What sounds like a presumptuous statement, quickly turns into a truthful opinion, after spending just one day with Sandra Rosy Lotti and her staff made of experienced professional chef instructors at the Toscana Saporita cooking school in Massarosa, a few km from Lucca at the hedge of Versilia in Northern Tuscany coast.
I have met Sandra a few years ago and every time I have stepped into her classes and joined the group, I have felt like Sandra is a beloved friend and a good sample of ‘Italianità’, Italian mood, style and attitude that foreigners look for, not the stereotyped one with spaghetti and mandolino. She is straightforward, friendly, genuine, honest and immensely funny! Your mouth will be aching from eating, chatting and laughing at the end of the week, and not just your body but also your soul will put on weight. Bread, focaccia and pizza are the ‘forte’ here thanks to a wood fired oven that baked the estate’ s bread for centuries.
The school focuses on teaching culinary skills and a wide range of recipes, on top of suggesting wine pairing, selection of ingredients and traditional food methods of production. Toscana saporita welcomes everyone who loves food, from beginners to accomplished chefs. In fact, the School takes place in an organic farm by the Massaciuccoli lake, better known as Giacomo Puccini’s lake, where the garden is every day ready for a fresh pick of tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, together with a just-laid egg and animal lovers can comfort themselves with the view of horses quietly grazing surrounded by sunflowers’ fields. A real gold mine!
The last time I met Sandra and her group was in September right after their truffle hunting experience, so the contest of the day was disputed by two groups featuring homemade ‘tagliolini’ (thin stripes of handmade pasta) with truffle an butter and the unbeatable, but yet super difficult to cook, risotto with truffles. I cannot tell you who the winner was, because my one and only memory focuses on Sandra, head of the table, telling about the donuts, here called ‘bomboloni’, contest, when she acted as jury and had to taste all of them one by one… finally ending up with nightmares that night and surreal visions of ‘a Madonna on a Vespa!’…Laughter is still urging me to smile, when I recall it… But yet, this is the kind of vibe you live while at Toscana Saporita.
The school was founded in 1994 by Anne Bianchi and Sandra Rosy Lotti, when this was the one and only example in Tuscany of cooking school with American guests in Tuscany. Her passion for this job made her overcome big life difficulties and allow her gain a contagious zest for life, captivating people’s attention and having fun around any topic she’ll be dealing with… twenty years of food and wine did not change her!
Sandra is also teaching at Macy’s Degustibus, Eataly and James Beard in New York every year in December… where, among other topics, you might stumble upon Sandra’s dissertation on ‘bechamel, or ‘besciamella’ as she would say, arguing that Caterina de’ Medici was the one to import it to France from Italy thanks to her Florentine cooks… the ‘real’ story goes that Caterina’s grandfather, Lorenzo de' Medici, was so happy he got rid of her by combining the wedding with Henry the II, that he sent off the entire cooking staff to make sure she would not ever go back uttering food was not sufficiently good for her palate…
Toscana Saporita as an authentic experience of Tuscany’s people, land and food as well as a way to learn, regenerate and share great laughs in good company! Guaranteed!
For more information:
Toscana Saporita cooking school
Massarosa, Lucca, Italy