and in the large metropolis of Livorno by the sea.
Where the Grand Hotel Palazzo provides just the right amount of old world glamour and luxury.
Where old and new live happily side by side.
And where a stroll along the promenade at evening time, takes advantage of the gentle evening breezes.
Two days of splendor and luxury is just about right for I gladly give it up for a visit to Maestro Mario's factory.
I asked the Maestro if he would paint an Arlecchini for me. He let me select the design. Maestro Mario begins by transferring the design on to a plate by brushing charcoal through tiny holes. Martina, Mario's daughter, who is also a fine ceramist, tells the story of the Arlecchini in her blog post of 2013. See below:
The Maestro tells me that this particular design, the Arlecchini (Harlequin), is his favorite subject to paint. He has designed more than 500 different scenarios. The Mario workshop is one of the only studious left who still produce the Arlecchini designs.
Maestro Mario loves his art. He even goes to his shop on Sundays. where he happily works by himself on whatever pleases him. Thank you for stopping by.
Have a great remainder of the week, dear friends. Gina
How many Chefs will let you into their kitchen and knead dough for the evening's dinner guests? Chef Marina of the Relais Sant'Elena, Bibbona, Italy did just that. http://www.tenutagardini.it/
Ready to go to work.
We began by combining ingredients for their famous Ragu'Di Chianina. Made with meat from the famous white Cattle of which the Relais has a large herd. Ingredients include olive oil, carrots, onions. celery, tomatoes, tomatoe paste, salt and pepper, cook for about an hour.
Ugo the bull and his heifers usually roam the countryside but it was a little too cool for the young ones. we were told. Chianina are one of the largest and one of the oldest cattle breeds.
They have been raised for at least 2000 years and have been used not only for the famous bistecca alla fiorentina but also for agricultural power.
The Totelli dough should look like this after about 20 minutes of kneading. . For the Tortelli Maremmani we used Semolina Flour. I was surprised how difficult it was to knead this dough. I am used to kneading my bread dough made with whole wheat flour. It is much easier.
Now the fun begins. Rolling the dough through the machine on the first setting. then on number 3 and finally on number 7. Filling is made with cooked chopped spinach, ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and a little nutmeg.
Place 1 TB of filling 2 inches apart and between 2 layers of dough and trim with special wheel. Let sit for a little while and boil in water for about 10 minutes, and just before serving.
For dessert we made Tiramisu. Chef Marina soaked ladyfingers in very strong, hot coffee. She then added a mixture made up of whipping cream, muscarpone cheese, eggs and sugar.
She layered these ingredients into a glass dish and placed it into the refrigerator. And speaking of eating...
internet remember when I told you about the Marina di Bibbona fishing shack? It held a secret. It has received a Michelin Star.
It wasn't easy but we were able to make reservations for Dinner.
Chef Luciano Zazzeri of "Ristorante La Pineta" is a Fisherman turned Chef and now a famous chef. What we didn't realize is that the restaurant serves only fish. There were several Antipasti courses all containing raw fish. Then a Primi Piatti of fish, then a Secondo Piatto yes, you guessed it, of fish. I like fish, but in moderation.
internet The Secondo Piatto served is known worldwide as a gourmet delicacy. Black Squid Ink Pasta, a dish I will never forget.
Picking up a rental car is not so easy, nor is landing on a short runway.
Just before landing the stewardess will tell you about the short runway.
She will also tell you that the captain sometimes, in the last minute, decides not to land the plane.
But he will try again and (maybe) again.
Once the decision has been made to land you better hold on.
And when it's time to leave for home the plane may not fly until the fog clears.
And you will miss your overseas flight home.
So simple yet so beautiful.
For all those reason you might want to know about Podere Gattabigia, Lustra a Signa, Firenze, Italy. It is only 30 minutes from the airport. The perfect first night stopover. You can get a good nights sleep and tackle the driving and new rental car the very next day.
The Podere is owned by young interior designer. The gardens are beautiful and so is the bountiful breakfast. Many people stay here for several days. We had a date a little further south.
2 hours later we reached our home for the next week, outside of Bibbona, Tuscany, Italy.
Blue arrows point to Marina di Bibbona and inland to the Relais Sant'Elena.
The stunning Relais Sant'Elena. Located in a very quiet valley, surrounded by undulating hills, offering total relaxation. http://www.tenutagardini.it/
We stayed for a week.
Spring vines and flowers were just beginning to bloom.
Soft woolly blankets ready for cool evenings.
One of the many patios outside of our room.
And always authentic.
Breakfasts are legendary. Truly unlike anything we have experienced on any of our many trips to Europe.
Interiors are stunning.
We loved our suite Appointed with fabrics that I love.
It is peaceful and if you are hankering for the Sea it is only a 15 minute drive to Marina di Bibbona.
Sant' Elena is perfectly situated for exploring ancient Etruscan villages. Suvereto is one of the most charming. But there are many, many more within an hours drive.
Picturesque villages with tiny streets and shops.
When you have seen one too many medieval villages, you can come home to one of the 15 luxuriously appointed rooms filled with antiques and furniture covered in rare fabrics. And have I told you about the staff of Relais Sant'Elena? They are the Best, the very, very Best. An outstanding 4 star Country Inn. Already thinking about booking for Fall. Have a great weekend dear friends. Gina
Here I share with you my obsession with Italian Renaissance Ceramics. I decided that painting them would not be so difficult. So I set about learning. My blog is about living the simple country life, tales from our travels and, of course, my hand painted ceramics.
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Yes, it was a wonderful collaboration, click on picture for full story