Brand new trip planned for March / April 2017. Montecatini / Lucca / Firenze e La Lunigiana.

Lucca views

For information / price and dates for this tour please feel free to phone me on 07717 582140 or email me on or you can message me on Facebook


Montecatini Alto


I Cipressini, preparing the aperitivo and the views over the Pistoia valley.

Castello di Malaspina, views and the spooky breathing bed.

Portovenere, Liguria.

A Week in Val di Comino and Valle del Liri

Our Club Gourmet is not long back from a great week in the Ciociaria, this part of Italy that is half way between Rome and Naples is a series of lost magical valley’s somewhat frozen in time, waiting to be discovered. This is not to say that they are totally unknown, towns like Picinisco, Atina, Villa Latina, Ponte Melfa, become bustling hives of activity during the months of July and August when all the Italiani from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris and many countries too many to mention, fill these towns to bursting point. The British tourist though has yet to discover the wonders of this area.


Our Hotel Golf Hotel La Grotte  was well situated in the heart of the Comino valley Close to the old town of San Donato, this is a good family run hotel ideal for walkers, a car is essential for this hotel as you are at least 40 mins walk from San Donato. The hotel has attractive grounds with a small pool, a nine-hole pitch and put course and a very good restaurant serving typical home-made, regional food.


Our happy group of travelers set of on our first day to visit the market town of Sora, nestled in the valley of the Liri, Sora was famed for its skilled cabinet makers, you can see by the architecture that this town was once a rich place. Sora has its market day on a Thursday, it has many fine shops and some excellent churches to visit. After a busy morning exploring Sora it was soon time for lunch, our group is not called Club Gourmet for nothing, when tummies rumble its time to eat.


Our restaurant choice was La Perla D’Arpino,  overlooking the beautiful Roman town of Arpino.  Fantastic choice, antipasto of plump Scampi followed by a wonderful seafood pasta then sea bass with baby vegetables. Wines were white wines typical of this area. The proprietor of this top class seafood restaurant is Rino Ferri, Rino is also a skilled wine buff with an astounding list of top class wines.img_1913

After a relaxed lunch we headed across the Liri valley to Arpino, birthplace to Cicerone (Cicero) and Julius Caesar uncle Mario (Marius). We climbed to the very top of this ancient town passing the polygonal walls still standing after 2000 years. I must say it was a wonderful feeling walking on the streets that the Romans walked on and being in the valley of the Volsci, Sabines, Samnites and the Aequi.img_1916

Cicerone pointing the way out for Catiline.img_1920


Gaio Mario known as the father of the Roman Empire. The Roman Eagle its wings pointing the two ways to the castle.

The next day we chose Atina as our destination, Atina is the capital town of the Valle di Comino, a Roman town with a wonderful museum of its early Roman past and the battles fought against the Volsci and Samnites in order that the Romans eventually dominated this area and became part of the Empire. A visit to the Cantina La Ferriera, for a wine and food tasting, their wines Ferrato (Petit Verdot, Cabernet and Syrah) and Realmagona (Cabernet and Syrah) were a real treat, many of the group could not resist bringing their Ryanair weight to the limit by purchasing some bottles.

Lunch was at Ristorante Il Vicolo  Again a lovely lunch of local specialities was enjoyed by all.

We all had time to explore and enjoy the beautiful panorama of the area.

Monte Cassino

Our day at Montecassino started at 10:00 hours sharp and our guide was waiting to give us an in-depth  tour of this amazing Abbey. Founded at the site of a Roman Temple by St Benedictine and his twin sister Saint Scolastica, this Abbey has been destroyed and re built twice once by a great earthquake and again by American and British bombers during the Allied advance in WWII.

The German officer, stationed near the Abbey managed to save all the precious artifacts and drawings of the Abbey, these were later used by modern-day craftsmen to re build the Abbey exactly as it was.

50,000 young men were sent to their death in the unnecessary taking of this Abbey ordered by Paton and Montgomery the small handful of German troops were stationed below the Abbey and it became almost impossible to climb the steep mountain. Th devastating bombing only made thing worse as the Germans dug into the ruins and held Montecassino for even longer. Our thanks for this day go to Don Edmer who organized the day for us.


No visit to Montecassino is complete without visiting the Polish, Commonwealth, American and German Cemeteries, places of peace and meditation and also shock when you read the head stones of all the 20/25-year old boys who died on the mountain.


We left in the morning and headed to Casa Lawrence, D.H.Lawrence spent some time here and wrote some of his novels The Lost Girl was the one he based on Val Di Comino and Picinisco. We were welcomed by the owner Loreto Pacitti, a fine cheese maker and host of Casa Lawrence  and Sindaco Marco Scapaticci, Major of Picinisco he was very kind and offered aperitivi.

After a very pleasent morning being shown round this lovely little Agriturismo we moved on to Picinisco where we were shown round Sotto Le Stelle this is a beautiful little hotel situated in the heart of Picinisco. all the rooms are suite with kitchen facilities each one with views over the Comino Valley. The proprietor Cesidio Di Ciacca invited us on a tasting of his Virgin olive oil and home made preserves, and presented us all with a beautiful publication on the Valle di Comino.

After the tour Sindaco Scapaticci kindly presented the the group with a little “ricordo” of Picinisco.  After some free time and a visit to the church of San Lorenzo we all made our way to Ponte Melfa for a nice lunch with our guests at Ristorante Melfa



Views from beautiful Picinisco with special guest Charlie the, not so wild, Boar.


Venafro is a lovely town in the Molise region of Italy, slightly south of Lazio. A Roman town, famous for its wonderful Virgin Olive Oil and cheeses like the well known Cacio Cavallo. Dierdre Mackenna, who’s family come from this area, organised a splendid day in Venafro.

The day began with a visit to a 2000 year old olive grove, with 600 year trees producing olives at this very time. From here we went to her fathers restaurant for a tasting of the oil, home produced cured ham, cacio cavallo cheeese and salsiccia secca. A wonderful aperitivo from a very king family.

From Olive oil we moved on to Vino to the Cantine Campi Valerio, Antonio Valerio is a very fine winemaker, worth a look up on your laptops where you can read all about the fine wines that the Valerio family produce, after a vineyard visit, what else to do but eat lunch once again, you do pile on the kg’s on the Club Gourmet tour. A fine lunch was laid out with a tasting of Falanghina Del Monte Lare, Rosa Dei Campi, Sannazzaro, Sannazzaro Riserva, Opalia and Astrorosso Vino Delle Stelle.

After lunch we made our way to the historic center of Venafro, We were met by Luciano who has created at his own cost a museum made of of WWll finds, as this is the place of the Winter Line, The Germans held this line before the battle of Montecassino. The museum is amazing filled with actual weapons, bombs, uniforms and all sorts of things soldiers of all sides used during this awful campaign.

During thia great week the Club Members had time to wander round many of the visited places, some even ventured up the hill from the hotel to San Donato, healthy walk was the reason, I sort of think that the 1.5 euro glass of wine was more the reason.

Our special Thanks to

Cav Adriano DeMarco  who had the idea of going here (his hometown)

Dierdre Mackenna for the wonderful day at Venafro

Sindaco Mancini of Atina

Sindaco Scapaticci of Picinisco

Antonio Valerio proprietor of Campi Valerio Wines

Loreto Pacitti Proprietor of Casa Lawrence 

Don Edmer for the great day at Montecassino

Cesidio Di Ciacca for the tour of Sotto Le Stelle and Oil tasting

Ivan Filippo Tavolieri

Adriano Capocci (owner of Leabus) for getting us about safely.

Look out for all of next years tours on Toscana Elite Website, Facebook page and on my blog




As promised here is the recipe for this tasty risotto dish.

ingredients for 6 people:
300 grms Carnaroli rice
Zafferano to taste
unsalted butter
olive oil
200/300 grms small prawns, depending how greedy you are.
12 scampi (two each)
fresh ground pepper
sea salt
glass of dry white wine
light fish stock (bought type is fine)
2 anchovies in olive oil (not white pickled ones)
wide leaf parsley
bottarga di muggine (if you have it) not totally vital to the dish, just adds more flavour
2 cloves garlic


Chop garlic fine, or crush in mortar and pestle.

In large pan melt garlic, anchovies, pinch of salt, crushed pepper, olive oil and butter 50/50 not too much.

Add the carnaroli rice and fry moving all about to stop it burning.

When rice is ready add a glass of white wine.

When alcohol has evaporated add 2 ladles of fish stock, chopped parsley, bottarga and saffron.

Keep stirring the rice so as to prevent it from sticking, adding stock as required.

Continue this process until rice is cooked, rice should not feel hard under your teeth.

Add small piece of butter to bring the risotto together and finally add the baby prawns

Finish the dish with the scampi on top.

Scampi can be pre-cooked in a pan with some olive oil, garlic, I like a touch of dried chilli as well.

In Italy we say that risotto should be served all’onda and not alla montagna, this means that when serving the risotto should look slightly wavy in the plate and not stand up like a mountain. It should feel soft in the mouth and in no way burned or stuck to the bottom of the pan.

This basic recipe can be used for a great selection of seafood dishes, the main rule is that fish like squid, mussels, large prawns etc should be cooked beforehand and added to the risotto as you go along.

This type of risotto is a great dish if you are having a dinner party, when the rice is fried and after you have added the wine and two ladles of stock, you can take it off the heat and cover with tin foil. the rice will take in the liquid but stop cooking, therefore you can continue the process and finish off when you are ready to serve.

Be sure to use dark anchovies in olive oil, not white silver skin pickled anchovies.
Bottarga is tuna eggs, usually purchased in a block, I have seen it supermarkets like Waitrose in powder form, can still be used this way. Bottarga makes a delicious spaghetti just with a touch of Virgin olive oil, if you like a fishy flavour.

Week In Alba Tartufi, Vino e Nutella


Barbera “Luna e il Falo'” ageing in the barriques.Image 

Barbera grapes already harvested, September is to early for Nebbiolo.


Barolo ageing at Terre da Vino.Image

Photographs from the town of Barolo.ImageImage

An afternoon with Alessandro owner of Tartufi Morra, central Alba, this was a fantastic time, we all learned so much about the Alba tartufi trade, how the tartufi are found, the dogs, the terrain etc. A tasting was organised for us at Tartufi Morra with a talk by Alessandro. A thank you to Alessandro for giving us his time and wonderful talk and tasting.Image


The good things from Alba Tajerin, Crema di Tartufo bianco, salame cotto, salame crudo, liquore di Gianduia, nocciole, Torrone Sebaste’ and a bottle of Dolcetto……..Oopps!! forgot the Nutella!!!!Image


Wonderful town of Alba.Image

Luigi Tana creating some wonderful cocktail, one of the many nights we were out eating and drinking….ImageImageImageImage

Any information you may require about organising this type of holiday, anywhere in Italy, please get in touch with me.


Sandro Sarti 00 44 0777 5434254 uk

                     00 39 333 5208891 Italia





A Week in Alba


A wonderful week was spent in Alba with our friends from Club Gourmet.

On our first day we went for a typical Barbera lunch at Agriturismo Cera Una Volta, we ate carne cruda, di fassone Piemontese, antipasti assortiti, Tajerin, home made with 40 egg yolks to every kg of flour. then Fritto Piemontese followed by an amazing assortment of home made cakes and sweets, all washed down with their own lushious Barbera, a warm thanks to Silvia Castagnero and her familyImage



Our second day took us to Marchesi di Barolo, a warm welcome to this wonderful old “casa vinicola” founded by the Kings of Italy “Barolo the wine of Kings and the King of wines” a tour of the cellars followed by an aperitivo, a delicious meal of antipastini assortiti, Ravioli del Plin, brasato al Barolo, the tasting wines accompanied each course were splendid. 

The rest of the day was taken up by a tour of the Castello di Barolo, a visit to the corkscrew museum and visit to nearby castle town to appreciate the views over the Nebbiolo vineyards and the Langhe. A day never to forget.ImageImage


Our next day took us near Torino, to La Venaria Reale, Savoia Royal Hunting lodge, the tour of the Palace and gardens was a “must see” for anyone in the area, this Palace was ravaged by Napoleone and then further raped by the Nazi’s, a great effort has been, and is being made to restore it to its former glory, and there are ongoing cases with France and Germany for the return of its treasures. The rooms and hallways are splendid as are the beautiful gardens. La Venaria Reale is a world Heritage site.



The day was rounded off with a lunch in Torino and time to wander and shop in this fantastic city with its wonderful architecture.

No rest for the group, a different vineyard the next day, this time the modern and slick vineyard of Terre da Vino, a contrast to Marchesi di Barolo, Terre da Vino is modern in every way, a knowledgeable guide showed us round the impressive wine production, and cellars. A good typical lunch was had with a tasting selection of their splendid wines.

Thank you to Roberto Cane and his team for having us at his wonderful vineyard.ImageImage


A great day in Alba with a tasting of Tartufi Bianchi at “Tartufi La Morra” Imagethen aperitivi at Vin Cafe’ then dinner at La Libera.Image