So, we recently welcomed our very first group of travellers to our new La Lucana Day Experiences here at Agriturismo L'Assiolo. In fact, we've been amazed by the response in inquiries about these new day trips and we're excited to see this new offering progress.
The day began by meeting our three American guests in the centre of Matera. We could tell that they were excited to delve deeper into some authentic Italian culture and we were thrilled to be the ones they had chosen to experience this with. After the fifteen minute drive out of the city, we arrived at our farm, deep within a WWF protected nature reserve and set against a beautiful lake. The first order of the day was to take them on a tour of the grounds and let them take in the breathtaking scenery and nature. Also, it was a great opportunity to explain to them how an 'agriturismo' works and show them all the inner workings of an organic farm. It was wonderful to see them so interested in how we use the land and grow our olives, oranges and fruit and vegetables. We couldn't help but think, 'wait until you see what Marisa will do with this stuff later...and when you taste it!'. Luckily, Antonio happened to be pruning the olive trees in preparation for the next crop to start growing in the spring. Our guests seemed to love finding out about how and why we 'give the olive trees a haircut' at this time of year (as Antonio describes it) and were so curious to learn all about the special processes used to produce our famous liquid, golden nectar. Again, we couldn't wait to let them taste our olive oil later on...
After we finished our tour of the groves, it was time to get in the kitchen with Marisa. She's always so proud to show her many culinary talents to foreigners and we loved the way that our guests didn't want to miss a trick. If they weren't asking every question possible, then they were scribbling notes down as if this was some type of secret information that they knew was precious. For us, it's a great honour to share this knowledge and skill and we loved their enthusiasm for our food. But what did we make? Well, first off, Marisa talked our new American friends through the process of making a traditional 'parmigiana'. They were amazed to learn how different the process was compared to the various American iterations that they had experienced before. From the way we prepare the eggplants/aubergines to the approach to the sauce, they were constantly surprised and curious. Then we moved on to another Italian classic, meatballs. Again, our guests seemed utterly shocked at these traditional techniques and it was wonderful for us to see them appreciating the real thing from an authentic Italian chef. There were completely new things we introduced them to also, such as 'bread balls', which appeared totally fascinating and were completely unknown to them. Marisa was really keen for our budding Italian chefs to taste all the different components throughout the cooking process, though one of our guests got a little worried because she enjoyed the tasting so much that she was worried about filling up before lunch!
Speaking of lunch, no authentic day in Southern Italy would be complete without one of our famous long-table, full-course, family lunches. With Silvia and Greg acting as translators, our guests really loved talking to us all about their lives, jobs, family and country and Marisa loved the many compliments that they kept giving on her incredible food! 'I never eat eggplant in America,' one guest exclaimed, 'but this eggplant is AMAZING!'. 'This is one of the best meals I've ever had!' they continued. 'I think I'm going to try and eat everything on this table,' said another. Marisa, deservedly, was glowing and Franco was so enthusiastic about their enthusiasm. In fact, one of the guests was super interested in the wood oven that Franco uses to cook meat in, and so, he cordially invited one guest to follow him to the oven, with Greg and Silvia closely behind, where he explained how it was built and even let his new friend help him in roasting the meat! A great honour indeed as anyone who knows Franco will tell you how protective he is of his wood oven...;)
Fruit, dessert, coffees and digestive liquors followed and the conversation flowed and flowed. 'It's like being in a film' one guest said.
After our long lunch, it was time to start again with even more cooking! This time though with our friend Antoinetta who like many women of her generation in Southern Italy, is an expert pasta maker! Before they knew what was happening, our American guests were kneading their pasta dough and attempting to shape 'orecchiette' and 'fusilli'. A task a lot harder than looks but lots and lots of fun!
By the late afternoon, our day was coming to an end and our guests were filled with emotion, gratitude and of course food. We were so happy to have shared a day like that with them and to see them smiling so much and genuinely feeling like they were long lost friends of the family was beyond rewarding for us. We can't wait to do it again and more than ever we believe that our approach to authentic Italian experiences is unique and special.
We can't wait to meet our next guests...perhaps it will be YOU! :)