Destination Dispatches: Kneading Florence

- Sarah Glyde, Regional Vice President Hotel Relations, EMEA for Kiwi Collection

Visit the Uffizi Gallery, admire the Duomo, stock up on Santa Maria Novella products—three great reasons to go to Florence, Italy. And I have another: improve your cooking skills.

I’m not a bad cook, or so my friends have kindly told me (no, I did not give them any money to say that), and I actually trained with Albert Roux during my student days, so I should know something. But a lesson with the Villa San Michele‘s Executive Chef Attilio di Fabrizio could only improve my skills. Plus, I love Italian food.

Chef Attilio di Fabrizio works his magic. The sprawling gardens behind play a supporting role.

Attilio has been a chef for over 25 years, running the school and sharing his skills on the Taste-Italia course with guests at the hotel for eight of those. His teaching kitchen is in a glass conservatory, one floor down from the hotel’s magnificent gardens. Not as grand a view as from above, but then again, you’re supposed to be concentrating.

We start off learning how to make a simple, traditional, but delicious dish of Tuscan Panzanella. Now all was going well with my dish until we had to make the quenelles. Not easy. To be honest mine looked more like crumbling pyramids than smooth crescents, but the still tasted good.

A quick glass of prosecco to congratulate ourselves on completing one course and then it was onto the next dish, Fiesole-style potato dumplings with fresh tomato and basil. This course was a little harder as it involved handmade gnocchi. Now, I have seen those little curly half moons in the shops many times, but I did not appreciate how much work goes into making them. To see them tumble onto the plate afterwards was rewarding.

Finally dessert. A legendary Tiramisu. Attilio uses fluffy, whisked egg whites to make his version ultra light and appearing to have fewer calories. I said “appearing”.

Sarah (far right), Chef and other classmates say “cheese” and it’s more literal than usual.

It was a fun morning and Chef was so patient and helpful, but I admit, the greatest part of the course I must admit was lunch afterwards. We all sat in the restaurant, admiring the full panorama of the city below, whilst sipping on more prosecco. Then the same dishes that we had attempted to create that morning began arriving. However, this time prepared by Attilio and his team.

If cookery isn’t your thing, not to worry. General Manager Marco Novella and his team at the Villa San Michele can help organize other great experiences. How about a hot-air balloon trip over the Chianti wine area and the hills south of Florence? They always sneak a bottle of something into the basket, so you won’t be thirsty.

Whatever you decide do, make sure you spoil your other half and book their Dinner under the Stars. The team set up a table for you outside in the gardens providing you with one of the best views of Florence, you have your own butler, and if you wish Chef Attilio will create a personalized menu.

We all know Florence is a great city, and that the Villa San Michele is a fabulous hotel. Now there’s even more reasons to go back again and again and again.

  1. I’d be inclined to play ball with you on this. Which is not something I usually do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  2. his course was a little harder as it involved handmade gnocchi.

  3. Wheel Covers says:

    Found you on google. Great article. Keep up the good work.

  4. i really love this blog!

  5. Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

  6. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later. Cheers

  7. Deborah says:

    What a great way to experience a location–I’m reading more and more about travel adventures that explore cooking and cuisine. Even amateur cooks can learn and come up with fabulous meals with a little help! It seems that activities like this help make more than a meal–since they create amazing vacation and travel memories!