Friday, December 4, 2015

Extended Travel Report: Italian Holiday 2015 - Day 3

On the third day we had a Tuscan cooking class booked in the afternoon. The driver was supposed to pick us up at Pontedera train station and we figured we'd just head to Pontedera earlier to have lunch and amble around.

Fragrant star jasmine

A Private Garden in Pisa
 Just like the day before, we decided to walk from our apartment all the way to Pisa Centrale station and had some breakfast along the way. This time around we had breakfast at Dolci Pisa which was recommended by our host. It mostly caters to locals so the price was very affordable. A piece of pastry (or 'paste' as the Italians say) cost only 1 Euro (!) and a cup of cappuccino cost only 1.50 Euro (!!). The staff all looked young, I reckoned they were all students from Pisa University. The atmosphere was indeed very hip and local. When we got there, the place was busy with locals having breakfast and I got the first hand experience of watching locals drink espresso. They really just queued up in front of the counter, 1-2 sips, and they were done.

I'd say the interior was pretty and a tad feminine, perfect for a small bakery with 'Dolci' in its name. Some African souvenirs sellers might come inside and peddle their goods to you but I'd say they weren't aggressive and even quite polite. They would put down a bracelet on your wrist, trying to get you to buy but a simple 'no' would suffice. I saw they also targeted locals who would even reply to their sales pitch, something that would be considered overly polite in Asia.

After breakfast, we continued our day and boarded the train to Pontedera-Casciana Terme from Pisa Centrale Station.

Pontedera is a small town, not very touristy even though the Vespa museum is there. We originally wanted to check it out but we got off the wrong exit from the train station and subsequently never found it so we decided to just amble around the town.

Just outside Pontedera train station

Plaza outside Pontedera train station
 The town is very mellow, not much people around and as it was around lunch time, some businesses were about to close so we decided to join in on the fun and have lunch.

The 'X' looks like from The X-Files, doesn't it?

a cacti garden in Pontedera

Very small car
Hotel La Rotonda
 We chose this restaurant called La Cantinetta Vini which is right across the street from Hotel La Rotonda, a relatively big hotel a few minutes away from Pontedera train station.

La Cantinetta Vini

La Cantinetta Vini
 The nonna who manned the restaurant herself (from greeting patrons, cooking, to delivering the bills) didn't speak English which is a good sign! She brought us the day's menu which was just a piece of paper with some printed words on it, all in Italian so I guess it would really help to know a little bit of Italian when exploring smaller towns like Pontedera.
The nonna

Wine selectian at La Cantinetta Vini

We ordered Pappa al Pomodoro (some kind of tomato soup), Ravioli with Ragu (meat sauce), and two Melanzana Parmigiana (eggplant parmesan). They were really, really delicious! It all cost us 33 Euro.
Ravioli with Ragu

Eggplant Parmesan

Pappa al Pomodoro
 We finished just in time and headed back to the station where we met our driver. The road to Peccioli was beautiful with white clouds, blue sky, and vast open fields along the way.

On the way to Peccioli

On the way to Peccioli
We reached the cooking class place in about 30 minutes, which was a farmhouse called Ca'Solare. The road up to the farmhouse was this tiny country road that can only accommodate 1 way of traffic at a time.
The small country side leading up to the cooking class
As we were early, we got to look around the farmhouse which was incredibly beautiful, especially in early summer.

Star Jasmine in full bloom

Beautiful vista from the farmhouse

Down by the swimming pool

Fresh star jasmine in the washroom
The kitchen which is a converted stable

Lucia, our chef and teacher
 The cooking class that we took focused on Tuscan home cooking. We got to learn how to make assorted fried vegetables, risotto, pork with Chianti, and cherry pie that day and how to use mezzaluna, this half-moon blade instrument used to finely chop the ingredients that is a must-have in a traditional Italian kitchen.
The ingredients for the cooking class

Cherry pie with cherries from Lari which was in season

Even our driver couldn't help but ask for a slice! It was that delicious.

Arianna, the host, with Lucia and the other couple who took the class with us

The whole class lasted about seven hours but it really didn't feel that long when you were having fun with good company, good food, and good wine! The host even threw in freshly brewed coffee made with Moka pot and a shot of grappa aka the coffee killer to round up our day.

We headed back to Pisa at almost 10:00pm, blissfully happy.

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