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In your travels, there are always magical places that you discover where your spirit is lulled into a feeling of comfort and joy. A place where you are made to feel like home. Such a place is Pasticceria Vannelli. In search of a morning coffee and pastry on a rainy day, we headed into Camucia, an adorable village sitting just below Cortona. It did not take long to discover Patiscceria Vannelli was the “local coffee shop”. Upon entering the doors, the intoxicating aroma of coffee, the sweet smell of freshly baked pastries and the hum of camaraderie awakened our senses. The stand up counters and small tables were jammed with locals sipping what we would soon discover as coffee perfection! Little did we know that during the next two hours we would meet and fall in love with the Vannelli family who have owned and operated the Pasticceria since 1956.

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The warm familial greeting by Marina, the mother, set the tone for the visit as she graciously welcomed us with her huge, infectious smile and seated us as if we were guests in her home. Our eyes danced from pastries to the delicious little savoury buns filling the glass cases. So many delicious choices. It was decided that we would take a selection of “di carne” sandwiches, danish, tarts along with 6 cappuccino, per favore!.

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Pietro, the younger son, has followed in his brother’s footsteps in becoming a master barista. The brothers are both world class cappuccino freestylers with their designs. They are also both involved in roasting their own blend of coffee right on the premises.

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As we stood at the coffee counter and placed our cappuccino order, we were mesmerized watching a young man work coffee magic. Punching the espresso, frothing the cream, then creating works of art in matters of minutes….this was our introduction to the eldest son, “Jacko” as his mother and others call him. We would discover that Jacko (Giacomo Vannelli) is one of Italy’s top coffee sommeliers and has won titles for Italy’s best barista. He is ranked seventh in the world in cappuccino creation, and in Italy where they take their coffee seriously… He is an artist!

The Vannelli Patiscerrea is an “affari di familgia” opening originally in the hilltop town of Cortona. It was there that the family patriarch, Pialo, master baker, created the famous “Cortona” Torta which is still widely sold due to popular demand. Momma Marina, a freelance linguist by profession with a degree from Oxford, now runs the daily operation. Although Pialo has since passed away, the next generation has stepped up taking Pasticceria Vannelli to new levels of excellence and renown. Jacko’s passion for coffee started as a young boy growing up breathing in the coffee culture. At 13, he made his first heart of latte art in a cappuccino and never looked back. He has travelled the world in pursuit of knowledge and expertise in the field of coffee. “Being a barista is not only a job, it is an opportunity to communicate every day to ordinary people what coffee is about. For this reason, I continue to discover the fantastic world through studying, experimenting, innovation, visiting farms and roasting my own coffee.”

Daughter Viola, a trained architect, is the expert pastry chef. She creates spectacular cakes and pastries including custom art cakes for weddings and special occasions. Since we could not make up our mind, we bought 3 of her cakes along with the famous Torta Cortona! Each cake beautifully boxed - a gift, a treasure, a delight!

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Marina’s enthusiasm is infectious. Before we purchased our cakes, she sat us down and described the luscious layers of each cake. The “Meringa” is a Pasticceria Vannelli favorite. — A stack of baked meringue squares layered with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

This is La Dolce Vita!