Then to the kitchen, where with Loredana we will prepare a three course Tuscan meal utilizing food products from the estate. The first course might be handmade pasta such as tagliatelle, ravioli, or gnocchi, or perhaps the typical “ribollita” Tuscan soup, or in summer a simple but delicious bread salad called “panzanella.”   For our second course we may choose between our own farm-raised pork, beef, lamb, or chicken, or perhaps even wild game, and this will be accompanied by fresh vegetables direct from the garden. We finish with a traditional dessert such as cantucci cookies with Spannocchia vin santo, pinenut cake, tiramisu, or our renowned chocolate salame.

A vegetarian menu is also available, and we will try to fill requests for specific recipes as long as they fall within the traditions of this local region. Each lesson concludes with lunch, tasting all the dishes created during the morning class, accompanied by Spannocchia wine and spring water.

Loredana Betti grew up on Spannocchia in the 1950’s when her family was tenant farmers here.  As a young girl she learned how to prepare the traditional fare of the region and eventually developed a talent notable even in this area where every housewife seems capable of culinary magic.  For nearly twenty years, Loredana cooked for the Cinelli family and Spannocchia’s students and guests, until her retirement five years ago to spend more time with her three grandchildren.  She still loves to produce wonderful meals for friends and family, and enjoys staying involved at Spannocchia with her weekly classes in the kitchen she knows so well.

1:00 pm Cooking Class Lunch


Bees & Honey

Agronomist Andrea Battino introduces participants to the wonderful world of bees! Andrea explains bee dances, bee keeping history and honey production. He concludes by leading the group through a honey tasting of several different varieties. The class lasts approximately 2 hours. Interns will join.

7:00 pm Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm Dinner at Spannocchia

Tuesday, November 10th

8:00 am Breakfast

9:30 am Regional Italian Food & Culture with Bronwen

Wine Tour & Tasting

12:30 pm Lunch

15:15 Depart for Santa Margherita Goat Cheese Farm

16:00 Santa Margherita Goat Cheese Farm Tour

From Carla Capalbo’s The Food and Wine Lover’s Companion to Tuscany: “Maria De Dominicis is an active defender of Italy’s artisan food makers, struggling to survive in an ever more industrialized society.  She herself makes some of Tuscany’s finest goat’s cheeses, from milk produced by her organically certified herd….Maria started making cheese because no one wanted goats’ milk.  She makes French-style cheeses, which she learned to do by reading books.  These fresh, white, smooth-textured caprini are then flavored with herbs or toasted sesame seeds and matured in wood ash or walnut leaves.”

7:00 pm Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm Dinner at Spannocchia

Wednesday, November 11th

8:00 am Breakfast on the Bus (?)

Depart for San Miniato

White Truffle Hunt

During the last three weeks of November, San Miniato hosts a festival devoted to the gastronomically precious white truffle which is harvested in the area around the city. (We will be there the week before!) The white truffle is more highly valued than the black truffles found in Umbria and the Marche, and commands very high prices, reflected in the cost of restaurant dishes that incorporate truffles. In 1954 a record-breaking truffle found close to the nearby village of Balconevisi weighed in at 2,520 kilograms and was sent to the United States of America as a gift for President Dwight Eisenhower

**Note: Lunch will be at a restaurant in the area. The cost will be 30-50 Euros per person depending on the white truffles found and purchased on the hunt.

7:00 pm Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm Nostra Cena – special Spannocchia Dinner

Thursday, November 12th:

8:00 am Breakfast

10:00 am Olives and Olive Oil

Have you ever wanted to know the whole story about olive oil and why it is such a prized product? Did you know olive oil is like wine, with different blends, and that there is a correct way of tasting it (and it isn’t on bread!)? Spannocchia Education Director Carrie talks about the history of olives, and explains how olive oil is produced, complete with a slide show of Spannocchia’s olive harvest and trip to the olive press. The class concludes with a guided tasting of several Tuscan oils – including our own award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Walk to see some of our 700 olive trees if time permits.

11:00 am Cinta Senese Tour & Tasting

Do you know what a Cinta Senese is? Do you know how prosciutto is made? Spannocchia Education Director Carrie offers a close up look at our Noah’s Ark rare breed animals, our organic artisan meat production and the typical salumi (salt-cured meats) that we create. The tour includes a walk up Pig Hill to see our pigs (and maybe even some piglets if you’re lucky) a glimpse into our seasoning/curing room, and finishes with a guided tasting of our salumi products such as salame, prosciutto, capocollo, guancia, etc.

1:00 pm Lunch

14:30 Garden Tour

Spannocchia’s Garden Manager introduces participants to Spannocchia’s organic vegetable gardens. She explains why we choose to be organic and the different aspects of organic gardening including: crop rotation, cover crops, the creation and use of compost, and our two greenhouses. As she guides participants through the different areas of the garden, she explains the different seasonal crops growing, pointing out heirloom varieties and typical Tuscan crops grown only in this area. She also includes details about crop storage and transformation into secondary products like tomato sauce and pesto.

7:00 pm Wine on the Terrace

7:30 pm Dinner at Spannocchia

Friday, November 13th

8:00 am Breakfast

9:30 am Departure to Florence Airport

Arrivederla mi amicas e amicos!


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