Home comforts: the Italian hotel giving refugees a showcase for their culinary skills

Part of a government project, Villaggio La Brocchi is a hotel focused on helping refugees – and by allowing them to shape the menu gives guests a taste of east Africa amid the Tuscan hills

In the Tuscan countryside north of Florence, the scent of ginger, cardamon, cloves and other exotic spices fill the air. Come evening, guests dining on a terrace overlooking hills, olive groves and medieval hamlets will tuck into a traditional east African spread: injera flatbreads topped with vegetables or meat and spiced with saffron, ginger and curcuma; sambusa – fried dumplings stuffed with lentils or meat; or perhaps zigini – hot tomato stew from Eritrea made with lamb or beef, and seasoned with berbere spice mix. The incongruous meal is prepared by Sara Tagi, a 28-year-old Ethiopian chef at Ethnos restaurant in Villaggio La Brocchi.

The classic Tuscan views from the village draw visitors, but the main attractions are the food and the chance to meet and mingle with refugees from Africa, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon and Kosovo.

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