The taste buds were tantalised as we hosted an afternoon of Italian food and wine with the good folk of West Essex Golf Club in conjunction with the expertise of the charming Anna Baccanello of Azure Collection.
Nerves were a little fraught in the build-up with poor Anna suffering from a bout of laryngitis. Like a true professional - assisted by colleague Chelcie - she croaked her way through a splendid presentation showcasing the delights of all things Italian.
The super staff at the Golf Club had prepared a splendid room setup which Sharron accessorised with the finishing touches whilst Nicky collated goody bags. Liz masterminded the delivery of the presentations and visuals and I fretted about timings and everything running to plan.
To a background of the sublime sounds of Andrea Bocelli, guests were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and as they took their seats the first culinary delights were served.
Anna and Chelcie began by taking us from Venice down to Tuscany. Highlights included; stylish Venetian boutique hotels, tips on how best to navigate this beautiful city, a look at the Orient Express route, the spectacular Dolomites – a wonderful destination for both winter skiing and summer walking, Lake Garda and Portofino.
The first of the tasting wines were then poured- a Pinot Grigio-Alto Adige and a Dolcetto D'Alba-Piemonte - before Anna kindly gave away the first of six complimentary bottles of Gabi and Barolo wines.
The central region was the theme of part two as we took in the delights that Florence has to offer, the romance of Rome, the magic of Siena in Tuscany and Assisi in Umbria before hopping over to spectacular Sardinia.
Amongst other things, we learned about Bocelli’s upbringing and spectacular summer concerts, truffle hunting, hiring a Ferrari, the Palio and a hotel inspired by its owners love of watches and clocks.
We also took an in-depth look at two wonderful Sardinian hotels, the Relais Villa Del Golfo and the Gabbiano D’Azzurro, both of which had generously offered complimentary three-night stays as prizes for a pair of lucky guests.
The next instalment of tasting wines and culinary delights from chef Enrico's kitchen (which included samples of delicious pizzas) were warmly received.
We concluded with heading south focusing on Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily and the gorgeous Aeolian Islands. The journey began in the exquisite gems of Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Ischia, to an accompaniment of anecdotes from Anna who has entertaining personal experiences of every one of them. Several guests have since commented on how they could happily listen to Anna’s stories all day.
She waxed lyrical about the stunning Matera, a 45-minute drive from Bari or Brindisi Airports, declared the first Unesco World Heritage Town. I am sure it was added to many of our bucket lists.
We moved on to some of Puglia’s splendid towns of Otranto, Ostuni and Polignano before reaching Lecce on the “heel” of the map and being transported over to Sicily, an increasingly popular destination with visitors from the UK.
Our southern tasting wines were the delicious Falanghina-Campania and the Nero Oro Appassimento-Sicily accompanied by a scrumptious Sicilian orange cake, a fine way to conclude the afternoon’s proceedings.
Huge thanks to James and his team at West Essex Golf Club for their assistance and hard work. We look forward to returning for a special evening showcase event on 7 November.
For information on any of the places covered or to piece together a memorable Italian adventure, please get in touch.