Confronting Beauty in Tuscany

Last year I took a trip to Tuscany that changed my life.

I landed in Florence and found my way by bus to the Santa Maria Novella train station where I was to meet a friend and a few other women for a few days exploring Tuscany. Some subconcious part of me had decided to NOT turn on my international roaming plan on my phone, so I wasn’t sure how I would find them. I walked into the book shop of the station and made my first fumbling attempts at Italian “un caffe, per favore?”

Asking both for coffee..and for confirmation that I was saying it right. Always that same flutter in my stomach when first trying to speak a new language. Will I say it right? Will they understand me? As if I’m on a blind date and feeling shy because I’m not sure I’m dressed right for the occasion. The cashier smiles warmly and tells me it’s 2 euros. In English. Damn. I’ll keep trying next time.

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Un caffe at Santa Maria Novella Train Station

Then my friend shows up. All warm hugs & laughter. We haven’t seen each other in person in a long time and any apprehension I may have had is melting away. The other girls show up one by one and we all say hello, or Ciao as it were, eyes full of sparkle in anticipation of the adventure that awaits us. A pixie photographer, a business priestess, a soulful singer…and me. More hugs, more laughter.

We drag our bags across cobbled streets to get to the car rental agency and eventually pile into a small car. Shoulders brushing warmly. Someone turns on some opera music as we drive out of the city and into the Tuscan countryside and I for real feel like I’m in a movie! It’s all golden sunlight, rough stone buildings, winding roads and cyprus trees sauntering elegantly up the green hills towards a tile roofed villa.  We drive and marvel and laugh at the delight of our present moment. My thirsty eyes drink in the countryside as the warmth of my companions melts away the layers of stress. I’m really here, I whisper inside my head. Be here. Now.

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We end up at one of those gorgeous Tuscan villas after navigating through some woods and unmarked roads and hoping we don’t drive off the side of a cliff. This place is on an olive orchard, of course, and we stretch our legs a bit as our kind hosts begin to prepare dinner.

We roll up our sleeves, tie up our hair and get to work. Some of us start on the hand-rolled pici pasta following our hosts’ instructions. A messy pile of snaking noodles piles up as we feel our hearts opening through the heat of our hands rolling out the pasta.
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Pici Pasta – Photo by Kym Pham

While chopping onions & herbs, I notice an herb I haven’t seen before. “What is this?”, I ask the host. She searches a moment for the name. “Nepitella! A very typical herb we use here.” I sniff it and notice the softly minty scent coming off the little leaves and write it down for remembering later. We sprinkle this herb onto a rustic vegetable tart that seems so simple and yet the flavors that greet us as we bite in are incredible. How is this happening with such simple ingredients?

And so goes the magic of food in Tuscany. Deceptively simple and mind-blowingly delicious. The ingredients of the best quality greeting our palates with very little adornment in the way. Tuscan food speaks to me this way – directly and simply and sensually. The essence of each ingredient free to sing it’s song.

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A homemade Tuscan meal – Photo by Kym Pham

We’ve bottled up the magic & inspiration of this trip in our latest Spice Madam box, a rustic, sensual romp through Tuscany. You can sign up to join us on a monthly culinary adventure to a new place here.

 

With Spice & Love,

 

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