Live It Local

by Lisa on December 8, 2014



When I travel I like to walk the streets as if I know where I’m going without pulling out a large map and looking like a lost tourist.  This is what Live it Local is all about.  Visiting a place but feeling like a local.  Staying in an apartment that feels like your own home and walking the streets saying hello to familiar faces.

Last week I was invited to a fantastic event that cast the spotlight on the local artisans that give Florence her unique and special personality.

Live it Local was organised by Palazzo Belfiore who showcased their beautiful accommodation by giving each artisan a different apartment to work in.  Each apartment has its own particular features and beauty and it was the perfect environment to see each ‘craft’ and especially perfect to taste the home-made pasta, wine and chocolates.


The Francesco Apartment on the ground level was the welcome area where we were offered a glass of wine courtesy of the Banfi Winery and yummy finger food by nearby restaurants, La Toscanella , I 4 Leoni & Il Magazzino

The Florentine were there sharing information about their Crowdfunding for the restoration of the Loggia della Cappella Pazzi.

The Bianca Apartment  had a Cooking Class by Fiamma of Kitchen Chez Nou 2 who showed us all how to make delicious pasta which was absolutely delicious.  Kitchen Chez Nou 2 will travel to you to cater for any event or can design a private cooking class in the comfort of your apartment.

The Lorenzo Apartment  featured Fresco and Calligraphy Workshops with Wine Tasting by the Guicciardini Strozzi Winery


The Clarice Apartment  had a Fresco Workshop by Hector Ramsey while The Cosimo Apartment had Tea and Chocolate Tasting supplied by Oro Nero

There was also a mini ‘Artist for a Day’ workshop where we did a Botanical painting Workshop with Egg Tempera.


The Caterina Apartment  featured Florentine, Betty Soldi , accomplished Calligrapher who also had a mini workshop that we could take part in.  And last but not least, I finished up the evening with a mini yoga class by It’s Yoga which was a great way to wind down before I walked home.


Visits to all of the above artisans can be organised for you during your stay at Palazzo Belfiore.  You will quickly feel at home wandering the nearby streets, tasting the local food and wine, observing the artisans at work and experiencing all of the local traditions and Florentine way of life.




by Lisa on November 11, 2014


Learning how to cook in Florence – my first cooking class ever!

I have always wanted to do a cooking course and last week finally got to take part in a class at the newly created Desinare Cooking School located in central Florence in the beautiful surroundings of Tuscan interior expert, Riccardo Barthel.

I didn’t know that the word Desinare meant before finding this class.  The following translation is taken from the Desinare website and I think it is my new favourite word now.

DESINARE is an old-fashioned Florentine term for that time of day when the family would gather around the table to eat. It refers not just to the act of dining but to the ritual of conviviality, the need to take a break from work to talk, exchange ideas, renew the bonds of love that have long been at the heart of our domestic culture.



Looking at the calendar of classes on offer, after a bit of indecision, I finally decided on the ‘Altre Carne’  (other meats) as I wanted to do something that I might not necessarily know how to do at home.  I was very excited about the menu of three dishes that we would be preparing :

Coniglio Ripieno in Porchetta
(rabbit de-boned, stuffed and rolled in the ‘porchetta’ way)
Petto d’Anatra all’Arancia
(Duck Breast with Orange reduction)
Quaglie Arrostite con Vermicelli di Riso e Verdure Croccanti
(Roast Quail served with Vermicelli Rice Noodles and Stir-fry Vegetables)


arturo dori
Our Chef for the evening was Arturo Dori,  well known for being at the helm of Il Cavolo Nero, one of Florence’s most highly regarded restaurants, for more than fifteen years.  He made everything look very easy and effortless so I will let you know when I try these dishes at home if they are as simple and straight-forward as they seemed.  

duck and quail




Upon arrival we all met each other and then put on our lovely new Desinare aprons before sitting down in the beautiful surroundings of the classroom.   The decor is just gorgeous, as you would expect from Barthel.   We had a typical Tuscan antipasto of salame and pecorino and were extremely fortunate that Jim Lahey from Sullivan St Bakery in New York had visited for an earlier class and made some of his amazing bread and foccacia.
The atmosphere was extremely relaxed and we all enjoyed a glass or two of red wine while watching Arturo prepare each dish.  Volunteers were called upon to assist and I shot my hand up to help stuff herbs inside the quail.  One thing I realised was that I need to sharpen our kitchen knives at home.  I also learnt that you can eat certain cuts of duck raw, that a rabbit can be completely de-boned by your local, trusty butcher at no extra cost and how amazing a good reduction can taste.
Evening classes tend to mainly be in Italian as these cater mostly to the locals who can’t make the morning classes due to work commitments.  The morning classes are normally in English which cater to tourists and as all the chefs are fluent,  this would be a great experience to anyone wishing to immerse themselves that little bit more in their  Florentine experience.
So now Emiliano is eagerly awaiting his Coniglio in Porchetta which I have promised to make this week so I had better go and have that chat to my friendly butcher.  We did visit Nonna yesterday however and so I now have a whole rabbit (already cleaned and cut in two) plus two pigeons in the freezer so might have to eat these first.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I had never done a cooking class before but I already can’t wait to go back to Desinare and do another one.  As you can see by the size of the plates, we just didn’t taste each course, but ate a generous portion of each dish.  The class went for three hours, from 8-11pm and for 80 euro, I think you will agree it is excellent value!
I also met some lovely people;  Francesca Fumagalli, the photographer who took the photos below and Cinzia, a fellow foodie and mamma of two whom I had so much in common with that we probably chatted a little bit too much during the class.  It  really goes to show how good food can bring wonderful people together.
I jumped at the chance to assist the Chef!

I jumped at the chance to assist the Chef!

I think I'm proudly showing a photo of my boys to Cinzia here.

I think I’m proudly showing a photo of my boys to Cinzia here.

Desinare is walking distance from the center but probably also a 10 minute taxi ride from most central hotels.  If you have a car, there is very convenient parking available.   For those of you that know Florence, it is located very close to Porta Romana.



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Making Pasta…….

by Lisa on October 26, 2014

With a Toddler!


This afternoon I made pasta for the first time ever (well I did attempt ravioli once upon a time but they were a bit of a failure).  Matteo was pretty impressed with the machine and so of course he had to be my assistant.  My one fear was that he was going to stick his fingers into the pasta machine as my sister had her finger sliced quite badly in the exact same machine (we are talking 11 stitches! )and I can only imagine what damage it could have done to a little toddler finger!

He was very enthusiastic and a great help although my kitchen now has a new dusting of flour from one end to the other.  Also trying to explain to  a three year old the speed that the pasta machine needs to be set only to have him do as he pleases and set it to the highest speed proves that it was a miracle that no one got hurt.

And then there was the predictable toddler dummy-spit when I made fettucine and Not spaghetti as you can see in the video below.

making pasta

I was very impressed with how much Matteo ate though as he is a very fussy eater and even more surprised with his skill at twisting the spaghetti onto his fork.  He has obviously observed us much more closely that what we realised.  The best part was seeing how proud he was of His spaghetti that he had made himself!

eating pasta




October Heat!

by Lisa on October 20, 2014

Yes, the weather is this gorgeous at the moment……….



I have to keep reminding myself that it will be November next week! We only had our first really cold morning yesterday and as you may have heard, it has been raining so much in parts of Italy that many places have suffered from dreadful flooding in the recent weeks.

In Florence, the humidity has been so high and last Sunday it actually reached 26°C!!!  As much as I hate the cold, I am enjoying the fresher air that arrived yesterday.

You can still definitely pick the Italians from the foreigners! The Italians are the ones wearing jackets and scarves because it’s October you know and this is what we should be wearing at this time of year, regardless of how hot it was and how much you are sweating!  Matteo refused to wear long pants until yesterday when we insisted (it was not easy or pretty!) and so I would get quite a few disapproving looks from the Italian Nonnas when they would see him in the morning wearing just a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt.  When I asked him if he wanted to wear his jeans, he quite rightly told me that “It’s not cold Mamma!” and I couldn’t really disagree with him. I was praying that he didn’t pick up a cold otherwise those same Italian nonnas would have been looking at me with ‘I told you so!’ glances.

I never thought a 3 year old boy could be so difficult, fussy and downright stubborn about what clothes he wore.  This is obviously the Italian side of him coming through! (God help me!)  He even tells me if he doesn’t like the clothes I am wearing!  “Why are you wearing those shoes Mummy?”  He screamed at me once,  “No not that top! Take it off, TAKE IT OFF as if I had committed the ultimate fashion sin.


Thomas is now 4 months old and we have had an interesting time adjusting to being a family of four. I will be honest and say that I had a few very trying weeks with Matteo who really showed his dark side when faced with the combination of a new school, new baby brother and having his afternoon nap removed.  Tantrum is the word and did we see some big, frustrated, angry dummy-spits!   I was torn between wanting to discipline him and just give him a big hug as I realised what a confusing time he was going through.  He threw a huge wobbly at the park one day and when I glanced around to see who was watching, it was like one of those frozen moments in a movie where everyone had stopped what they were doing to just stare with their jaws hanging open while watching the incredible performance of Matteo.  Looking at me with shock on their faces like their kids never had a tanty!

Overall though Matteo did settle in very well to his new ‘Scuola Materna’ and we had an easy ‘inserimento‘ by Italian standards!  What does Inserimento mean, you may wonder?    Basically when your child starts a new day care or pre-school in Italy, they are eased into doing the full day.  The first day they go for just an hour or two but the parent stays in the class room with them.  This gradual acclimatisation is slowly lengthened each day with the mother or father also slowly spending less time with their child.   The inserimento usually lasts for two weeks before you can leave your child at the school for the full day on their own.   The difficulty with this system is when you have a full-time job and basically have to take time off from work to ensure that your child is phased gently into the school system without being scarred for life!  As Matteo had already done two years of full-time day-care, I figured he would adapt quite well and pushed for his inserimento to last only the week. We had three mornings of tears before he would happily wave me good-bye every morning.


Last week our street was closed for the annual lunch.  San Niccolò is like a little village with everyone knowing everyone (and their business!)  It was a great atmosphere and it was a really good turn-out which of course was also thanks to the amazing weather.

You can see Matteo with Emiliano in the photo below checking out the delicious food and saying hello to the neighbours.  I think this is such a lovely tradition and it is also a great opportunity to meet and greet the ‘vicini’ (neighbours) that we pass by so quickly in the mornings and evenings.


Autumn is such a beautiful month and one of the things that I love the most is the arrival of the seasonal fruits and vegetables. Porcini, broccoli, pumpkin and let’s not forget chestnuts and the delicious Tuscan Castagnaccio ‘tart’.

And speaking of pumpkins, I have a little boy who is expecring big things this weekend when we carve the pumpkin for halloween so stay tuned but don’t expect anything too impressive!








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In Fabbrica

March 10, 2014
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with PAMPALONI Looking at the photos above, and based on the decor and beautiful silverware on the tables, you would be mistaken for thinking that I am in a very expensive and exclusive restaurant,   You will probably be very surprised to learn then, that this is the cafeteria or Mensa as it is called in Italian of […]

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March 7, 2014

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Driving a Fiat 500 in Tuscany.

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Orange shade of Autumn

November 9, 2013
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We are experiencing such a beautiful Autumn at the moment.  Lovely warm days with crisp mornings and fresh nights.  One downside of this time of year is that we have turned our clocks back so it is depressingly dark at 6pm and it feels so late when I leave the office to pick Matteo up […]

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