Our first day in the Siena area was what most of us were really looking forward to: a very hands-on class in authentic Tuscan Cooking. We began Saturday morning with an exquisite breakfast buffet at our Villa (more about that in another post), then bussed to the hotels sister site where we were met by Chef Aldo.
The group was divided into 4 teams, 1 to prepare the appetizer (a crustless quiche called Vegetables Pudding according to the recipes that they gave us as a souvenir). The next team worked on what is considered the first or pasta course: Pici Senesi with Duck Ragout. (Those are the ducks lined up behind the celery...heads tucked delicately underneath so that one of that team nearly fainted when she picked up the fowl and his neck and head rolled out. )
The dessert team prepared a magnificent set of Cantucci Biscuits, which are smaller versions of the biscotti that we are used to. These were served with Mascarpone Cream that was to die for.
And here we are after all the work, relaxing with a local traditional apperitif and waiting to be served. I don't know if the kitchen staff usually gets so well treated at the end of their labours. I think that Chef Aldo wanted us out of the way so that he and the real cooks could put the final and professional touches on each of the dishes.
After lunch, we went into the beautiful city of Sienna to shop at this, one of its 2 yarn stores, and watch some of the local spectacle. We visited the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Sienna, and were told of the 17 neighbourhood/family groups that make up the city.
Here is one of the groups in a feast day parade: dozens of gorgeous girls dressed in the saffron coloured dresses of the region, followed by some dapper looking young men, who in turn were followed by everyone else. All were singing in time to the drums that led the parade.
This picture also shows how narrow the streets are in the medieval towns. Needless to say, there isn't much vehicular traffic, although we did manage to get a bus ride from the top of the city to the location of our own bus on the outskirts at the end of the day. Harry Potter fans will relate to the experience when I say that it was much like when Harry was picked up by the midnight Express Bus: Fast, crazy and hair raising.