‘Pizza stasera!’ is the text I received from Francesca Buonagurelli, my friend and beekeeper who I take clients to visit. Great, a pizza party tonight at Al Benefizio, Francesca’s agriturismo. As you might guess, an agriturismo is a farm that also provides accommodation for tourists as a means of augmenting its income. If you want a rural setting, they’re the ultimate slow travel form of accommodation. You slip into the relaxed lifestyle: walking, cooling off in the pool, sitting under a tree reading, picking fruit and vegetables from the farm and cooking them for dinner.
Francesca converted an old hay barn into two self-catering apartments and a double room, incorporating at the same time a magic spell. Although the accommodation is rustic, everyone who stays is entranced. The upper apartment has witnessed several proposals of marriage with the couples returning for their honeymoons. Some of my clients who I brought only for a brief honey tasting under the cherry tree have declared they never want to leave, regretting their choice of a hotel in Lucca.
Is it the stupendous view of Barga from the swimming pool?
Is it the rare breed chickens in their feather hats?
Is it Dido sneaking into the kitchen looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth?
Maybe it’s Francesca preparing to catch a swarm of bees?
It could be the pizza party Francesca throws once a week for her guests and invites her friends and relations (many of whom speak English) making the guests feel as if they too have friends in Italy.
Sometimes my clients make the pizza dough and sometimes Francesca buys the dough from the baker. One time we stopped for lunch on the way to Al Benefizio with the dough in a refrigerator bag. It was so hot that day that the dough rose too fast and burst out of the bag threatening to engulf the car, and I had to grapple it back into the bag and make it behave.
We help light the oven around 5 pm so it has time to heat up by the time the first focaccia is put in to test the temperature at around 7.30.
From then on it’s fantasy time. There are loads of toppings
and you can create your own, or you can drink and chat and eat whatever comes from the oven.
If you stay till the end there’s a surprise dessert: chocolate pizza!
Erica Jarman invites you on inspiring culinary tours of life behind the scenes that you won’t find in any guidebook — get to know the food artisans and craftspeople of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria. Come join me and my Italian friends and dip into a lifestyle where lunch is more important than business. Find out more at Sapori e Saperi Adventures and follow Erica’s own adventures on her blog.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.