Tuscany – “For All To See”

We just got back from a trip to Tuscany where we saw a few cities and took amazing cooking classes with a real Italian chef.  This vacation was very fun for reasons aside from the obvious.  It was unique because we were able to take this vacation with some of our best friends we’ve made since moving to Europe.

We flew into Pisa and went straight to the leaning tower.  After researching Pisa before the trip, we found out that Pisa doesn’t really have much to see.  With this in mind we thought it would be most time and money effective to stop on the way to our hotel in Lucca.  The train from the airport to Pisa Central was super easy to figure out.  It was also very cheap, only 1.20€ and took about 5 minutes.  Once in Pisa we decided to walk through the city to the tower, about 1.5km, and saw some beautiful picture perfect sites.

After a short walk, we made it to the leaning tower.

You have to do the tourist picture where you’re holding up the tower.

After having some lunch and gelato near the leaning tower we started to head toward our hotel.  We decided to take a taxi back to the train station and then a train into Lucca.  The train from Pisa to Lucca was only about 6 euro and it was a pretty quick ride.  We were staying at Hotel Carignano which was on the outskirts of Lucca so we took another taxi.

That night we had a welcome dinner at the hotel’s restaurant where we met Chef Paolo, who was teaching our cooking classes, for the first time.  The hotel and cooking school are all in one. I highly recommend both the hotel and Cucina Italiana Cooking School to anyone looking for an educational and amazingly fun vacation. Chef Paolo was great.  He speaks many different languages, including perfect English.

Our first cooking class was the Tuscan cooking class where we learned to make local cuisine.  This includes ravioli, meat sauce, fettuccine, panzanella (bread salad), pork loin and biscotti for dessert. In our group, we had cooks from beginners (can’t crack an egg) to more seasoned cooks.  We all really enjoyed the experience.  I heard many times from various people in our group “best vacation ever”. Chef Paolo made it a really comfortable experience and even cracked some jokes throughout the class.

The ladies, pictured below holding our pork loin, with Chef Paolo.

During and after the class you sit down to eat all of the food you made.  We were so unbelievably stuffed that on both days we had class we didn’t even eat dinner.

The countryside around the hotel was to die for, even in November.  The hills and vineyards made for a beautiful afternoon walk.

Our next class was pizza class! My husband was especially excited for this class because pizza is his favorite food.  He now says that he will be cooking dinner sometimes since he knows how to make pizza.  I am fully ok with this. We were all also very excited to learn how to throw the dough in the air.

I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

Included in our cooking weekend package was a local wine tasting.  It was an interesting experience to have the process explained and then get to try the wine made there.

Our last day in Italy we spent in Florence.  It was fairly easy to navigate and has a lot to offer.  The number one site to see is going to see the real statue of David by Michelangelo.  The museum it is located in is the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze. It is a fairly large museum, but the main attraction is David. The entrance cost is 11 euro.

Aside from knowing we wanted to see David, we didn’t do much planning for Florence.  As we walked we heard about other sites to see and went.  There is enough in Florence for an entire day, but I probably wouldn’t stay more than one day.  We stayed from about 9:00 to 5:00 and feel as though we saw everything it has to offer. If you love museums, another day in Florence might be worth while because there are a lot of great museums.

The buildings are beautiful, there is gelato everywhere, and many shops and markets to buy souvenirs. Overall I really like Florence and if you are in the area, it should be on your list.

Finally I would like to give a huge thank you to Chef Paolo and his staff at Cucina Italiana. Our trip was unforgettable and our experiences with you made it that much better.

Thank you!

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