I Shall Be Called…Tuscan Traveler – #TTFBC

Hey…remember that little Tuscan recipe competition that I was involved in? Maybe you don’t remember because I really didn’t say much about it…

…oh heck, who am I kidding? I was the annoying one down on my knees pleading and begging everyone on Twitter and Facebook for votes, for like, an entire month. I hate popular voting [with a passion] and I’m so sorry for that. But, guess what? I. WON.

*I* won.

I won. I won. I WON!

Just a little re-cap…a Tuscan inspired recipe had to be created and submitted to To Tuscany, containing three key ingredients: Parmasan cheese, tomatoes and olive oil. The entries were then put up for public vote. After the votes were all verified (no doubles, etc.), the top three entries were judged by Nico Atrigna, the chef of Siena’s finest restaurant, Osteria Le Logge in Siena, Tuscany. The final entries were judged on: Presentation, Tuscan authenticity, Creativity and innovation and Cooking expertise.

He chose mine. Do you even know how that feels? I’ll be honest..when I got the email telling me I had won, all I could do was cry. Ugly, happy cry. The whole competition was about more than a trip. Okay, well, yeah…it’s about the trip. But deeper than that, the competition showed me that I am “good enough.” Does that make sense? When you work hard at what you love to do and constantly feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall…then something like this comes up and physically shows you that you ARE good enough…I can’t even put into words how that milestone feels. So, thank you. With your help, your support, your patience and your belief in me as a cook…I made it to the judges table and I won the stay in Italy (8 days, 7 nights and cost towards airfare.)

As of May 2014, I shall be called, “Tuscan Traveler.” It’s all so overwhelmingly exciting, however, I have some homework to do. I’ve now figured out that I’ll be staying in the La Stalla villa in the Hamlet of Montebuoni, which is in the Chianti region of Tuscany. You can see, olive trees are grown on the right and grapes are grown on the left. As I understand, these are the original buildings in the hamlet where olive oil and Chianti wine were (are?) made. The insides of the buildings have been refurbished for comfortable stay. That big orange arrow pointing to the 2 bedroom house? Yeah…that’s La Stalla.


May of 2014 sounds so far off, but after some discussion, I realized that northern Italy DOES have a winter season. Um…no thanks. After some emailing, it was said that later in the month of May would allow for more summer weather and activities. Not to mention, we need time for preparations: watching airfare (my son & husband are traveling as well), international driver’s licenses, learning maps, reading about language, booking car rental…the list goes on. Also, I am admittedly OCD and have to have everything in order, planned and micromanaged…especially for a trip of a lifetime, such as this. For the time being, we’re still basking in the glow of excitement.

We’ve been tossing around ideas of what we want to do when we get there. Florence is an hour away, Pisa (as in, the leaning tower of) is two and Rome is three hours. How do we NOT see those places? For heaven’s sakes, ROME? All of those school textbook pictures will actually be coming to life! How about the little Tuscan towns in between? Strolling the narrow streets collecting fresh baked breads, olive oils and ham shaved so thin you can read through it…this is the stuff I’ve dreamed of for many years. There is also an Italian cooking school nearby, in which I am looking to take a class. Speaking of cooking…take a peek at this kitchen in the villa where I’ll be doing most of ours. I can’t wait to stand at the counter and open those windows. It’s totally going to be all Under The Tuscan Sun and more.


I have to give HUGE thank you’s to:

  • To Tuscany for providing an accurate, fair competition and offering such a wonderful opportunity.
  • My email coorespondent, Lisa, for being prompt and professional. Everything was performed exactly per the contest rules. She’s been so informative and friendly, not to mention she immediately had our villa booked and confirmations emailed.
  • To Chef Nico for choosing my dish…I’m humbled.
  • To my friends, family and readers…your support hits me right in the heart and I can’t say thank you enough.

As things progress, I’ll be sending updates. Be sure to follow me on twitter as @ItsToni , Instagram as @ItsToniS and on the Food (Just Sayin’) facebook page.  We’re about to begin on a very fun ride.

*Photos from To Tuscany…click here to see more pictures of La Stalla at Montebuoni


12 Responses to I Shall Be Called…Tuscan Traveler – #TTFBC
  1. Fiona Maclean
    August 13, 2013 | 1:25 PM

    hehehe, hey, I found your post on triberr and just wondered if it was the same competition I entered a couple of years ago when I’d JUST started blogging (and won!). It was!!!! Many congratulations. The people at to tuscany are lovely and if you want any inspiration come and look round my blog because I went back for a second trip that year:)

    Many congratulations from me – I too really really hate voting competitions but, it’s worth it!!!

    • Toni
      August 13, 2013 | 1:36 PM

      Hey Fiona! Are you kidding me??? That’s crazy! What a small freakin’ world. I went to your blog and I’ll surely be back to read about all of your adventures! Love it. Gotcha on FB and Twitter as well.
      I’m glad to hear you had such a great experience there…we just cannot wait. It seems so far off but thankful to have something to think about and plan for during the winter. :)
      Thank you!!!!

  2. Congratulations on the win. You taking swag requests? hahaha

    • Toni
      August 13, 2013 | 6:20 PM

      Thank you!
      But, of course! If it passes customs and easily fits in a suitcase, it’s bought! :)

  3. addie | culicurious
    August 14, 2013 | 10:37 AM

    Congrats! What a great honor! I totally would have been ugly-crying too! Have all the fun in the world. :)

    • Toni
      August 16, 2013 | 7:09 AM

      Thank you so much!! I’m so overwhelmed…I can only research little bits at a time before getting overly giddy. LOL

  4. Andy
    August 14, 2013 | 11:24 AM

    That is exciting, congrats on your win. I am sure it will be a great experience for you. The villa looks incredible!

    • Toni
      August 16, 2013 | 7:11 AM

      Thanks Andy! This will be my first experience across the pond. I just can’t wait :)

  5. Lisa
    August 15, 2013 | 5:21 AM

    Hi Toni,
    Can I make a suggestion? Fly into Rome and stay there for a few days, ( maybe 3 whole days) to enjoy this fabulous city. Then take the high speed train from Rome to Florence. Collect a car from Florence and then come and enjoy La Stalla… Rome is too far for a day trip from Tuscany, there is too much to see in Rome to rush about in one day.
    I hope this helps, this website will help with trains in Italy

    Lisa To Tuscany

    • Toni
      August 16, 2013 | 7:28 AM

      Thanks Lisa! Yes…the more I read about driving in Italy, the more I don’t want to be renting a car. :( I’m assuming we won’t have much choice in order to get to La Stalla. Oy…I have so much research to do. LOL

  6. Holly
    August 20, 2013 | 11:36 PM

    Congratulations Toni!
    I can’t imagine going on a trip like that much less winning! I know you will have a fabulous time.

  7. Melissa
    August 23, 2013 | 1:05 PM

    Congrats! What a wonderful trip!

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