In a country known for its food, the region of Tuscany still stands alone. This is why Prof. Anne Wingenter, SLA Russell Gonzalez, and 26 students spent a weekend (April 12-14, 2013) in the heart of this picturesque countryside.
After an early departure from Rome Friday morning, the group of burgeoning gourmands arrived at the Tenuta Torciano winery where the charismatic owner immediately enchanted the students with the magic and history of wine culture. He started with proper etiquette for holding the glasses, smelling, tasting, and experiencing. The owner claimed that he needed to “reteach [us] how to use the senses”, and did he. As the group sampled 10 different wines, he asked the group to try each one with meat, cheese, salad, homemade ribollita, and lasagna. Everyone came away full and satisfied. The next stop was San Gimignano where Prof. Wingenter shared her favorite corners in the city center. After a (light) gelato in one of the central piazzas, the group ventured through the valley to Montestigliano, the family-owned, hilltop villa that has hosted the JFRC for many years. Housed in gorgeous buildings, the earliest of which was built in 1705, the students enjoyed the olive grove, magnificent views, and (you guessed it) old-fashioned Tuscan food.
The next day started leisurely with breakfast in the old granary. The group then made its way to a farm of the recently recovered cinta senese pigs. The breeder’s explanation spanned thousands of years of history and demonstrated a great deal of passion for his swine companions. He explained that it’s the fatty content of this species’ meat that makes them notable and delicious. He then took everyone over to his house where they sampled 5 different cuts of meat from this breed, all of which were fabulous in their own way. The group then made its way to Siena and tranquilly traversed the city, even seeing St. Catherine of Siena’s head along the way!
Sunday started with an olive oil tasting in which students and staff learned what the major defects are in commercial oils and sampled good and bad oils side-by-side. A bruschettata followed, which in turn was followed by lunch. After some memorable good-byes to friends (both human and animal) at the villa, the JFRC contingent, satisfied, drove back to Rome, all the while dreaming of the day they will return to that house on the hill.