My Florentine Vacation: A White Apron, Recipes Galore, and Cooking School with Chef Laura
May 7, 2016. Two months before my husband Jim and I planned our departure for Florence, we decided to extend our vacation from two weeks to three. When I asked what he’d like to do for that third week, he turned to me for my input.
“How about painting lessons,” I suggested. “There are art studios galore. We could learn to draw, paint, sculpt…anything. Think of the creative explosion we could have!”
He gave me a polite nod and said, “Second try?”
Since drawing lessons fell flat, I decided to try a different approach. “We could take a music appreciation class. Or a class in the great Italian composers. Or learn about opera.”
He gave me his I know you’re trying but it’s not working look. “Next?”
I had a ready list: “Wine tasting? Perfume Masterclass? Dinner and Yoga? Leather Workshop? Clay Modeling? Create Cuttlebone Jewelry? Photography? Pet Sculpture? Fashion design?
He paused and said, “How about Italian cooking school?”
I was afraid he’d say that. I already knew how to make lasagna, spaghetti, and minestrone soup. Why would I travel halfway across world to learn how to cook exotic dishes no one I knew would eat? I’m a creature of the 50’s Midwest when meatloaf, fried chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and canned peas were de rigueur. My interest in cooking rose to a new level when I came to California where fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads ruled the day. Nevertheless, my idea of an Italian vacation was to marvel in museums, wander down crooked streets and photograph little old ladies and kids. Not sweat over boiling water to make pasta for a bunch of strangers.
Sure enough, after our two-week Florence vacation, Jim and I headed to Tuscany and Casa Ombuto/Torre Del Tartufo Cooking School with “Professor” Laura.
The drive to Casa Ombuto through the lush, magnificent countryside of Tuscany thrilled me: dusty, dirt roads, well-cared for vineyards, hundred-year-old estates brought up-to-date with swimming pools and tennis courts gave me hope that if the cooking didn’t pan out there was plenty to explore outside the classroom. I learned Casa Ombuto was owned by a wealthy, English businessman who used the cooking school as an investment he could also use to entertain clients.
After a two-hour drive, we arrived at our destination. I leaned out the passenger window marveling at the charm and hominess of what was (and still resembled) an old farmhouse. Chicken scattered and a rustic log bench surrounded by flowers invited a pleasant interlude.
The appearance and feel of the mustard-colored farmhouse and the surrounding countryside was a welcome contrast from the bustling, tourist-filled city we’d just left.
I leaned over the passenger seat of our auto and told Jim, “We’re worlds apart from the city we both love. But right now, I don’t care if our instructor teaches us how to make pancakes. I could sit and read books under these fabulous trees for a week.”
“You may just get that chance,” Jim told me. “And as a side dish, you might learn how to make Ossobuco.”