Food and lifestyle photography workshop in La Toscana


In the beginning of May, I traveled to Tuscany where Emanuela, Nadia and I held a food and lifestyle photography workshop at Emanuela’s family’s agriturismo in Vinci.

Such beauty.

I feel we arrived at the peak of spring with wildflowers growing everywhere, the fields lush and green, the sun shining but with enough morning fog and coolness to remind us that it was still May.

Olive groves at Agriturismo Cantagrillo

Olive groves at Agriturismo Cantagrillo


We arrived a couple of days early so we could do some sightseeing and get ready for our students. I have to admit the nine hour time difference between Seattle and Europe left me in a fog for the first few days.

We visited the local markets to procure all of our ingredients and drove all around the countryside admiring the poppies.

When our students arrived on Sunday we greeted them with an array of small plates that Emanuela’s mom and the next door neighbor had prepared with zucchini frittata, focaccia, prosciutto and cheeses, pappa al pomodoro… and of course gelato with the typical Tuscan cantuccini for dessert. Some even went all out for the vinosanto. We mingled and got to know each other a bit more before the workshop began.

The first day was all about learning camera basics, manipulating light and getting comfortable with styling. But it all got cut short by thunder and lightning that hovered over the sky by mid afternoon. I was impressed by how students kept working even through the darkness. That evening we walked the trailers next to Leonardo da Vinci’s childhood home where we found wild poppies covered in large drops of rain.

Saturated with color.

And we ended the day with dinner at agriturismo Il Vincio. I cannot even remember how many courses were served. Insanity.



Radish, potato, cherry and frisée salad

The following day we visited two amazing places that I will have to tell you extensively about on another time. There was definitely material for 3 different sessions there.

We watched Francesco Bagnoli make primo sale cheese right in front of our eyes from the milk that his twelve cows provide. He blew me away with all his technical knowledge. Someone who didn’t set out to be a farmer or cheesemaker, but his love for food brought him there after university. He spoke about temperatures, enzymes, whey, casein, aging… all things that get me excited. We took so many photos there and will share more soon.

In the afternoon, we headed to Paolo Parisi’s home where we were greeted by an outdoor lunch of frittatas with his world-famous eggs, homemade salumi and a simple dish of pasta cooked risotto-style. Again, I will have to save those photos for another post.

My brain was about to explode with ideas that day.


Francesco Bagnoli making cheese

Francesco Bagnoli making cheese


We visited the Wednesday market at Pistoia with the students who walked around capturing the produce, environment and people.

Artichokes, peas, favas, wild strawberries, apricots, nespole, asparagus, zucchini blossoms, cherries… Spring bursting everywhere. We walked around with bags and bags of produce that we brought back to Vinci to style and photograph. And that afternoon Nadia created a beautiful picnic for us to shoot and enjoy. So beautiful.



San Gimignano


Market at Pistoia

We always reserve the last day for sightseeing and relaxing and this time was no different. A warm spring day, we drove to Capezzana for a tour of one of the oldest wineries and olive presses in Tuscany. The cellar walls were covered with the most impressive mold I have ever seen. The Countess still resides in one of the homes on the estate and I can see why no one would ever want to leave this place with so much history, the views and the impressive gardens.

We saw ancient bottles of wine.

There was also a wine and olive oil tasting followed by lunch in town. It was the perfect ending to our time together, which some even topped it with several scoops of gelato.

Ah the windy roads of Tuscany…



Tenuta Capezzana



The fantastic group

I have to thank Emanuela, Francesco and the entire Roncari family for their generosity and hospitality. I think I can speak for everyone when I say they welcomed us as part of their own. And of course Nadia for the her beautiful styling and eye.

Thank you to some artists and makers who donated items for our gift baskets. Suite One Studio, Theo, Ice Milk Aprons, La Cucina Italiana, and Nadia’s beautiful plates and napkins. Everyone loved the goodie bags!

And thank you to our relentless students Carlie, Christine, Dalia, JoAnn, Kathy, Kristen, Meng, Polly, Sarah, and Tonya. You were amazing.

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61 Responses to “Food and lifestyle photography workshop in La Toscana”

  1. nadia says:

    Beautiful Aran, i think everyone involved were wonderful. this trip will be in my memory forever. I of course feel lucky to work along side of you, every time and love that things go beyond our expectations and surprises us. We were kids in a candy store were we not! Emanuela and her family set the bar very high and i feel profoundly honored for having met them!

    • Aran says:

      You are making me teary-eyed. It was such a wonderful time and loved meeting all these fantastic women (and men). As you said, “again, please”.

    • emanuela says:

      Beautiful beautiful!!!! My eyes are wet reading your words…Thankyou to Aran and Nadia to made all of that!!
      Sorry again for my english i would say more…but it’s too difficult

      I miss you!!!!

    • alisa says:

      whow!! i have never seen such beautiful photography.. i know Italy is a beautiful contry but the photos of Toscane places are amazing…

  2. Elisa says:

    Wow… It is amazing to see all these things I know so well from my childhood through your eyes: it almost makes me discover some new aspects of the whole that I’ve always overlooked in some ways. It’s incredible: every single pine tree and coloured wall and tiled roof and olive orchard in your photos tastes so familiar to me, but at the same time, new and raw… It’s amazing, and difficult to explain. Thank you.
    And, by the way, I think you’ve picked the perfect timing to visit: there’s no better period to travel to Tuscany than Spring, to me. Such a difference between the golden, sun-dried and turquoise contry of my childhood summers ( so beloved! ) and its spring lush beauty.
    Thank you so very much for this post and the photos… They moved me deeply. Thank you.

    • Aran says:

      That same thing happens to me when I see the Basque Country trough someone else’s lens. New. Consider yourself lucky to have Tuscany as your childhood background. Beautiful country.

  3. Juliana says:

    Sigh- so beautiful, Aran!

  4. Rosa says:

    A wonderful workshop! Thanks for sharing your fabulous pictures with us.



  5. Polly says:

    Fabulous photos matching a fantastic time. We were so spoiled by you, Nadia and Emanuela and family, it was just wonderful. You gave us a magical moment in our lives…
    My few days there are treasured in my mind and photos, I talk often about those days and look forward to catching up with everyone who made that time so special.
    Italy continues to grow into summer and we start to sail south to Sardegna next week, our regatta starts in early June and I promise to post photos and my news…
    Thanks again, incrediable, truly inspirational

  6. Sina says:

    How beautiful and idyllic. I can imagine your surroundings giving you bursts of inspiration.

  7. Simply beautiful! You’ve captured the essence of nature and the true beauty of it, all so well. Thanks for sharing, Aran! xo

  8. Tuscany is one of those places in the world I would love to come back! I loved those poppies and each one of the pictures! what a wonderful time and workshop!

  9. Tonya says:

    Ahhhh, Aran! Your photos are beautiful! I can’t believe you caught that one of the little old Italian woman! So nice to see everything through your eyes :)

    I am so happy I got to know you, Nadia and everyone in our group. It really was so special! I think there couldn’t be a better time to be in Tuscany. (Or with better company) thanks again for everything, and huge congrats on the new house!
    Lots of hugs from Germany!!!

    • Aran says:


      You are such a ray of sunshine. Thank you for your kindness and good spirit. When I came home and saw the photo of the old lady, I smiled. It’s blurry and out of focus but love it. Miss you.

      • Tonya says:

        Awww, your going to make me cry! (again) haha…(my husband totally laughed when I told him I cried in front of everyone!) I think in the circumstances where you took that photo, I would say it came out amazing! Drive by photoshooting!

        Anyways, thanks Aran for such nice words. Your the best and I miss you too! I’ve already told Torsten we have lots of trips to plan after moving to the US ;)

  10. I feel like I’ve been there with you, thank you for all this beautiful pictures.

  11. Thank you for posting so many beautiful photos, Aran, it gives me a little taste of the beauty of Italy :) Your trip sounds so amazing, I am glad everyone had a wonderful time and was able to eat such a variety of delicious foods. And those artichokes…such a beautiful color on them.

  12. So, so, so lovely. Tuscany is such a magical place… I miss it…

  13. Danica says:

    My Goodness. This encourages me to save save save to return to Tuscany again. So incredibly beautiful, visceral.

  14. Melissa says:

    Wow! Stunning as always Aran. Such beauty and sense of place you have captured in your photos Aran…I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been. Perhaps one day I will travel to Europe on one of your adventures *sigh* but until then I am grateful to have been a part of such a great experience with you in my own backyard!

    Look forward to more photos and details…

  15. Looks like you guy had a wonderful time!! Lovely moving! :)

  16. Liz says:

    Stunning pics! Love returning to your blog to admire your work!

  17. Sanda says:

    Absolutely amazing. Tuscany is my favorite place. Loved to see you and Nadia on the photo!!

  18. monica says:

    Che meraviglia…le foto, i racconti, i colori…congratulations, monica<3

  19. Dena says:

    Gorgeous. Thank you so much for these lovely photos. I am glad the trip was such a success. I hope to join you some day!

  20. lydia says:

    This is yet your most beautiful “spread”…from vintage valleys to old doors and such delectable details, and oh how i just love those poppies! Wonderful! Thank You!

  21. Rachel says:

    lovely picture ! like poetry ! can I ask what lens did you use ? so vivid & sharp, full of life.

  22. Linda says:

    I would like to upgrade my camera and wonder what sort you use and the lenses? Of course then I need your eye, but your photos are the best! How I wish I could join you on one of these!

  23. Donna Sand says:

    There is nothing like Italy! Such beauty , your photos just stop me right in my tracks . Me and my daughters look forward to attending one of your workshops one day !

  24. Wow. First food blog that has actually made me cry. This is why I am in love with Italy. So much beauty and you translated it perfectly. Thank you for all the photos today. You’ve touched my soul. Feeling so grateful for my Sicilian family and Italian roots.

  25. Thank you for bringing back the memories of my time spent in Vinci. I remember it like it was yesterday. I am looking forward to taking one of your workshops one day. It seems to be a perfect mix of everything I love…travel, food,photography and styling.

  26. Absolutely fabulous as always Aran, looks like a beautiful experience! Gorgeous work.

  27. nessa says:

    Absolutely terrific pictures! You have so much talent!

  28. You inspire me to be a better photographer! Gorgeous, just gorgeous. I hope to one day go to one of your workshops. I can’t tell you how much I loved this post, wonderful!

  29. Oh my, what breathtaking photos of Tuscany! The photographs of the olive grove are my favorite. Sounds like a wonderful workshop in a magical setting. My heart is pining to return to Italy now!

  30. Mirella says:

    Heavenly photographs. Will have to make it to one of these workshops!

  31. Iratxe says:

    ¡Hermoso reportaje. Gracias Aran!. Muxuak.

  32. Itxaso says:

    Ze polite!! Koloreak eta dana. Toscanara joateko ondino gana gehio sartu jataz. Zu laster etxerantza, ez? Ni be laster hasi behako naz maletea iten! Iujuuu!! Bidaia ona aukin eta disfrutau. Zeanirantza bazoazie esan edo ostean beste lekuren baten juntau ahal gara, baia denporea badekozue, agobio barik. Mosu handi bet!

  33. Natalie says:

    this looks so beautiful! and just like that a food/photography trip has been added to my vision board. something to aim for in the future. thanks for sharing. natalie x

  34. tracey says:

    Incredible, incredible, incredible!!! :) Your photos are amazing and the workshop sounds like a dream!!! Do you have any new workshops in Europe in the works for sometime over the next year?



    p.s. I love your cookbook!

    • Aran says:


      There is a workshop in the Basque Country in September but its sold out. And if everything goes well we wi repeat this workshop next year. It was too much fun!

      It makes me happy to hear you are enjoying the book. Thank you!

  35. Stunning photos, you have officially made my Friday :)

  36. lauren says:

    As always I love seeing the world through your eyes/lens. Fantastic photos! Perhaps I should start saving pennies for one of your future workshops….

  37. Oh how I want to go back!
    Thank you, this post is gorgeous!

  38. Beli says:

    Buenos días Aran, te escribo desde la isla de Tenerife. Desde hace semanas te encontré por casualidad por la web y no he dejado de seguirte!! Me encanta tu estilismo culinario, tu blog, recetas y tus preciosas fotografías!!
    Ojalá algún día yo me pudiese dedicar a algo tan bonito y hacerlo con tantísimo gusto como tú!
    Te mando muchos besos y muchísima suerte,

  39. Positively Epic. Thank you for transporting me, briefly but but done so beautifully.

  40. What a gorgeous experience! Thank you for bringing us into your world through your photographs.

  41. Richard says:

    Stunning pictures! I simply cannot imagine what the smells of all those lush fields would be like. So lovely to see such natural beauty. I would so adore going on one of these exquisite workshops :)

  42. Jo says:

    Wow, these are beautiful photos. I will definitely start following your blog. The recipes are mouthwatering!!!

  43. Rhonda says:

    I’m swooning over all of your photos and trying to keep my pangs of envy in check! What a wonderful time for you. Wow, do I love that blue and white plate…

  44. Val says:

    What a great holiday you had, I’m glad that you could appreciate all that beautiful Toscana has to offer…your blog is very interesting!

    Greetings from Italy,

  45. Your pictures are so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing them with us. Every time I read your blog I feel like I’m travelling to another world. I was in Tuscany in May also and I took many wonderful pictures (you inspired me) but only with my iphone. I know that sounds silly but if you have the time, take a look, I think you’ll be impressed. Until then I read your beautiful blog as often as I can!


  46. […] Afterwards, we’d head back to Cantagrillo for the first meet and greet group dinner with Aran and […]

  47. What gorgeous pictures!!! I came across your page while looking up food photography and styling workshops in Italy. Too bad I found it too late. Are you offering any other courses in the fall? Also, I would love to know what camera and lens you used to shoot the images, as I am looking into buying my first good camera for the workshop. Grazie mille!

    Happy Travels!

  48. […] wondered what goes on behind Parisian’s closed […]

  49. Steph says:

    Wow, stunning work. I’d love to go on one of these workshops. Looks like tons of fun, and productive too.

  50. […] couple of years ago I traveled to Tuscany to teach a workshop. Remember that story? During that trip, we visited Francesco Bagnoli in his cheesemaking farm. Francesco, a scientist […]

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