top of page

Blazor Master Class

This is a trip report covering our Blazor Master Class in Tuscany, Italy that took place in September, 2023.  You can also see the original course listing.

Our Blazor Master Class 2023 saw a crew of eleven (eight participants and three staff) gather for a week of technical learning and cultural immersion at the Castello di Magona in Campiglia Marittima, Tuscany, Italy.  This was our first ever course offering and the universal verdict was two thumbs up for both the concept and the execution.

Our instructor for this program was Carl Franklin and the hosts were Larry Lustig and Marco Chelo.  In the mornings we divided up into course participants, who spent four hours in class, and "Team Plus One" who spent the morning on various alternative activities with Marco.  In the afternoon the entire group would meet up for a tour of one of Tuscany's well-known or lesser-known cities, a visit to a winery, or a trip to the beach.

Read on for details, or watch the video below to hear and see more:

The Castle

We chose the Castello di Magona for our first program because of its history, its convincing castle appearance, and the location in Tuscany's Maremma region. The castle has its origins in the 16th century on the foundations of an even older palace.  It was for many years a residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, culminating in the final Duke, Leopoldo II, who abdicated in 1859.

The castle features ten bedrooms (we used seven for this program) as well as a dining room, a very impressive entrance hall, and four gathering rooms.  It's gated and each driver received a "clicker" that opens the gate as you approach down the private tree-lined lane leading to the entrance.  On one side of the castle there was a large courtyard where we parked and, on the other side, private gardens with an outdoor dining area and a flight of stairs leading to the swimming pool.

We had breakfast every day from 8 to 9 am with a selection of sweet pastries and homemade cakes, as well as made-to-order eggs.  There was brewed coffee on the table (rarely seen in Italy!) and espresso drinks on request.

We also had a catered welcome dinner our second night there which took place in the garden and, on our final night, a farewell dinner that was moved into the dining room due to threat of showers.

The fridge was always stocked with wine and beer as well as a variety of Italian soft drinks that don't make it out of the country.  We probably also accounted for a spike in the national consumption of Coke Zero during September.  

The Course

Our group was split evenly between people attending the daily Blazor training and companions who were along for the ride and whom we quickly dubbed "Team Plus One".

Each morning after breakfast the attendees would assemble in the training room (more of a training hall given the location).  We spent about four hours a day in class.  It turns out that's about the right amount of time per day to spend in the kind of content-rich sessions that Carl offered.  More than that and your eyes can begin to spin (I'll confess that my eyes were occasionally beginning to go around and around in the fourth hour on some days).

The castle "chatelain", Pri, made sure that the training room was well supplied with coffee and soft drinks (Coke Zero, again).  Carl allowed occasional bio breaks, but there was a fair amount of information to get through and during the course hours we were pretty "heads down".  We need to give an extra-special thanks to Carl who was feeling under the weather the first few days of the course (not with Covid, though, he tested) but who soldiered on.

Several attendees mentioned that this is was the best course they had ever attended.  Things that people seemed to like were the information rich presentation, the limited number of hours per day of instruction, the lack of "now do this on your own" exercises, and the detailed written material including the source code for every item taught in the class.

Group studying Blazor in a castle


The castle is located in the Maremma, a region of southwest Tuscany that has an extensive seashore, rich agricultural plains, and mountains capped by traditional hill towns.  Both the hills and coast are rich in Etruscan (a pre-Roman civilization) history, wine has been grown here since the dawn of recorded history, and it seems that every square foot of hillside that isn't covered with vines is covered with olive trees.

During the week we toured the small towns (Campiglia Marittima, Populonia Alta, Suvereto, Bolgheri, Piombino, Castiglione de Pescaia) as well as larger cities (Siena, Massa Marittima).  One day we visited a caldarium (thermal baths) that dates back to the Romans (really, probably back to the Etruscans) within a stone's throw of the castle.   We toured a vineyard and tasted wines there, and had several trips to nearby beaches.

Picking highlights is hard, but here are a few:

Team Plus One (the companions not interested in learning Blazor) had the choice every day of local touring or just relaxing by the pool at the castle.  For the most part, they chose to visit a local town, beach, or market with Marco.  Here are some of the Team Plus One highlights:

One of the highlights was our trip to Siena.  Team Plus One went up in the morning and the rest of the group followed after class.  We had the services of a local tour guide, Roberta, who took us on a walking tour of town focusing on Siena's annual Palio, horse races that take place in the town square and function as a proxy form of brawling among the city's seventeen recognized neighborhoods, or contrades.  Palio has been taking place continuously since 1701 (or 1659, or 1482, or 1252 depending on how you define things).

Roberta got us into the private chapel and neighborhood museum of the "Tartguga" (turtle) contrada.  She was also able to recommend the best gelateria in town.  After Siena we headed to the Trattoria Sull'Albero for the best dinner of the trip, but we'll get to that in the Food section.

We visited the Terre del Marchesato winery, in the DOC region of Bolgheri.  This is where the so-called "super Tuscans" come from.  This very small producer has a small line of reds and whites as well as a production of grappa (grape brandy) of about 500 bottles per year (two of which were purchased by an attendee for gifts).

We were lucky to arrive on the last day of the vendiamo when the grapes are picked, collected, and crushed to become wine.  We were literally among the wine makers and the crushing equipment (there's a different approach to industrial safety and insurance than we're used to in the States).  After that we visited the barrel room, and finished with a tasting.

Food & Drink

During our visit we ate at local sandwich shops and top restaurants, and everything in between.  Breakfasts were all at the castle as were two of the dinners: a welcome dinner on the second night (we do it then because people are pretty tired on the day of arrival) and the farewell dinner on the last night.  For our dinners at the castle we invited local guests to get a more in depth feel for the area.

Our best restaurant meal was, unquestionably, our stop at the Trattoria Sull'Albero in Palazzetto, on the way back from Siena, where we had a tasting menu that ran the gambit from salumi to pasta to pizza.  This is truly a special place, as the pictures below will show.  What did we learn for next time?  Dress for the occasion.  This place was a good deal fancier than we expected. 

Other food experiences involved a beach-side sandwich truck serving homemade porchetta,  a pizzeria without pizza (did you know many places  -- including pizzerie -- don't serve pizza at lunch to avoid firing up the ovens all day?), a beachside shack specializing in hamburgers, including one topped with burrata and truffles, and a market-purchased lunch prepared by Marco at the castle.

On those nights when people fanned out for dinner on their own, often with help from Marco to secure a reservation, some pretty special finds were made.  Two couples found a restaurant in Campiglia (Mamanonmama, for the record) with a menu that said simply "Trust Us" and offered three, four, or five courses -- and were turned down when they tried to order five ("no, that's too much food"!)  And Pizza Mania, a little pizzeria near the castle was quite popular as well.

Here are some highlights of our food experiences: