Jun 142015
 

“Friends, good food, and good wine make your vacation unforgettable.”

— Alice Dami, Tuscany guide and cook

Dining al fresco at La Fattoria in Tuscany

Dining al fresco at La Fattoria in Tuscany

Alice’s words nicely summarize many of the highlights of our first Tuscany visit. Tuscan hospitality, lifestyle, flavors, and scenery came together for us many times throughout our stay in the region. I really like when the last day of a visit to a place positively reaffirms the impressions you’ve gotten during the rest of the trip and that’s exactly what happened during the final day of our Tuscany tour. We especially savored many aspects of the essence of Tuscany with Dizzi Alfons, owner of the luxury villa, La Fattoria and our guide Alice Dami, whose culinary talents were also a highlight of our day.

But before we take you to lunch, let’s sample some of the flavors and freshness introduced to us by Alice to on our way to La Fattoria from Lucca, through the countryside and villages of Lucca province. This rural area is rich in agriculture — vineyards, olive groves, and farms producing many of the fresh products we enjoyed during our stay in Tuscany.

Wine and high spirits

We began at Enoteca Vino e Convivio, a family-owned wine and food shop located in the village of Guamo, just a few miles from Lucca’s city center. Not only did we get to see a place where locals shop, but we were treated with the hospitality of husband and wife owners Giovanni and Giuseppina and buyer and wine consultant Lido, who first offered us coffee and then showed us around the relatively new shop (having moved from their original location of many years).

Indulging in Italian meats, cheeses, and Chianti while enjoying laughs and conversation at Enoteca Vino e Convivio with Alice, Lido, and Giuseppina

Indulging in Italian meats, cheeses, and Chianti while enjoying laughs and conversation at Enoteca Vino e Convivio with Alice, Lido, and Giuseppina

The walls of each of the four rooms were lined with shelves holding fine wines from around the world (primarily Italy and France), spirits, and local foods. The counter in the main entry room displays typical Italian meat specialties and Italian and French cheeses. There’s something for everyone, even vegetarians like Mr. TWS. Each room had a table and chairs for guests to relax, enjoy a glass of wine, and talk to friends in a comfortable setting. Their open hours are on the Vino e Convivio website, and I found it fun that it notes that the food section is closed on Saturdays from 3.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. because “Giuseppina needs to rest!!!”

It was still morning when our friendly and generous hosts served us assorted Italian hams and cheeses accompanied by one of the region’s signature Chianti Classico vintages. It was a great way to start our last day, and I thought it would take nothing to get me used to la dolce vita of Tuscany.

Getting fresh

From Enoteca Vino e Convivio we headed to another small village, Pieve di Compito, to visit Frantoio Sociale del Compitese, a cooperative of over 1000 olive oil producers that includes an olive mill and market.

Legumes and vegetables, Canestrino heirloom tomatoes, olive mill tour with Elisa

Legumes and vegetables, Canestrino heirloom tomatoes, olive mill tour with Elisa

We took a short tour of the olive mill, although it was not running since it wasn’t harvest season. As we learned in other parts of Tuscany and during our Provence trip in December, olive production was devastated last year by an insect that destroyed nearly all of this part of Mediterranean Europe’s olive crop.

We also got an insider’s look at another place where the locals shop for the best of fresh produce, pasta, honey, cheese, and other staples of Italian cuisine. We saw a steady stream of local shoppers, most of whom seemed to be regulars knowing exactly what they needed and quickly making their purchases. I was craving a taste of the Canestrino tomatoes, a type of heirloom tomato distinctive in the Lucca area.

Glorious gelato

When in Italy, you must have gelato, and we were pleased to watch the process and sample the sumptuous offerings at what is said to be one of the best gelaterias in Tuscany at Pappagrappa.

Freshly-made chocolate gelato, cones and specialty desserts at Pappagrappa

Freshly-made chocolate gelato, cones and specialty desserts at Pappagrappa

Owner and gelato-maker Marco uses only the freshest ingredients in his organic approach. He says that his key objective in starting the company 14 years ago was to use only the best ingredients, and whenever possible, local products, such as sheep’s milk and fruit from nearby farms.  For other ingredients, he selects the best from other places known worldwide for having the very finest, such as pistachios from Sicily and chocolate from Ecuador. It was the first time we’d seen someone making waffle cones manually and at Pappagrappa they are handmade fresh on site every day. The care in the selection of ingredients and preparation certainly showed in the finished product — the gelato was delicious.

Relaxing at the villa

Ready for lunch and eager to see La Fattoria, an EsteVillas holiday rental property, we turned off the main road outside of Pieve di Compito toward this beautifully restored 17th-century farmhouse. Tucked away down a narrow gravel road surrounded by woods and gardens, La Fattoria gives guests a feeling of luxurious seclusion while restaurants, shopping, and attractions are within easy reach.

La Fattoria

La Fattoria

Having already met the villa’s owner, Dizzi Alfons, by chance at Pappagrappa earlier (he was buying dessert for our lunch), we already felt like friends as we were warmly greeted by him at the house.

Alice happily at work preparing lunch in the sunny, spacious La Fattoria kitchen

Alice happily at work preparing lunch in the sunny, spacious La Fattoria kitchen

While Alice got busy in the villa’s large and bright kitchen, Dizzi took us to the covered patio to talk and sample his homemade elderberry juice drink (made with elderberry flowers, water, sugar, lemons, lemon peel, mint, a little tonic) — a totally refreshing concoction. Alice had also prepared for us Olives Ascolane (stuffed olives lightly breaded and fried) as an antipasto. They were so tasty that if I hadn’t wanted to save room for lunch, I would have devoured them all.

Olives Ascolane and elderberry juice on the garden patio at La Fattoria

Olives Ascolane and elderberry juice on the garden patio at La Fattoria

Dizzi, an Austrian who fell in love with Tuscany many years ago, spoke of his background in the fashion industry, his travels, and how he came to acquire this lovely property. His enthusiasm and sincere appreciation of Tuscany were similar to sentiments I heard often during our visit, whether from lifelong Tuscans or those from other places who had made the region their home. It was a treat to be sipping our drinks on this warm, sunny day in this idyllic setting with a backdrop of the villa’s grassy knolls and flowering gardens. I warned Dizzi that it might be difficult to get us to leave!

Dining al fresco

What could be better than dining al fresco in Tuscany with a meal prepared by our own cook? Alice says that the bounty of fresh ingredients available in Tuscany inspires her cooking, and she uses only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. We felt very fortunate to sample her creations at La Fattoria, dining on the terrace with Dizzi.

La Fattoria's outdoor dining terrace

La Fattoria’s outdoor dining terrace

Alice talked about the key to Tuscan dishes — their simplicity, relying on fresh, local ingredients from trusted suppliers, such as the extra virgin olive oil she buys from local mills.

Our delicious lunch, burrata cheese with anchovies and cherry tomatoes followed by fresh egg pasta with asparagus, was topped off with a delectable assortment of gelato flavors. We were so eager to indulge that we forgot to take photos of the dessert!

Lunch prepared by Alice Dami at La Fattoria: Fresh egg pasta with asparagus, burrata with cherry tomatoes and anchovies

Lunch prepared by Alice Dami at La Fattoria: Fresh egg pasta with asparagus, burrata with cherry tomatoes and anchovies

Alice was right when she said, “If you cook, you’ll make others happy. If you cook, people will remember you.” But I know that we will also remember Alice for her excellent guidance, enthusiasm, and vibrant personality.

As we relished the afternoon, our conversation with Dizzi and Alice was lively and informative, covering topics such Italian colloquialisms, life in Tuscany, tips about Rome (which was our next destination) and amusing personal stories. Dizzi and Alice were so warm and made us feel so comfortable with them. It was characteristic of the many people we met on our visit.

The look of luxury

Before leaving, we toured the rooms of the villa — six bedrooms, four bathrooms, living areas, and kitchen which were all restored in 2012. I loved the décor that seamlessly combined the original architecture and antiques with contemporary furniture and decorations, highlighting aspects of the historic villa while offering modern comfort.

The lovely décor of and views from the rooms of La Fattoria

The lovely décor of and views from the rooms of La Fattoria

As we explored the bright, colorful and tastefully decorated interior, I was thinking about which of the six bedrooms would be my favorite. Each room, including the spacious bathrooms, had a warm ambiance and lovely pastoral views of the grounds, beautiful flora, the hills and countryside.

Enjoying a cheery sitting room in La Fattoria

Enjoying the cheery sitting room in La Fattoria

As we went room to room, Mr. TWS and I could easily imagine staying there with a group of family and friends. What fun that would be!

The pool at La Fattoria

The pool at La Fattoria

The pool situated in a large expanse of lawn just above the villa was tempting on this warm day in May, especially for Mr. TWS who loves being in the water.

The chapel at La Fattoria

The chapel at La Fattoria

The villa has a private chapel on the premises that adds to its appeal and I think would be great if celebrating a small wedding or wedding anniversary. Now that’s an idea for another reason to return.

Arrivederci La Fattoria and Tuscany!

We said our goodbyes to Alice and Dizzi making our way along the garden path to our car, taking several glances back and wondering when we might come back to hike, bike, eat, drink, relax and soak up more of the fresh essence of Tuscany.

Grazie to EsteVillas, Dizzi Alfons, and Alice Dami for making our last day in Tuscany so special.

Take a look at the EsteVillas website for details and booking information for La Fattoria and other properties in their collection. 

  31 Responses to “The Fresh Essence of Tuscany at La Fattoria”

  1. What a great post, Sweeny! Il be sure to use the discount someday 😀

  2. Hello Cathy,

    Great trip and post. You have pinpointed my favorite part of a trip in Italy, all of the small producers that are mostly family run and they are passionate about their products. The passion shows in the taste.

  3. Great tour! Made me hungry and thirsty. We did hear in Greece of the devastation of the olive crop in Italy – keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t spread to here. Great post.

  4. I´m From Brazil, and i love the Italian culture! Someday i´ll travel to this beautiful country! Tuscany is in my list!

  5. Loved the multiple colorful and inviting photos for each location. Can’t recall ever having had a guide who also prepares gourmet meals as part of the tour. What a treat!

  6. Wow, that farmhouse looked so simple from the outside, I couldn’t have guessed the fine interior. And, you are right that al fresco dining table, patio, and garden are the way to go in Tuscany (with a chapel to boot!) Shame on our choice of hotel! How did you find out about this lovely place?

  7. Not the post to read on an empty stomach! Your time in Tuscany sounds fabulous!!

  8. What a treat! The villa La Fattoria is just the kind of place you want to stay in Tuscany–modern comforts with Tuscan style and a beautiful pool. The photos of the produce, pasta and gelato look delicious!

  9. Let me know when you’re inviting that group of “family and friends” to villa La Fattoria. Looks like it has all the ingredients that make Tuscany such a popular travel destination.

  10. Yes ditto what Irene said. Looks great!

  11. What a lovely way to spend your last day. I want to try those deep fried olives! The Villa is somewhere that I could enjoy for a few days, and add all that great food…perfection.

  12. Wow! I want to go to La Fattoria in Tuscany! But I would stay in a tent if I had to just to actually eat the fresh egg pasta with asparagus and burrata with cherry tomatoes in your images.

  13. Hi Cathy, I enjoy all your posts but especially the ones on Italy. Such delicious and fresh looking food (well, except for the chocolate!). I’m not surprised you ate desserts before photographing them. I’d have to figure out how to stuff my face and not put on a ton of weight!

  14. Oh my gosh – this place is AMAZING! I’d love to visit there – seems like a dream.

  15. Ah, you’re bringing back such great memories of my trips to Tuscany over the years. Like you, I love the simplicity of the food. It makes so much sense to have only a few ingredients but make sure they’re the best quality and you can really savour the taste. The Tuscan settings normally don’t hurt too! 🙂

  16. Lucca is magical on its own…BUT THAT FOOD! Definitely one of the best parts about traveling in Italy.

  17. I so want to return to Tuscany right now after reading your post. And I’m starving for home made Italian food in Italy. Hope to get back there next year but in the meantime thanks for sharing your wonderful trip.

  18. What a fabulous place! I did something similar last year and had a fabulous time.

  19. So far, all my visits to Tuscany (both of them) have been to Florence (Firenze). I’ve been wanting to get out into the Tuscan countryside and your post has only heightened that desire. La Fattoria looks like a gem. All your photos are very artful and enticing.

  20. La Fattoria looks like a heavenly get-away- the food, the flowers, the atmosphere….ahhhhh.

  21. I am absolutely swooning over these photos and descriptions. Those tomatoes! I love how thorough you are in your write-ups. It brings the reader (me!) right in, which in this case is a little too tempting.

  22. This is a beautiful tour you took us on! From the food, to the villa to the living spaces. Absolutely gorgeous!

  23. Ah, dreaming of Tuscany after this comprehensive post of all the great, luxurious things La Fattoria has to offer. Yes, I can see me and the hubs spending an afternoon lounging poolside. I think it would be a requirement after that delicious lunch!

  24. we keep following your adventures on Facebook. 🙂 We’ve just arrived back from Italy, ourselves, carrying an extra few pounds between us. The Italian food really is so good isn’t it. We’re yet to visit Tuscany but will do one day. We were in the Lazio region staying with a friend…and doing lots of alfresco dining, like you! 🙂
    Julia

  25. I don’t think I should be reading posts like this. I have to wait until September for my holidays this year and just reading your experience in Tuscany makes me want to go there subito, subito! If I didn’t live in France, I’d live in Italy. And not just in Italy, in Tuscany. La Fattoria sounds like a wonderful find.

  26. So gorgeous. This is the perfect guide for a visit to Tuscany. I was starting to get worried about Villa la Fattoria, but then I saw the pool. Phew! Dining outdoors there, I imagine you never want to leave. Thanks also for the heads up on the best gelateria in Tuscany.

  27. What a sublime experience in Tuscany for you and Mr. TWS!! These are exactly the kinds of experiences I seek out in all of my travels. You must have been living a dream, surrounded by warm Tuscan hospitality, fabulous food and those historic farmhouse accommodations! This is Tuscan Bliss if I’ve ever seen it! Gorgeous photos too!

  28. Wine, cheese, and gelato – you need little more than that to have a magical Italian trip. La Fattoria ooks like a gorgeous place to stay 🙂

  29. […]   The Fresh Essence of Tuscany at La Fattoria […]

  30. […] finding great traditional cuisine in the restaurants of Tuscany, we indulged in tasting the local fare at the villas where we stayed or visited, cheese makers, wineries, olive mills, specialty wine and food shops, […]

  31. […] More about La Fattoria: The Fresh Essence of Tuscany at La Fattoria […]

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