Exploring Organic Gardens & Cooking Slow Food at the Spannocchia Farm
If you’ve ever been to a cooking class in a foreign country before, then you know the joy that lies in cooking and eating your own authentically prepared meal with a local chef.
There’s absolute delight in learning what vegetables and fruits are native to the country and handling the produce with love because you know it’s about to go onto the plate that you’ll be diving your face into.
If you can believe it or not, this exhilaration I find during cooking classes in foreign countries got a boost for the better when I went to the Spannocchia farm in the Tuscany region of Italy where I explored their organic gardens and cooked authentic Tuscan dishes.
Yes, I repeat, the cooking experience gets better!
Hello Spannocchia farm!
Upon arriving to the Spannocchia farm, we were greeted by 1100 acres of lush, green rolling hills and breathtaking views of farmlands that brought us back to a time when slow food* was the only type of food there was.
*Slow food is a movement that began in Italy in 1986 that promotes sustainable farming by local businesses. Overall, it preserves “traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem” (wiki).
Basically, slow food is awesome.
There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that your local farmer tended to his lovely crops with utmost care for the environment ’cause who wouldn’t want to take care of these gorgeous lands so graciously bestowed upon us by mother earth?
This gorgeous land on the Spannocchia farm has a castle, a library, a chapel, a secret garden (that’s not so secret), a medieval tower, organic gardens, a dining space, plenty of trails to wander about in and get lost, and last but not least, traditional Tuscan homes you can stay overnight in, or over a week!
Hello Carmen of Spannocchia farm!
Meet Carmen, the gardener of the magical Spannocchia farm that holds a treasured spot deep within my heart.
She doesn’t use any pesticides, conventional or organic, to grow her crops. Instead, she uses the mezzadria sharecropping system and rotates out her crops around various gardens to keep the soil rich and fruitful.
Carmen’s got passion and is full of life. I imagine her energy (among a few other things) is what helps these gardens to grow so well.
What interested me the most is that she only became a gardener later on. Before then, she worked in an office or was a bookkeeper (or something along those lines… sorry, I forgot!).
Everything she knows about the Spannocchia farm is based on her experience of trial-and-error.
Basically, she’s a G.
Can you see the love and care she holds within her heart (and the carrots in her hands) and how happy that made us?
Her connection to the earth made us feel a bit more grounded that day.
Seeing our food grow right underneath our feet is such a lost art in most Westernized cultures (or at least in NYC, the concrete jungle).
Only recently has there been a resurgence of home and urban gardens being grown by and for those who love the land and want to know where their food comes from as much as eating its outright delicious taste.
It’s always a good feeling looking down (or up) and seeing the food you plan on eating right there– the true meaning of natural.
The Spannocchia farm has multiple gardens with student volunteers working the land because of their dreamy internship program.
If you’re a student studying a related major (botany, agriculture, hospitality, Italian– duh, etc.), you can come live here, eat the bounty of the earth, and contribute to this wholesome place that provides us with lots of nourishment and joy.
I was ridiculously happy here learning so much about the earth and the animals that live on it.
For example, see that plastic rope between the two wooden poles. Well, that’s to keep the deer out. The deer CAN JUMP over the metal fence so Carmen added another barrier to keep them from jumping into the garden and eating all the food.
But guess what? They can still jump into the gardens.
For comparison, I’m 5’2″ and that plastic rope is taller than me meaning the deer can jump right over my head! CRAAAZZYYY!
Alas, our wonderful tour of the gardens with Carmen is over.
But there’s more goodness to come– cooking and eating!
We walk towards the kitchen, and of course, enjoy the beautiful sights of the Spannocchia farm as we go.
Hello Loredana of Spannocchia farm!
Now meet Loredana!
She made my dreams of wanting to cook with an older Italian woman come true.
Like an OG Italian housewife, she never went to cooking school, but started learning how to cook the traditional Tuscan food at an early age.
She’s basically lived her whole life right on the farms when her family were tenant farmers on Spannochia. She then cooked for the Cinelli family and the students and guests of Spannocchia for 20 years– like a boss.
She’s toned down the amount of time she’s devoting to the Spannochia farm to spend time with her grandchildren (rightfully so), but fortunately, we still get to experience her Italian roots through her cooking classes.
We made pasta, chicken, a leek dish, and tiramisu, and it was all so much fun!
She also gave us lots of tips on how to cook Italian food such as when making pasta sauce, put in basil in the last 5 minutes of the sauce cooking. Otherwise, the flavor will get lost in the sauce.
Look at that smile! We know we got a lot of TLC the food we’re about to eat– YESSSS!
Here’s the grand finale of our gardens and cooking tour with bruschetta as the start of it all.
This is the best bruschetta I’ve ever had!
Happy food = happy people!
This pasta was pretty ridiculous too– fresh, chewy, homemade goodness all the way made by us!
The tiramisu was the best I ever had in the world too, and it was so easy. Unlike the tiramisu made in the US, this didn’t have sponge cake in it, which I like way better.
Thinking about it now, where did I put that recipe?
After eating pasta, chicken, leeks, and dessert with Loredana (yes, we ate with her together at the dinner table– such a great experience), we had to walk off our food bellies.
We had fun taking photos and making friends with the sleeping dogs around the property.
Considering they were sleeping, it was probably a one way friendship.
Here’s their website to find out more information on the Spannocchia farm. They have a ton of activities, accommodations, and so much more.
If you’re curious, this garden tour + cooking class was 90 euros a person.
For New York City standards, this is a great price considering it’s 5 1/2 hour venture, and you get to eat local, sustainable food!
Isn’t the Spannocchia farm gorgeous?
Would you come here for a one-of-a-kind experience? Let me know by commenting below!
Also, if you have any unique cooking experiences you’d like to share, please share it with me! I’m always on the look out for food-related activities– surprise, surprise.