Thursday, 7 December 2017

Toffia, Toffia, Toffia: my discovery of this medieval village in the heart of the Sabine Hills

Many of our cooking guests, ask me, Why Toffia? How did you discover Toffia? Why did you choose to settle here? Yes, it is a beautiful medieval hilltop village close to Rome, but is it also one of many in the Sabine again, why Toffia?
Toffia, dates back to 930AD and is perched on a ridge. Absolutely breath-taking
My Story: Being born and brought up in Rome, and living on the northern side of Rome, my family used to travel to this area for an excursion to purchase the famous Sabina DOP extra virgin olive oil, the cured meats and the wonderful arrange of pecorino (sheep) cheese. So my introduction to the Sabine Hills started when I was young and always related to the wonderful quality food that was found in this area.
The beautiful and very green Sabine Hills, peaceful and relaxing, great for country walks
My discovery of Toffia came later when I took Sally,  who later became my wife, on excursions to rediscover the wonders of Sabina and the Rome countryside. On one of these many excursions we stopped to visit the historic centre and to enjoy a pizza making festival. I always had fond memories of that day, and how the village seemed so alive and the locals so friendly.
Toffia has many food and music festivals from May to October
So eventually, when we were looking to purchase a home near Rome, we settled on Toffia, as a place to look and finally buy. We bought an apartment in the heart of the historic centre, near the main church, perched on one of the higher parts of the historic village, with amazing views over the olive groves, mountains and unspoilt valleys below. It was just magical.
View from our home, your accommodation, in Toffia
Spectacular views over unspoilt valleys from Toffia
We now use our home as accommodation for our 3 and 5 night Italian Cooking Holidays, in hope our cooking guests will also discover the magic of this ancient Italian village, only 40 kms from Rome.

Toffia is one of the most unspoilt, lively and better kept medieval hilltop villages in Italy. It is conveniently situated between Rome and Umbria and is full of  ancient restored palazzos, churches and small piazzas  from which it is possible to admire sweeping views of olive groves and vineyards in the surrounding valleys. As other villages in the region, Toffia’s beauty has not been yet discovered by mass tourism and retains all its authenticity.
Toffia was built in 930 AD on a ridge and it raises dramatically above two very green valleys. In medieval times two rival Roman aristocratic families, Orsinis and Colonnas, fought over Toffia for centuries. Our accommodation, Casa Convivio Rome, stand on the side once ruled by the Colonna family! Toffia is within Sabina or Sabine Hills, a region famous for its excellent 'DOP' olive oil. Many festivals, including art and music festivals, are held in Toffia between May and September.
Toffia, inside the historic centre
When you join us for a 3 or 5 night Convivio Rome Italian Cooking Holiday: We offer a free pick up and return service from our local train station, called Fara Sabina-Montelibretti
View from our Cooking School and home over the Sabine Hills, near Rome
General Information on Toffia
Travel times and transport to Rome: 
- By car: 35 minutes to the Rome's ring road (metropolitan area) via A1 motorway or 50 minutes to the very centre of Rome (Spanish Steps).
- By car and train (park and ride): 15 minutes to Fara Sabina Train Station, then 37 minutes to central Rome (Tiburtina Station).
- By bus from Toffia + train:  about an hour in total.
Travel times to Umbria:
-  By car: 30-40 minutes to the Umbrian "border".
Services in the village: mini supermarket, post office, pharmacy, doctor's studio, butcher shop, hardware store, theatre, infants and primary school, free afternoon child care, linen shop, library.
Theatre: it's set in a restored former 14th Century church and offers regular performances, live music, cinema, art exhibitions, poetry reading and various courses.
Just in case, you never wish to leave: The following courses and classes are available at the theatre: yoga, ceramic, dance, theatre, music classes for children and adults.
Sports field (covered): available for different sports, including free volleyball and football classes for children.
English speaking community:  The authenticity and natural beauty of the Sabina region and the village of Toffia and its close proximity to Rome have recently started to attract a small number of English-speakers as full-time residents and holiday makers.

Convivio Rome conduct 3 and 5 night cooking holidays in Toffia, all year round. For more information:

Planning ahead: If you are planning a trip in 2018 or 2019 and cannot find suitable dates, please contact us via email on:

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Olive Harvest Experience: picking our own olives

It all started one cool and sunny November day. Our small team of olive pickers joined us early in the morning, to help us harvest this year's olives. With nets, crates, and olive picking equipment ready, the work began.

Traditionally there would be 4 olive pickers working one tree at a time. Large nets would be arranged around the base of the olive tree, with two of the workers on wooden ladders working from the top of the tree down, gently 'raking' each olive branch to drop the olives onto the nets below. Those working on the ground would gather the olives in the net and place them into the crates. As each tree was completed and each crate filled with olives, they would move the nets to the next tree.
The olive picking process is much the same today, however to make the process more efficient, air compressed silicon hands , called 'la manina'  or 'the little hand'  are used to gently shake the olives off the tree onto the nets below.

We have a 'family sized' olive grove of 52 olive trees, with mainly 'carboncella' and 'leccino' olives (two of the main varieties of olives grown in the Sabine Hills).  Not all of our olive trees produced olives this year, but those that have, have produced in abundance. With a lot of help, we were able to harvest all our olives in just one day.
As the sun set, we took our crates of olives straight to a nearby 'frantoio', olive mill, to have our olives pressed immediately. To get the highest quality extra virgin olive oil, the olives need to be pressed with 24 hours of picking.

This year we harvested 200 kgs of olives which, once pressed, produced 46 litres of some of the best Sabina extra virgin olive oil I have ever tasted!
When you next come to visit us, you too, will be able to taste some of the wonderful Sabina extra virgin olive oil.
Learn more about our Half Day Rome Olive Tour at Convivio Rome.

We operation Rome Olive tours all year round, to discover more:
 email us on

Monday, 13 November 2017

Chef Guido's Classic dish: Melanzane alla Parmigiana

This is one of my absolute favourite dishes. It can be made in a large oven dish, or in individual portions. For presentation purposes, I prefer to make my 'Melanzane alla Parmigiana' in individual ceramic dishes as I think it looks better.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana  - Serves 6.
1 or 2 aubergines (eggplants), 1 large mozzarella, basil leaves, tomato 'passata', extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, parmigiano cheese.

Cut aubergines (eggplants) into very thin slices, add olive oil onto the slices (and sprinkle with salt)  Grill them on a hot grill pan or barbecue. Place grilled aubergines to one side. Make a simple tomato sauce with a little garlic, olive oil, 'passata' and basil. Thinly slice mozzarella.
Start layering aubergine, mozzarella, tomato sauce, parmigiano cheese, making as many layers as you like..... finishing off with tomato sauce and then parmigiano cheese on top. Bake in moderate oven (170 degrees C. or 340 degrees F.) until cheese is melted.  Serve hot.
Buon appetito!

Preparing one layer at a time

Ready to go in the oven

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Olive Harvest 2017: the Sabine Hills are alive with activity

What a great time of year to visit the Roman countryside and especially the Sabine Hills. The Sabina region, just 40 kms north of Rome is famous for it's extra virgin olive oil and with over 2,5000,000 trees squeezed into hilly terrain you can understand why it is so important. The olive farmers make sure that the quality of the olive oil is at its best by picking the olives just as they are turning from green to black in colour. This is when the anti-oxidants are at their highest. The olive producers really concentrate on quality, not quantity and the Sabine Hills are now 'alive with the sound of music' of olive pickers. It is an exciting time to visit.

Olive picking with crates of olives already picked

We, at Convivio Rome, run Half Day Olive Tours all year round, but if you happen to be in the area in October or November, this is the time where olives are picked. You can understand how labour intensive olive picking is, when seeing it in action.

Olive harvest in progress takes teamwork

The olives need to be picked and taken to the local 'frantoio' olive mill, within 24 hours to ensure the quality of the extra virgin olive oil remains high.

Being an eighth generation Roman, means that even as a child I was taught by my parents and grandparents the importance of the Sabine Hills for it's D.O.P. extra virgin olive oil. I remember travelling with my family through the Sabine Hills to renew our supply of the famous Sabina extra virgin olive oil, and other local produce, to take back home to Rome. 

The olive trees are full with olives ready to be picked
We operate Rome Olive tours all year round, to discover more:
Or contact me, Guido, at Convivio Rome on

Friday, 27 October 2017

Simple Italian Pasta Sauce - Spaghetti all Carbonara

Here is one of Chef Guido's simple traditional Roman Pasta Sauces for you to try. 

Make sure you eat is piping hot!

Guido's Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara - Serves 6:

Ingredients: 500 gm of dried spaghetti, 50g of guanciale, 50 g of pecorino romano, black pepper, 4 eggs, extra virgin olive oil. 
First: put a large pot of salted water onto the stove to boil.
Tip: This sauce is very quick, and when ready needs to be stirred into the cooked 'aldente' spaghetti and served immediately.
Method: Cut the guanciale into short sticks. Put a little olive oil in a pan and fry guanciale until crispy. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with pecorino cheese, black pepper and a pinch of salt. When pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, put it back in the hot pot and mix all the ingredients until the eggs acquire a creamy consistency, without scrambling. Serve with extra pepper on top.
Buon appetito.
(Pasta shapes traditionally used for Carbonara Sauce are: spaghetti or rigatoni).

Find out more about Convivio Rome's: 

One Day Cooking-Touring Experience               

Rome Olive Tours                                        

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Olive Harvest has already begun in the Sabine Hills, near Rome

The Sabine Hills, just north of Rome is famous for it's excellent DOP extra virgin olive oil, and this year promises to be a 'bumper crop' for the local olive farmers.

The trees are heavy with 1,000s of olives and the farmers have cut the herbs and grass between the trees and laid down the nets in preparation for the forthcoming harvest.

In fact, we can see, from our home windows, that the olive harvest has already begun in the olive groves on some of the nearby olive farms.
Partial view from our Convivio Rome Italian Cooking School, home terrace over olive groves below. 
They began the olive harvest today!

Olives are picked just once a year and usually around October or November. Due to a long, very hot and dry summer, the conditions have been perfect for olive production this year. The farmers in the Sabine Hills have had a hard time in the past 2 years in 2015 and 2016, so they definitely deserve a good harvest for this year. 

We will let you know how the olive harvest goes!

Come and taste the New 2017 Sabina D.O.P. Extra Virgin Olive Oil #EVVO with us during your 3 or 5 night Italian Cooking Holiday or during your Half Day Rome Olive Tour with Maestro Guido. 

More photos on our Instagram page: conviviorome.italy

Friday, 6 October 2017

Visiting Toffia, seems like you are on a film set... Well now you are!

"It is just like a film set, I feel like we are in the movies " : Many of our 3 and 5 night cooking holiday guests, comment when visiting and staying in Toffia, our medieval hilltop village in the Sabine Hills. They are right, it's simply magical here.

Well now, they are using Toffia as the setting for an American 10-part drama series about the kidnapping of J.Paul Getty III, called 'Trust' with Hilary Swank and Donald Sutherland*. Danny Boyle is the director and it will be first screened in January, 2018. So look out for the scenes, shot in our own little medieval hilltop village of Toffia!

(Photos by Maura F. and Antonella R.)

Filming in the main piazza of Toffia, at sunset, photo by Maura F.

Fake snow and vintage cars to set the scene, in Toffia.

Film set in main piazza, Toffia. 

Night light and fake snow, Toffia's main archway into the historic centre

Also, take a look at these photos, in the local newspaper: Toffia in the snow!

As the film is set in 1973, so the film crew have also converted a building, within the historic centre, into a Bar of that era.
External view of Bar

Internal view of 1960's bar, used for film set

Convivio Rome's 3 and 5 night cooking holidays are now taking bookings for 2018. 
Just ask for our new dates.

*A little more about Trust "In the series, set in 1973, a young Getty is kidnapped in Rome and his mafia captors are banking on a multimillion-dollar ransom. Trust looks at his ordeal at the hands of kidnappers who don't understand why nobody seems to want their captive back. The Italian police think it's a prank and decline to investigate. Paul's father is lost in a heroin daze in London and refuses to answer the phone. Paul's grandfather — possibly the richest man in the world — is marooned in a Tudor mansion in the English countryside, surrounded by five mistresses and a pet lion. Only Paul’s mother is left to negotiate with increasingly desperate kidnappers. The problem? She’s broke." quoted from article in,  May 15, 2017,  by Kate Stanhope