The Perfect Easter Holiday | Spring Activities at Villa Lena

Published: January 24, 2020

The Easter and Half-term holidays are on the horizon! We’ve been busy here at Villa Lena preparing a jam-packed schedule of varied activities and workshops for the whole family to enjoy…

FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

COOKING WORKSHOPS

Pasta & Pizza Workshops
Get creative in our kitchen! Create delicious, fresh and totally-yours homemade pasta from scratch, cooked to perfection by our chef, and share the meal together. Or join our in-house Pizzaiolo and get involved with rolling the dough and assembling your own crazy combination of toppings. Enjoy your creation together with a delicious salad and glass of wine. Great for pizza lovers!

 

Forage and cook | What’s in the garden
Pick what’s best in season in our vegetable orto, crunch on some fresh greens, cook a new recipe and share the meal together.

 

EXPLORE VILLA LENA

Nature Walk and Sunset Picnic
Join our Agricultural team on a special evening trip deep into the forests to see what wildlife live in the land surrounding Villa Lena. Hope to see some deer, wild boars and maybe even muflons during the sunset hour together with a picnic basket and a bottle of wine in a secluded setting.

 

Join a Guided Hike or Get Your Hands Dirty
Explore the area surrounding Villa Lena during a guided 1.5 hrs hike. Secret corners and breathtaking panoramas are waiting to be discovered. Wear appropriate attire and comfortable and closed shoes. Or if you’d prefer a more intimate experience with the surroundings, join everybody’s favourite gardener Donato in the Villa’s vegetable garden. Get to know the land, see how he cultivates our organic orto and help pick veggies for tonight’s meal!

 

FOR THE KIDS

Kids Club
Drop the children off at the daily kids club so you can make the most of your holiday. There will be supervised games, workshops and a movie screening in Fattoria’s cosy screening room.

 

FOR THE ADULTS…

Wine & Olive Oil Tasting Tasting
At Villa Lena we produce our own wine on site. Start your masterclass off with a tour of our vineyard and then sample both our own products, plus some from the local region, and delve into the world of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Tuscany also produces some of the best olive oil in the world, known for its spicy and flavourful taste. Learn about the traditional and organic techniques used to harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the 2,000 olive trees on the Villa Lena estate and sample the distinctive product we create here in the olive oil tasting workshop.

 

Italian & Botanical Cocktail Workshops
Learn the secrets and techniques behind traditional Italian cocktails such as Spritz and Negroni, with our barman. Or experiment with the flavours of Tuscany, picked directly from our organic orto and inventively worked into your spirit of choice. 

CREATIVE EXPERIENCES

Floral & Clay Workshops with artists-in-residence Sophia Kaplan & Tara Burke
Sophia will be running a variety of floral workshops during her time at Villa Lena, including flower arranging, flower pressing, and fresh flower crowns using foraged flora. Then learn the basic skills of hand building with clay with Tara and incorporate foraged flowers from the estate in your designs.

 

MEET THE ARTISTS


Open Studios & Artists Aperitivo
Pop down to the artists’ studios to see what our current group of residents have been thinking about and creating, and take the chance to enjoy an aperitivo with them in the garden of the 19th century Villa.

To see the full schedule for April see our events calendar.

 

October Half-Term at Villa Lena

Published: September 10, 2019

Autumn is just around the corner and the change of the season brings much to be excited about. Whilst the sun continues to shine in Tuscany throughout the season, the fall brings fresh bounty, milder temperatures and less crowds. What more could you ask for?

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Foraging the Villa Garden – Greens and Joy Straight to the Table

Published: September 5, 2019

Entering the beautiful Saint Michele Terrace, I admire the view over the Tuscan countryside valleys. The Chef in Residence, Katzie Guy-Hamilton, is happily greeting me and welcoming me to the workshop. We enjoy a glass of Villa Lena sparkling before strolling to the orto gardens of the villa. Katzie gives us a tour of the vegetable garden, which is rich in colours with various types of tomatoes, zucchini flowers and watermelons ripening.

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Interview with Kristopher Edelen | Chef in Residence 2018

Published: March 19, 2019

Q: Kris, what brought you to Villa Lena?

A: I was doing some looking into residencies in the U.S. to start I have always wanted to work on a farm and be able to cook with the ingredients in a locavore kind of way. I was accepted into one residency in upstate New York but as I came to think I continued to do more research on chef-in-residency programs around the world. As I surfed the web Villa Lena show up in my search, I did what anyone would do and I clicked the link: it was “Amore a prima vista”! I was captured immediately I just knew I had to continue to read what this 19th-century Italian villa located in Palaia, Italy was about. Through this research, I put in some work (literally)  and actually got in contact with the owner Lena Evstafieva we had a Skype interview and next thing you know I was set for 2018 Aug-October chef-in-residence. The ortos, the pigs, the agriculture, the ethos, land, community, farmers, butchers, hunters, cuisine, artist are what all brought me to the Villa.

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Margherita Cake with Vernaccia Sabayon

Published: July 9, 2018

Amaze your friends with this sweet recipe from former chef-in-residence Aaron Tomczak. This cake is the ultimate dessert for al-fresco dinners with your loved ones.

Villa Lena to me is simplicity, made extraordinary through natural beauty augmented by creativity. To draw a parallel to food for me would be ripe strawberries and Margherita cake, topped with a sabayon made from local wine and garnished with herbs from the garden. Very simple ingredients, made memorable by the airy texture of the sabayon and floral aroma of nasturtium and lavender.

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Strawberry Tree Syrup by Natalie Zervou

Published: December 14, 2017

Discovering the Arbutus Unedo plant (or strawberry tree as it is affectionately known) growing abundantly at Villa Lena was a revelation!

This small tree belongs  to the Ericaceae family, native to the Mediterranean region. The species name, ‘unedo’, is said to mean “I only eat one” in Latin as they are said to leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. I did not find this to be the case, though the texture for me was somewhat challenging (think flouring apple!) however,  when transformed into shrubs, syrups and jams this fruit really is utterly delightful. The flavour is layered, complex and sweet and when married with thymus mint, also bountiful at the villa, the heavenly aroma and sticky sweet taste kept us going back for more. In folk medicine, the plant has been used for antiseptic, astringent, intoxicant, rheumatism, and tonic purposes. I enjoyed the shub best, the acidity of the vinegar gave a tangy twist and had that addictive quality that contrasting flavours often possess (think salty and sweet).

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MUSEEUM LOVES VILLA LENA | Pick up their new travel guide for Tuscany

Published: October 13, 2017

Bored of flipping through Tuscany tourist guides? Overwhelmed by the endless options? Pick up the brand new Museeum guide of Tuscany! In this short guide based on the senses you can find information for anyone.

In this guide you will find the top suggestions for an exploration of the main cities around Villa Lena: Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca, Siena!

From a connoisseur to food lovers, there are amazing tips for restaurants. Dine with a beautiful view at the café in Museo degli Innocenti, or try Italian comfort food with a twist at Michelin star gourmet restaurant ”L’imbuto” (The Funnel) in Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art. This is a great place for a change from traditional Italian cuisine and for a break from medieval art.

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RECIPE | TRUFFLE PASTA

Published: October 10, 2017

Now that the evenings are getting colder, we have the perfect excuse for comfort food…Warm up with this rich truffle pasta from Rebecca Eichenbaum, our Villa Lena. resident chef this Autumn.

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Sweet dreams are made of cheese | Butternutten AG

Published: October 3, 2017

illa Lena, Tuscany

Stimulated by a common passion for food and cooking, Butternutten’s Luki + Oli hosted a four-course cheese dinner at Villa Lena.

Every course featured ceramics made in Butternutten workshop by hotel guests, staff people and artists in residence at Villa Lena; the ceramics are inspired by human body parts.

The individual and unusual tableware invited the guests to interact as well as to enter in dialogue with each other. The “cheese dreams” dinner is a way of questioning what eating can be more than food intake and how our being can be shaped.

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Elderflower

Published: March 12, 2017

by Alexis Delaney, chef-in-resident of the years past

The first year that I came to Villa Lena, I was picked up at the train station in Pontedera. After a brief stop at the local coop supermarket to pick up a few spring-in-Tuscany essentials (raw fava beans, pecorino, bread and salami) our tiny car made its way along the curving and bumpy road between Palaia and the villa. Despite my jetlag and lack of sleep that previous night, I was struck by not only the incredible views and terrifying blind turns, but also that the road was lined with elderflower trees and they were in full bloom.

I couldn’t wait to get back on that road, this time on foot to collect the crowns of fragrant and tiny blossoms, which bloom prolifically between April and June. I headed out with my husband and visiting photographer Ellie Tsatsou to collect the clusters and transform them into a delicious and unique elixir for our aperitivo the next evening. We snipped a basket full of the branches and made sure to keep them upright lest any of the magical pollen and flavor fall to the road.

Once back in the kitchen, I trimmed the heads of their leaves and stems, which lack the same delightful aroma, and made a light simple syrup with sugar, water and a bit of lemon peel. After the syrup had cooled a bit, the washed flowers went in, and stayed there for 24 hours for the flavor to steep. The next day, I strained my concoction and made my self an elderflower lemonade with some lemon juice, the syrup and sparkling water of ice. Then that evening, we substituted the sparkling water for prosecco and enjoyed our drinks by the pool at sunset!

I brought some of the non-alcoholic version down to Anna, who works in the Villa Lena office, the next day. She informed me of an ancient Italian recipe in which the blossoms are dipped in batter, fried and sprinkled with sugar. Known as fiori di sambuco fritti in Italian they are a delicious and unique dessert, especially when served with a bowl of sweetened and whipped ricotta.

Elderflower syrup

This syrup will store for months. Dilute it with soda water or prosecco for a refreshing spring drink. For an inventive take on a French 75 cocktail, add a shot of gin or cognac ½ a shot of the syrup, top with prosecco and garnish with a strip of lemon zest.

500 grams sugar

1 liter water

1 lemon, zested with a vegetable peeler

15 elderflower crown

In a saucepan, heat the sugar, the water and the lemon zest until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until warm to the touch. Add the elderflower blossoms. Once the mixture is at room temperature cover and leave for 24 hours. The next day, strain through cheese cloth. Pack into sterilized containers and refrigerate.

Elderflower Fritters

These fritters use a basic tempura batter with prosecco instead of soda water to add flavor and color. Make sure the prosecco is cold for a light and crispy batter.

75 grams flour

75 grams corn starch

325 ml cold prosecco

2 dozen bite-sized clusters of elderflowers

1 cup granulated sugar

1 lemon, finely zested

flavorless oil for frying

Mix the sugar and lemon zest until well combined.

Gently wash blossoms in a bowl of water and remove to a towel to dry. Fill a pot with vegetable oil no higher than halfway, or you run the risk of boiling over. Heat the oil until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C. Prepare batter by whisking both flours and prosecco until just barely combined. Do not over mix. Working in batches of four or five, dip blossoms in batter until evenly coated and lay them in the oil. Avoid over crowding the pan. After a minute, flip the blossoms once with a slotted spoon, fry another minute, and remove to a paper towel. They should take no more than 2-3 minutes, and should be a golden brown.

Toss while still hot in the lemon sugar and serve immediately with honey whipped ricotta.

ELDERFLOWER_syrup

Honey whipped ricotta

1 cup ricotta

1 tablespoon mild flavored honey, or to taste

Small pinch of salt if necessary

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth and light, about 2 minutes.