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I have just spent the last few hours viewing some of last week’s episodes from Masterchef Australia, where the lucky top ten contestants have been in Italy…. nice for some!  It is brilliant to be able to watch the programme in my own time, on this blustery, showery, yet sometimes sunny Sunday afternoon. And what  treat it has been! – I have to been to Rome and Florence again, and seen the places I fell in love with in June, like the Market in the Piazza di Campo dei Fiore in Rome, where the contestants created and cooked the lunch menu for 200 at Mercato. We loved the atmosphere and colour of the market though it was coming to an end when we arrived, and I am pretty sure I saw one of the contestants duck into this shop (which took my fancy at the time), for ingredients!:

Shop on the Campo dei Fiore

Then it was off to Florence – I loved the little foodie tour around Florence where Mindy and Alice tasted local “delicacies”…. I could see in the background some of the places we had been – a nice little flashback ! As for Villa Corsini a Mezzamonte in the Chianti district, what a stunning setting for a cooking challenge!  We didn’t get to see this Villa on our visit, but maybe next time!

The taste challenge for the Ribollita ingredients was fascinating.  We tried Ribollita, Tuscan bread soup, at the Trattoria il Nazionale in Radicondoli and it was delicious, though perhaps it didn’t have 28 ingredients! It was also a treat to see Antonio Carluccio as one of the judges. One of my favourite foodie programmes is Two Greedy Italians…. how could you not enjoy the lovely easy relationship between Carluccio, and his partner in crime, Gennaro Contaldo? – but that is a story for another time, I have another Masterchef episode to watch…..

The Tuscan town of Monticchiello where the contestants faced the challenge of cooking five courses for fifty townspeople,  was so reminiscent of all the hilltop towns we visited like Mensano and Casole d’Elsa – historic and beautiful, with wonderfuly warm and engaging people like those of our favourite town, Radicondoli:

Radicondoli in Tuscany

Watching all this delicious Italian cooking has sent me lurching for the two beautiful cookbooks I received on my 60th birthday… Light of Lucia and Tuscany.  Both books are stunning in their presentation and offer so much more than just recipes. The former is part biography and an insightful look into Italian life and culture, while the latter is a culinary journey though Tuscan regional cuisine, and boasts some exquisite photography.  They are treasured additions to my growing collection of Italian cookbooks…. the next one for me add will be Two Greedy Italians.