Italy's Organic Paradise

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Photo by Michael Grant


La Petraia is one of the most beautiful agriturismo farms in Italy, tucked away in an unspoiled corner of Tuscany in the Chianti Classico area. The stone farm house dates from the 11th century (check out the archival prints in the living room documenting the history of this ancient property) and has been respectfully restored by owners Susan and Michael Grant. Four suites are decorated with Tuscan antiques and contemporary Italian accessories. Everything that can be made by hand in Tuscany is, like mattresses from the Casentino, linens, and soap from the farm's lavender.

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Photo by Michael Grant

Michael and Susan have created an organic, sustainable paradise, with heirloom fruit trees, organic vegetable and herb garden, Cinta Senese pigs, guinea hen, squab, duck, quail, chickens, rabbits, bees for honey. Susan is a fantastic chef and her cooking is as seasonal and local as it gets. Bread is made with Petraia's wheat, baked in a wood-burning oven. The 10-course tasting menu is prefaced by an aperitivo, served in the living room with fire blazing when the weather is cool, outdoors under a pergola in summer months.

The dining room offers guest a clear view of the immaculate kitchen, where Susan and her collaborators turn out a ten-course meal of beautifully presented, tasty dishes inspired by the land's bounty--wild as well as cultivated vegetables, home-cured salumi, game from the forest. Since La Petraia's vineyards are still a work in progress, there's a short, all-Tuscan, well-chosen and priced wine list. Meals conclude with La Petraia's mead and cookies.

This summer, from July 13th-18th, La Petraia hosts author Michael Pollan. Cooking and foraging lessons, sessions with Michael, visits to food artisans and local restaurants are part of this most interesting program for a maximum of eight people.

For more information on La Petraia and the Michael Pollan sessions, check out their website.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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