My sister and I just completed the "Take a Bite" cooking excursion at Tasty Tuscany. As with most experiences, there were some positives, but given the cost (over $400 CAD per person, per day based on double occupancy!), we certainly expected more.
Let's start with the positives: 1) The location is outstanding - but there are many outstanding locations in Tuscany, so this wasn't unique. 2) Paulo has educated himself on the local history and is a great story-teller. We certainly appreciated all of the information he provided. 3) Pat is clearly a wonderful cook of "down home Italian food" and encourages the use of local, fresh produce. The home-grown herbs were wonderful. 4) The rooms were large and clean. 5) Wine was plentiful, albeit very low quality.
Unfortunately, these positives did not out-weigh the negatives as follows:
1) We did not feel welcome after the first day. We ended up feeling like we were an inconvenience and Pat and Paulo had to take unwanted turns entertaining us.
2) We believed our excursions were planned based on Pat's and Paulo's weekly appointments and errands, and not what was advertised. For example, being in Tuscany we were looking forward to visiting a winery as was advertised on their site. We were not taken to a winery. Instead we visited a small town, with little to see, so that Paulo could visit his friend who was one of the local artisans. Good for him; not so great for us. Another day, Paulo had an appointment at the bank so we hung around the town square during siesta when all the shops were closed waiting for him to finish. He told us we could wait in the van if we preferred. There were numerous other examples with both Pat and Paulo where we felt like we were inconvenient tag-alongs as they ran their daily errands.
3) Some of the basics one comes to expect from even the most basic hotel were not provided. For example, we did not have any toiletry products in our room other than a bottle of hand soap at the sink. There was an empty bottle of shower gel in our shower, but nothing else. Given the liquid restrictions on airlines these days, travelers expect shampoo, conditioner and shower gel or soap to be provided. Also, breakfast was less than inspiring. The same cereal, toast and jam provided every day. One jar of jam had mould on the cover. Not very appetizing. The worst part of breakfast is that the espresso machine was broken and there was not other coffee offered. Paulo indicated he tried to fix the machine before we arrived, so he was aware of the problem. How can you run a B&B without coffee? Despite this, when we went out on excursions, Paulo did not offer to pay for our cappucino.
4) Although the wine was plentiful, it was very low quality. Paulo admitted that they purchase their wine "in a bag". Before arriving, we had picked up some decent bottles of Chianti for $4.50 Euro, so it wouldn't have been a huge cost to provide decent wine with dinner. Given what we were paying, and given that we were in Tuscany, one would expect some pretty good wine with dinner. Paulo would join us for lunch with a nice cold bottle of beer for himself, but this was not offered to any of the rest of us.
All in all, we were disappointed with the value for our money. Canadians are typically undemanding travelers, so we don't believe our expectations were unreasonable. The American family who visited at the same time were equally disappointed. Pat and Paulo used to be a couple but separated a number of years ago. They continue to run Tasty Tuscany as business partners. Our final conclusion is that this is probably getting old for both of them and their lack of interest in the business is showing in their service offering. Perhaps its time to sell the business and move onto the next chapter of their lives.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Food Immersion: a great opportunity to live for a week in a real Tuscan home, learning about authentic Italian food, touring beautiful art sites, relaxing in the luxuriant garden or at the pool, meeting your hosts Pat and Paolo, their family and friends. At Tasty Tuscany the hands-on experience in the kitchen is enriched by guided art tours, visits to wine and food producers, open markets and art workshops. Small groups of people experience a unique Culinary Adventure that starts from our Traditional Family Recipes. It's our everyday cooking and we'll t each you the tips to make you feel confident in the kitchen. We welome not cooking guests with a tour and relaxation program. On a hilltop flanked by Tuscan cypresses is an Italian farm with a farmhouse, now a Tuscany villa for a great Tuscany holiday destination. This is where the silence speaks to one's very soul and the sweet scent of Tuscan rosemary & oregano lifts the spirit. The scent is present in the morning Tuscan air and the dry breeze of every evening. The sweet smell permeates the Tuscan kitchen used for cookery classes, giving the authentic Italian family food a wonderful Tuscan flavor to make for a memorable holiday in Italy. This beautifully restored farmhouse provides a bed & breakfast accommodations and an Italian cooking school. The villa has five bedrooms, each with its own character and furnished with antique pieces handed down throughout Italian generations, are perfect for Italy holiday slumbers. Everything combines to create perfect atmosphere for your holiday. Whether just passing through or planning to stay, all are welcome at our cooking school, bed and breakfast, and rental villa. Press Articles Tuscany Cooking Classes For some the stay is a short holiday and the farmhouse bed and breakfast provides a brief respite between local art cities. There's always time to have a chat, to try our traditional Tuscan organic food, drink a glass of good Italian Chianti. All of these can be done under the branches of the Italian wisteria on the grounds of the Tuscany holiday villa rental, near the welcoming Tuscany villa rental fireplace in the living room, or upon wakening in the morning to the smell of coffee and freshly baked bread. For others, a visit here becomes an Italian holiday voyage of discovery, an opportunity to learn about the true flavors of Tuscany, to taste Italian olive oil made from the fruit of our Tuscany villa and its ancient olive trees, or authentic Italian wine made by dear friends from San Gimignano. During your vacation, maybe we'll visit in on a nearby shepherd to try some pecorino cheese that is still made the old way, really organic, and you'll learn to cook some traditional and typical Italian dishes. And we always remember to share everything with good humor and a ready Italian smile. We look forward to welcoming you and making your holiday Tuscany holiday a most memorable one! ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Tasty Tuscany Palaia, Italy