Ten ways to survive an Italian heatwave

Newstands this morning declared the centre of Florence “feels like” 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and signs warned of extreme heat this week, to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activity. They say this is the last (the fifth) heatwave of the summer. Here’s how to deal with it. Under the Tuscan Sun may embody a dream for many, but Tuscan summers have always felt like an inferno to me, easily my least favourite part about living... Read More

Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)

This is not a very practical recipe unless you chance upon a basket of wild plums at your local farmgate, like I did, while picking out some enormous, gnarled tomatoes, sunny zucchini flowers and purple and white eggplants the size of my fist. Or, even better, find yourself a wild plum tree that no one else (birds and bugs included) has noticed. In years of scouring farmers markets, I have never once come across wild plums, even though they are well-used... Read More

The Perfect Tuscan Coast Getaway 2017

I’ve been coming to the Etruscan Coast — the stretch of Tuscan coastline from Livorno to Piombino and all the islands in between — ever since I met Marco, over ten years ago. His grandparents, like so many Tuscans, have had an apartment here since the early 60s, so it was their stomping ground; their childrens’ and their children’s children spot for their annual summer holiday. The summer can be busy and crowded, when... Read More

Coffee, almonds and ice

Three ingredients, and there you have my favourite type of iced coffee ever, and my ideal pick me up on a slow, hot afternoon. ‘Caffe in ghiaccio’ or Caffe Leccese is a favourite summertime drink in Lecce, the beautiful capital of Puglia‘s southernmost area of Salerno, something I tried — and got hooked on — during my first trip to the baroque town about five years ago. In it’s simplest form, caffe in ghiaccio... Read More

Raw tomato sauce for hot summer days

Quite possibly the best way to enjoy really good, ripe summer tomatoes – as well as making the most of spending as little time in front of a hot stove as possible – is raw tomato sauce for coating pasta. It’s something Marco makes for lunch on a warm day when he’s craving pasta al pomodoro (his ideal comfort food), but either doesn’t have the patience to cook the sauce or the desire to turn on the stove (except to boil the... Read More

White peach and basil jam

I’m really trying to stop lamenting about the heat — the relentless, humid, Tuscan heat — but it’s hard when it engulfs you 24 hours a day and there’s barely any relief from it aside from taking cold showers throughout the day. But I know I’ll want it all back as soon as winter comes and I’m chilled to the bone with that damp Florentine cold that is so hard to shake off and I’m yearning for long days... Read More

Ciliegie sotto spirito — boozy cherries

Preserving fruit under alcohol and sugar is an age old preparation, and an enjoyable one at that. The liqueur infuses the fruit, the fruit infuses the liqueur and the sugar adds a bit of sweetness that takes the edge off the strength of the alcohol. Marco’s nonna used to make these in the summer during the height of cherry season and then serve them to anyone entering the house as a welcome — the ultimate sign of good old fashioned... Read More

24 hours on Giglio Island

I’m still trying to gather the right words to describe the simple beauty after my first visit to this little Tuscan island last week. Some things are best left to record in images, like mental snapshots, rather than try to find the words. Giglio is like that for me. It is only a hop, skip and jump from home in Monte Argentario – a breezy one hour ferry ride from Porto Santo Stefano. So we made a quick, 24 hour visit, which is doable for the... Read More

Caramelised figs

I’ve mentioned it before; I can’t say no to free produce. Especially when it comes from Marco’s cousin, Lorella, and her husband, Antonio, who have a vegetable garden large enough that it basically makes them self-sustainable. They have ducks and geese, walnut trees and vines for making their own wine. And, right next to the cubby house that my daughter thinks is paradise, is a wonderfully prolific fig tree. She had thought about... Read More

From the farm: Eggs poached in tomato sauce

One of the places that I can truly call my happy place is a farm in San Gimignano. Partly it’s because of the wonderful Fioroni family who run Fattoria Poggio Alloro, who I feel are like long lost family because of the way we are embraced (literally and figuratively!) when we arrive, the way we are fed (as if we must not have eaten in weeks), and the familiar way that this place somehow feels like home (we also always stay in the same room,... Read More