On July 12th, Ariana begrudgingly bid farewell to her buddy, Maia (the black Labrador) and we embarked on our way to Umbria. We stopped at the small country of San Marino to climb the San Leo fortress. Both kids thoroughly enjoyed climbing up and down the various stairs of the fortress and hearing the tales of the various ways in which they kept enemies out. We toured prison cells and we all enjoyed the media experience that immersed you into the sights and sounds of life in the fortress hundreds of years ago. Later that day, we arrived at our agritourismo near Perugia and were created warmly by our host, Raffaella. The kids dipped themselves into the pool and played with the new dog, Pepe.
Ayaan and I arose early the next morning, super excited for the first session of our cooking week. Cooking was become a passion for Ayaan, just like me, and we’ve both enjoyed cooking dinner together since he was 2 years old. Ayaan also developed a love for pasta, which led me to promise him a trip to Italy together to engage in a guided cooking experience. This formed the basis of this sabbatical, and I was really looking forward to sharing this bonding experience with Ayaan. He impressed not only me but all the daily participants in the cooking course – he was engaged, immersed, curious and did an incredibly skilled job, a true perfectionist as many of our classmates commented. Each day, we cooked a four course meal consisting of an appetizer, first course (pasta), second course (meat) and desert. We both couldn’t have asked for a better host in Raffaella and I highly recommend her cooking experience. I could also feel a decidedly stronger bond with Ayaan and am so grateful to have experienced this together.
Each afternoon, we’d take off on a new excursion. We visited the beautiful town of Assisi and climbed its cobblestoned streets to its chapels. We stopped for a ceramic workshop in Derruda, and visited the Baci chocolate factory in Perugina where we got to see thousands of chocolates being produced and packaged all my machines with zero human intervention except to spot check.
One afternoon, we had reservations at the Monte Vibbiano winery where we got to ride electric buggies through the vineyards (Ayaan was really looking forward to this experience!) and taste olive oil and a flight of wines. The service was incredible! We also ventured to Lake Tresimeno and toured the gorgeous Rocce de Leon’s fortress there, experiencing an opera singer live through one of the rooms.
We lucked out and happened to be in Umbria during the annual jazz fest, a real treat as there were numerous free concerts at the Carducci Gardens and Piazza IV. We also saw the funk show parade and we all joined in on the dancing. Raffaella’s grown children are both musicians and she’d play their live music while we were kneading our pasta, a thoroughly relaxing experience! On our last day, we took a trip to Montepulciano to show Nani Tuscany and she was impressed with the jaw dropping views!
On the last day of the cooking program, since there were no other guests, Raffaella offered to allow Nani and Ariana to join in, making it a private cooking lesson for our family. Ariana was extremely excited that she got to participate, and enjoyed making all the courses with me. What a memorable experience, as we all cooked and dining together, accompanied by Raffaella’s Sangiovese vino. Pure bliss!