Last week I received an unexpected, delicious holiday gift– a jar of honey. This one was a little different than the jars my wife and I normally buy at the local Whole Foods or Vons grocery stores. It was a gift from Alberto and Cinzia Bocelli, and Alberto’s brother, Andrea. That’s right; that Andrea Bocelli…

You see, we’ve been fortunate to get to know the Bocellis well. They open their home to us and our guests on our “Tuscany to the Sea” trip, a weeklong Cultural Walking Adventure that begins in Lucca and ends in Pisa. During one of the two days that we’re based at our villa hotel near Sassetta, we make a scenic, easy-going walk to the Bocelli’s wine cellar, where we spend a very laid back, thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. Alberto and Cinzia are always there, and when his concert schedule allows, Andrea is as well. They invite us in for a tasting that includes their own wines, honey and olive oil, as well as a chat about life in their part of Tuscany.

Wine cellar

Afterward, we wander over to the nearby farm of the Bocelli’s friend, Stefania, for a casual cooking instruction. It’s all a “day in the life” at Classic Journeys and our guests tell us the personal encounters they have with locals like the Bocellis and Stefania are among their favorite souvenirs of their time in Tuscany (along with the recipes!).

As the saying goes, timing is everything, and it was just recently that an article about Alberto appeared in the London Times. The story and interview with him described Alberto’s plans to reinvigorate the real estate market near Lajatico, the Bocelli’s hometown. It’s a great story of a family’s desire to develop good jobs and interest in the place where they grew up rather than leaving for the big cities.

So what’s going to happen with the Bocellis’ award-winning “Millefiori” honey? It’s the featured ingredient in an upcoming dinner of pear and honey risotto followed by a dessert of biscotto rotondo con miele (tall, golden pyramids of cookies drowned in honey and mixed spices). Just one of the recipes we picked up on a recent visit to Tuscany.

If you’ve had an occasion where your travels have really connected you to the local people of a region, drop me an e-mail at