Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Florence and Villa Campestri in the hills of Tuscany

What can I possibly say about Florence that a million other
people haven't said before me.
You must come to experience this most beautiful and iconic city. Do all the touristy things like climb to the top of the Duomo and experience the spectacular views, go see the treasures held in the Uffici and then drive out to the hills of Tuscany to experience the contrast. We loved the chaos and magic of the city each day and then drove 45 minutes out of town each evening to stay in the hills of Mugello at the Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort. If you don't know by now I am passionately in love with exceptional extra virgin olive oil and I had wanted to visit Villa Campestri for the last year.
 It truly was the best of both worlds.

Set in the hills of Mugello just outside of Florence The Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort is a beautiful villa built around an 800 year old fort. It is peacefully set among the olive groves with beautiful vistas in every direction.

We went to see the Palazzo Vecchio which is the town hall in the Piazza della Signoria. The walls have magnificent frescos that depict the battles and victories of Florence over Siena and Pisa.

I took this picture through a gun turret on the tower.

It is worth the climb up to the top of the tower to see the view of the city including the Duomo.

Set on the Arno River the Ponte Vecchio (which means Old Bridge) is now mostly jewelry stores.

Time for an espresso and a tiny cannoli near the Ponte Vecchio at The O Cafe.

The Duomo is free to go into the chapel however, you need tickets to climb to the top and also to visit the Baptistry across the road. The best thing you can do is to buy a Firenze card online before you come to Florence. It is a card that lets you into all museums and buildings, plus gives you free transit for 3 days. You will go straight to the front of the HUGE lines!! These lines typically have hundreds of people waiting so do yourself a favour and buy that card! My neice Stephanie gave me that good advice!

The Baptistry across the road from the Duomo.

Make a point to have gelato. I had one everyday! If you climb all the places with all those steps you won't gain weight either! Find places that make their own Artisanal/homemade gelato like this pretty shop called La Strega Nocciola. They made beautiful gelato I had Tangerine and Strawberry....YUMMY!!!

This is one of several Enoteca Salumeria Lombardi locations. Wow what a store! Prosciutto, cheeses and everything else a girl like me would want!

This is their selection of balsamic vinegars...some of them are hundreds of Euros for a tiny bottle.

Olive oil.

Migone sellls beautiful Florentine desserts.

Gilli was the perfect place for a glorious afternoon of people watching and eating. 

Look how pretty that lasagna bolognese is!

Always time for a macchiato and a cantucci cookie

I love all the Pinocchios.

Just a pretty display in front of a clothing shop on this fine Spring day.

This is my friend Anicio's kind of store. A store full of espresso makers.

It is worth the grulling, claustrophobic climb to the top of the Duomo for the sensational view of the city.

Each day after walking in the bustling, crazy, busy city of Florence I was so happy to return to this pretty hotel. The Pasquali family runs it with passion and warmth and they make you feel so welcome.

Even the walk from the parking lot is divine!

I felt like Elizabeth Bennet when I opened my window each morning (of course I would be Elizabeth Bennet she gets Mr. Darcy!!)

Coffee and homemade cantucci cookies and breakfast were so nice on the back patio.

They sell some really beautiful items in their lobby.

Look at my breakfast including their own olive oil.

Giant pots of lemons and oranges in the main courtyard.

This is their frantoia (Olive mill) where they press and blend their beautiful Cosimo extra virgin olive oil. If you can't get to the resort they do ship worldwide.

This is the building we stayed in.

A pool with a killer view of the Mugello Valley

Tins of their Villa Campestri Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is buttery and gorgeous.

They make their own honey too.

Everything is developed to help people try and experience olive oil, their own and two others. This is a case of their tasting trays and spoons.

The restaurant has two olive oil focused menus the help people see how to balance and pair food with the exceptional olive oils.

Such a nice dining room and the staff are so nice and very helpful.

This was a magnificent cheese plate paired with glorious combinations of cheeses, oils and TRUFFLES!! I was truly in heaven. (I LOVE truffles!!)

Pinzimonio is a great thing to try at home with some different super premium oils. You really can taste the different oils and see which ones you like with which vegetables.

A tiny perfect mouthful of Robiola cheese and a drizzle of gorgeous olive oil.

Bolognese is super concentrated sauce with very little tomato and very strong meaty flavour. So delicious!

Warm chocolate lava cakes with olive would be amazed!

Paolo Pasquali is passionate about his farm, his commitment to producing exceptional extra virgin olive oil and helping get others to see how glorious these good products are.

Paolo has created his OliveToLive system for storing three different olive oils at the perfect temperature, sealed from light and oxygen to keep them at their optimum freshness. He has partnered with many Michelin star restaurateurs providing these machines to restaurants that want the very best for their customers.

When you try the three oils their beauty is clearly displayed in his tasting glasses. You hold the glass in the palm of your hand and swirl it around to warm it with your body heat, breathe the aromas, then taste the differences. You will absolutely taste the differences!

They also make a great house wine. We tasted a few bottles just to make sure.

My friend Wesley who was in my class at Olive Oil school in Imperia allowed me to join his cooking class where we made typical Tuscan sauces/toppings. We made 2 kinds of pesto, bolognese sauce, a sausage and porcini sauce, a Tuscan pate and a fresh bruschetta. We were so full that evening we thought we would explode.

The Spanish Piqual oil was the perfect oil to pair with my carpaccio.

The buttery Villa Campestri Oil was perfect with the peppermint pesto and the buttery pine nuts (crazy! I would never have thought of making pesto with peppermint! but it was so good.) 

A potato stuffed ravioli with bolognese.

A slow braised beef stew with polenta triangles and potatoes.

Just a perfect mouthful of olive oil infused chantilly cream and a single chocolate dipped corn flake. WOW!! I honestly never had a bad meal at Villa Campestri.
You know you wan to come here.

Climbing the steps to the Belvedere...just working off my fantastic dinner from last night.

What a view...what a city! I will be back!!


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