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Family Retreats In Italy

Yoga, Cooking and Fitness breaks for all the family



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Chestnut festival at Caprese Michelangelo

Posted on October 3, 2017 at 5:46 AM Comments comments (91)

The Festa della castagna at Caprese Michelangelo takes place 14-15 October and 21-22 October. Michelangelo's birthplace, Caprese Michelangelo, is only two and half hours away from Lucca in the province of Arezzo, nestled in the Val Tiberina and 700 meters above sea level. The famous artist was born here on March 6, 1475, in the castle. His father was "podesta" and his house (photo above) is now a museum. You can also see the small stone church where he was baptised. Caprese Michelangelo is a picturesque village of 1400 inhabitants, a number which doubles in October with the famous Chestnut festival. Chestnuts and chestnut flour have always been staple foods of this area, and fed the locals in the Middle Ages in the place of grain. During the festival, you can discover the stunning area and taste the delicious local chestnuts called marroni. The festival offers many chestnut products, such as chestnut flour and sweet dishes, alongside all sorts of local food stalls, plus artisans displaying and selling their crafts. The highlight is to try one of the chestnut based menus on the various food stalls. The marrone is a large type of chestnut, typical here and known for its sweet flavour. It dates back to Roman times and was cultivated by the Benedictine monks in the Middle Ages. One of my favourite dishes is the monte bianco dessert made with meringue, cream, and chestnuts. Monte Bianco Make the meringue beforehand 
800g chestnuts (marroni) 100g sugar 500ml milk
35g cocoa powder a little rum
fresh cream (needs to be whipped) 
Cook chestnuts in a pan wit water (make a slit in them) for 35 minutes.
When cooked , peel them and put in bowl with milk , rum and cocoa powder.
Places spoons of mixture in a glass or bowl and cover with whipped cream and decorate with whole chestnuts . You can also place mixture and cream on a ready made meringue nest.

Life In Lucca

Posted on March 6, 2017 at 11:38 AM Comments comments (0)
Lucca for kids 

We decided to leave London behind for a year and come and live in Sunny Lucca to give our children (aged 9 and 3) the possibility to experience life in another country and connect with their Italian heritage.
Why Lucca? We didn't want a big city so as much as I love Florence and have many friends there , we chose Lucca as it is a quiet,small,beautiful historic walled city where everything is a cycle ride away. 
That was our first shopping trip, to the second hand bike shop.

Lucca Walls 

The medieval walls of the city run just over 4 and half km around the town . We can do the whole circuit in about half an hour on our bikes.The walls date back to different times , from ancient Roman times (a few parts still remaining) to the 16th century.
Three original city gates still exist and every time we go through them my 3 year old pretends we are knights going to our castle . We love the way they are illuminated at night.
There are so many parks on the city walls that it would be hard to cycle round with kids without stopping to play . Our favourite is the park by porta Elisa. Tuscany ride a bike at Via Elisa 26 has lots of bikes for rental or Poli at piazza Santa Maria.There are also lots of benches and cafes along the walls.

Making Rock cakes with your children

Posted on March 10, 2015 at 8:49 AM Comments comments (0)
Went to cooking class with my little one and made great rock cakes.
Some melted butter, 4 tblesp self raising flour (mix to breadcrumb consistency) Add some raisins, some chocolate chips, 1 beaten egg and a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of baking powder. Bake for 20 minutes and you have easy delicious rock cakes. You can add dates or nuts for variety.

Half term recipes with the kids to sneak in some veg

Posted on February 16, 2012 at 8:06 AM Comments comments (0)
I just thought I would post some quick recipes for half term to try and sneak in some veg. I have got good at that since my daughter won't eat anything green, or orange for that matter. In fact she only eats white food, bread, pasta, cheese with the occasional red, ie pizza. The next person who asks me if me and my husband eat veg and fruit (I love my fruit and veg) I will reply 'veg? What's that?"

Pasta all norma Sicilian aubergine pasta for 4
400 g pasta
2 aubergines
1 kilo of tomatoes
1 garlic clove
olive oil

Blanche the aubergines to get rid of salt. Roast them in the oven for 20 mins
heat the oil and fry the garlic, add the tomatoes and basil
Cook the pasta until al dente
Put the aubergines in with the tomatoes for just a few minutes , mix together with the pasta and add a sprinkle of ricotta and olive oil.
Buon appetito

Risotto con la zucca  Pumpkin risotto  nice and colourful and gets the kids stirring

400 risotto rice 400g pumpkin
1 garlic clove 1and half litres vegetable broth

Fry the garlic, rosemary and  after 5 minutes add the pumpkin, salt pepper and a pinch of sugar

Bring the vegetable broth to boil and put the rice in another pan.add a ladle at a time of the liquid to the rice and keep stirring. Wait until liquid absorbed before adding more.

 After 15 minutes add pumpkin , cinnamon and parmesan. Switch off for last 5 minutes of cooking and cover. Serve immediately.

More Mums and babies and lots of olives!

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 1:52 PM Comments comments (0)
So the September mum and baby breaks went well. We had sunshine all month and the mums on the fitness breaks all lost between 1 and 2 kilos. I managed to loose a kilo without doing any exercise! Just eating all those healthy meals. Have sort of kept up the healthy eating give or take a chocolate or two!

The yoga and cooking breaks were great fun and busy.On one break we had ten adults (Dads came too)and seven little ones. Busy , lively and great fun,although hard work for our team. Fernanda said she was glad when the month was over, but the next day said she felt lost without all the children and couldn't wait for the next breaks to begin. Everyone agreed that her tiramisu and home made pasta were the best.A couple of mums have e-mailed me to say they have been practicing their newly learnt pizza and pasta making skills at home. Isobel said the pizza on our pizza evening was the best she had ever tasted.

We have just come back from Italy after picking our olives(we do olive picking and cooking weekends) and having had 34 guests to visit in the last 2 weeks , some for the night, some just for the food. So am about to prepare our olives to put in jars now . In case you want to know how this is done , you prick the olives, cover them in salt, stir every morning until lots of black liquid comes out and after about 2 weeks they are ready (taste to see if still bitter, if they are keep them under salt a few more days).
Then you can put them in jars with some olive oil, fennel seed, celery , garlic and pepper. Add chilly if you want spicy olives. Easy! Great gifts for Christmas. By the way if you want an unusual gift why not get your loved one an olive tree club membership see 

Mum and baby/toddler holidays May 2011

Posted on June 5, 2011 at 7:38 AM Comments comments (0)
Paradise for Mum and babies in Tuscany.

This is what one of our mums wrote on her blog see  Flora's comments on

I have just got back from 2 very different mum and baby breaks in Italy, the first was a fitness break where all 5 mums lost between 1 and half and 2 and half kilos. Alessia de Magistris is our personal trainer and gives a 1 to 1 session on arrival, taking weight and measurements and does 4 fun fitness classes outdoors in a stunning setting with Lake and hill views. Makes Exercise so much easier!

We started the mornings with fresh juice followed by circuit training by the pool. There is something beautiful about exercising outdoors with beautiful views and fresh air.

At 10 am  I prepare a healthy breakfast of muesli and yogurt and herbal tea. Some mornings we have freshly laid eggs from our neighbour's farm or porridge with nuts and seeds to see us through our mid-morning exercise class. Lunch, served on the terrace,is a healthy salad or  something like spinach, lentils and buckwheat and all mums said they did not feel hungry in between meals , but gladly welcomed a mid afternoon snack of fruit before the 2 late afternoon classes of fighting fit and fusion (a mixture of pilates, tai chi and yoga)Babies and toddlers are looked after while Mums exercise in the well equipped garden. Afternoons are spent at leisure , chatting to other mums , or swimming and sunbathing or even having a well deserved siesta. Dinners are healthy soups such as minestrone or spelt soup, a local speciality and salads such as fennel and orange, all organic and local produce. Mums commented on how tasty all the meals, and although the portion sizes were controlled how much more healthy and energetic they were. 

The yoga and cooking breaks are a more relaxed pace with lots of eating and drinking (wine is included), We have 2 yoga classes by the pool,conducted by Jessica st clair, one in the morning and one in the evening. An afternoon cooking lesson is given by Fernanda or Giovanna and dinner is what has been cooked. On the last evening we learn to make pizza in our outdoor oven and all the mums said it was the best pizza they had eaten (the ones Giovanna made, not their efforts!).  The  mums and toddlers also had a go at making pasta and one of the mums has e-mailed me to say she has tried at home since getting back.We also made tiramisu, panna cotta, risotto with funghi porcini and spelt soup.

On the Wednesday we visited the local market at the medieval town of Anghiari and then had a local lunch at the olive mill. The mums said this was a definite highlight.We arrived at 1pm and left at 5! We tried all the local oils, including truffle oil and orange oil and Francesco's home made wine. Mums also had a chance to buy the local olive oil, wine and olive oil cosmetics. The walk back to the cars through the olive and cherry trees was our exercise for the day as after ll the wine the mums decided to give yoga a miss for that evening (Jessica made up for it the next day with a double session)

By the Friday morning, when the mini bus came to take the Mums and little ones back to Perugia airport all the Mums and babies and toddlers looked relaxed, tanned and happy and swapped e-mails and hopefully made some lasting friendships as well as having a relaxed  and happy holiday with the added bonus of loosing weight on the fitness breaks.

The next breaks are in September, but the family friendly villa can be hired out on a self catering basis throughout the summer with cook, babysitter and cooking lessons on request.