My day begins with an early morning walk though our lovely town of Montefollonico.

My day begins with an early morning walk though our lovely town of Montefollonico. It’s a true neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone else and greetings are warm and genuine. As I walked, I imagined what my life would be like if I lived in a place like this. Nothing here resembles Los Angeles, including the slow pace and the steady calm. I have to capture this relaxed state of mind and tap into this consciousness the next time I am stuck in traffic on the Hollywood freeway. It would make my commute much more bellisimo.

Our morning cooking lesson was with Isa, a local, no nonsense cook with a dry sense of humor and a simple, yet specific approach to prepping each dish. There was no slouching in her kitchen. At one point she pointed at me and said something to our translator Christina, who laughed and said “Isa says you are standing around too much. Get to work!”

La Costa cooking lessons were the most ambitious to date. We made many things, including Ribbolito, a Tuscan vegetable and bread soup, pork loin, potato pie, eggplant parmesan, Panacotta and Cantucci cookies. Whew! My favorite was the eggplant parm, which was the lightest, most flavorful parm I’ve had. Earlier in the day, Rhonda said it would be the best, and again I was skeptical. She was right! Second helping please! I really want to make this when I get home.

Jack and Betsy Solomon, a Texas couple came to Tuscan Women Cook in 2006 joined us for lunch. They loved the experience so much they decided to buy a home here the following year. Jack was committed to retire at 60 and since then, the Solomons spend a month or two at a time in their beautiful Montefollonico home, hosting friends and family and loving the Italian lifestyle.

Isn’t is amazing how one vacation can transform the rest of your life?
I plan to make a big pot of Ribbolito when I get home and freeze small portions so every time I have a challenging day, I will ladle up a bowl of this sumptuous soup and I will be transported back to this lovely alfresco lunch we made today, overlooking yet another panoramic Tuscan view.

I bought my favorite souvenir today- a giant rolling pin- from the local market, which will be shipped home with some beautiful handmade ceramic plates I selected from a local pottery shop. I plan to keep my rolling pin proudly on display at all times on my butcher block, as a reminder of all the pasta dough I rolled out here with the very same style and size rolling pin.

After a short break, we head out for cheese and wine tasting. The cheese shop was nestled in a lush, landscaped glen off the road to Montepulciano. As we entered the shop, the strong, enticing aroma of fresh cheese drew us to the display case and the tastings commenced. We started with the freshest cheese and graduated to the most aged. Sampling in this order gave me a whole appreciation for the variation of taste with age. Everything was delicious, but the older cheeses had a depth and complexity of flavor that I really enjoyed. I bought two vacuum packed Pecorino wedges to bring home, with the promise that I would be able to sail through U.S. customs. Fingers crossed.

I am not a wine-drinker, so I opted out of the tasting and enjoyed time at the hotel. A long, cool refreshing bath in the big tub in my room definitely helped beat the heat and perked me up for dinner.

Ah dinner. Another delightful three-hour affair at a wine shop/restaurant called La Botte Peina right here in Montefollonico. Wine flowed heavy at this meal and hundreds of bottles lined the walls in shelving and cabinets made from recycled wine crates. Dinner was clearly a result of the proud chef showing off farm-to-table ingredients. My favorite course was a zucchini soup, served room temperature, which I really appreciated on this on this balmy night. Main course highlights were local favorites such as porchetta and homemade sausages. Dessert featured a flourless chocolate cake with a lighter-than-air minty foam.

Hugs and goodnights were exchanged at the Bar Sport, the local watering hole where everyone in town gathers for town gossip and great internet- always an entertaining combo! I walked down the hill back to the hotel with Laura, another sweet TWC guest who shared family stories along the route back.

Tomorrow is our final day together and it begins bright and early. I know I will savor every bite of conversation and every single bite of delicious food. Hard to say which has been more special this week. I’ve loved getting to know everyone and I have loved learning about, and tasting these amazing local dishes.
The week has truly exceeded my expectations in every way.