Not just another Tuscan Tour Operator– Heather of the Garfagnana: Anthropologist of Aesthetics


This is a new section of my blog in which I highlight the many characters of Tuscany that I have had the great pleasure to befriend. I have drunk grappa and played gin rummy with a farmer, assisted wine makers with the bottling of Brunello, learned about the healing properties of honey from a beekeeper, enjoyed stories of a punk rocker/writer/artist and rolled pasta with a nonna who created heaven in her kitchen. These are all amazingly welcoming and passionate people, who have based their lives on their craft in the geographic area of Tuscany. Join me for a glimpse of their lives.

Heather of the Garfagnana:

Kindred spirits come along seldom, but you recognize them immediately when you agree with their very philosophy of life and deep connections with their down-to-earth-companions. Heather of the Garfagnana is one such kindred Tuscan spirit, who is actually a Brit. After spending a winter in a farmhouse near Lucca helping with the olive harvest, she fell in love with the artisans, food, culture and ancient rhythms of Northern Tuscan life, transforming herself into a local of the Garfagnana.

In contrast to the rolling, manicured landscape of Southern Tuscany, the Garfagnana is the dramatic mountainous region of Tuscany just north of Lucca. When you enter this area, you are transported back in time to the age of knights and princesses. Foggy valleys surround mediaeval hill towns perched on the steep mountainsides. Of her connection with the area she states, “I’d always been half in love with a romanticized storybook version of traditional rural life. Here I’m nose to nose with the daily reality. It’s part of almost everyone’s life — working in the woods, the water mill and the wood-fired bakery. From the butcher’s shop to the village bar, it beckons seductively from every doorway.”

Owner and operator of Sapori + Saperi Adventures, (Flavors + Knowledge) Heather Jarman conducts unique, personalized gastronomic adventures for her guests treating them to tours with her “secret” cheese makers, hidden restaurants, butchers, honey makers, specialty farmers and her amazing research providing an true insiders knowledge of rural and ancient traditions of the people who have lived in this area for thousands of years.

Her resume is amazing, relating in some way to eating, drinking and cooking her way throughout her career. As an archaeologist researching the early history of agriculture, Heather spent more time in Mediterranean markets and cooking for the excavators than in the trenches. While General Manager of the Academy of Ancient Music and Personal Manager of Christopher Hogwood, she researched and cooked sixteenth- to eighteenth-century feasts to suit the music performed at concerts. More interested in eating than publicity, Heather nevertheless did occasional programs on eighteenth-century cuisine for the BBC.

Coming full circle to her background, Heather is now an modern anthropologist of aesthetics, embracing the Slow Food Movement and searching out the very finest of artisans and purveyors of ancient edible traditions, which she intends to help keep alive.

Heather describes her unique travel adventures, “Sapori e Saperi Adventures are vacations for people who daydream about finding a shepherdess on a hillside with her flock and being transported to her cantina to watch her make pecorino cheese; people who can’t stare at a bottle of olive oil without wondering when and how the olives are picked, pressed and bottled; people who love to cook and eat. The adventures open locked doors to a brand new palette of exquisite flavors (sapori) and new skills and knowledge (saperi).”

Among some of her scrumptious offerings she has these upcoming tours:

Cheese + Bread + Honey
19-26 June 2011
15-25 June 2012
Pre-tour optional weekend in Lucca during monthly antique fair

Highlights include visits to artisan cheese makers, learning to make Garfagnana potato bread with village baker, cooking lessons, pizza party in Italian home, walks along ancient trails. Accommodation in secluded beautifully restored monastery with swimming pool in the Garfagnana.

Read more and download full itinerary:

Cheese + Bread + Wine — An Adventure in Fermentation
4-18 September 2011
2-16 September 2012

Highlights include full day at Slow Food Cheese Bra; 12 wine-tasting experiences in Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont with sommeliers and vineyard owners; visits to 2 artisan cheesemakers including parmesan; learning to make Garfagnana potato bread with village baker; cooking lessons; 3 festivals including the spectacular Luminaria at Lucca. Accommodation in elegant 18th-century villa in Val d’Orcia, beautifully restored monastery in the Garfagnana and traditional farmhouse in the Langhe.

This tour is in collaboration with our friend Lucia from Viaggi Senza Fretta. More on Lucia and her philosophy in an upcoming blog.

Read more and download full itinerary:

You can contact Heather about these upcoming adventures directly at Sapori + Saperi Adventures. Mention that Betsy from Custom Tuscany sent you and receive a discount if you book a tour. Contact me if you would like to arrange a special day tour with Heather or any of the many Tuscan characters featured in my blog.

03/13/2011 02:32 am | Share | No Comments

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