(Options: Cycling, Longer/Shorter Stays, Wine Tours)
Tuscany, Italy - 7 nights
Available year round - Saturday to Saturday
This culinary program is perfect for those who are lovers of all that is Tuscan – the charming medieval towns, the centuries old traditions, the people and their culture, the art and of course, the great food and wine!! You will enjoy hands-on cooking courses learning the art of Tuscan cuisine from our wonderful chefs in an original kitchen of a 14th century villa. We also offer vegetarian, vegan, celiac and organic cooking vacations so please inquire. Interested in cycling the hills of Tuscany? We we will just adjust the itinerary for you to include this activity. Just ask about the details and see a sample itinerary below!
During your Tuscan week you will have a lesson on the history of the Tuscan diet featuring typical peasant dishes and will learn how the gastronomy has changed throughout the medieval and Renaissance periods up until modern times.
Your cooking days will teach you how to prepare a five course meal, including "primi piatti' - risottos, soups, gnocchi and fresh handmade pasta. We will discuss different pasta making techniques, stuffed pastas, colouring and flavouring pastas, different sauces and how to match them with different types of pastas.
Next you will learn about salads and soups. There are many dishes in Tuscany that focus on soups in the winter and salads in the summer using old bread and the wonderful variety of vegetables in season. Now, 'Secondi and Contorni' which are the meat, fish and game dishes accompanied by vegetables and flans.
And onto antipasti and desserts. The secret of all Italian cookery are the fresh products used. Fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables are the base of all tasty dishes and frozen products are almost never used. During the year the menu's in all restaurants change , adapting to the produce available and we will discuss the various dishes popular for each season.
*Sometimes the day classes are changed to evening classes to allow for extra excursions.
SAMPLE ITINERARY (SEE BELOW FOR A SAMPLE COOKING/CYCLING ITINERARY)
Day One - Saturday
Afternoon arrival to the villa for a welcome dinner with your chefs and hosts.
You can arrive after lunch and settle into your home for the week, with time to relax and explore the grounds. The welcome dinner with take place in the villa's historical 14th C kitchen featuring the original stone fireplace, marble sink and vaulted ceiling.
The kitchen will be the heart of this gastronomical adventure. Participants will receive their recipe books and course guidelines. Partners are also welcome to join the welcome dinner where you will feast on traditional Tuscan fare of the season and enjoy the estate's wine. You will meet your chefs who, by the the week's end will become your lifelong friends!!
Day Two - Sunday - 'Southern Tuscany Tour'
This day we have designed to give you an introduction to the Tuscan countryside, its people, history and the culture. We will share with you firsthand the origins of Tuscan produce which is the soul of this land's cuisine. This will be an authentic travel experience visiting medieval villages, admiring impressive castles and witnessing centuries of history whilst driving through the green Chianti valleys, the Sienese Crete which is farmhouse for its red earth and the magnificent Val d'Orcia.
On the way down south we will stop off to admire an amazing Pieve of Sant’Anna in Caprena. This 14th century Olivetan monastery is where ‘The English Patient” was filmed. In this area, the 'Gladiator' film was also made and here you will see the most photographed row of cypress trees.
Throughout the day we take the group to visit a charming vineyard estate owned by one of Tuscany's renowned noble families where you will have the opportunity to savour their wines, olive oil, cheese and salami and enjoy a light lunch at the vineyard's restaurant. Then we continue onto the characteristic towns of San Quirico and Bagno Vignoni, famous for the natural hot springs.
You will have time to relax in Pienza, a quaint village full of lovely shops selling crafts and local produce and the view overlooking the Val d'Orcia is absolutely spectacular.
On the way back to Florence we will stop off at a pecorino cheese making factory that will give you an insight as to what makes this centuries old cheese so famous. We will then finish the day at Montalcino for an 'aperitivo' before heading back to the villa via a different route.
Dinner at a local pizzeria.
Day Three - Monday
Today is your first cooking lesson (10am-3pm). After enjoying the lunch that you have prepared, you will have free time in the afternoon.
The group can relax or opt to choose additional activities and tours offered in our ' Additional Activities' program.
Day Four - Tuesday
This morning is your second cooking class (9:30am-2:30pm), with lunch afterwards.
Afternoon - OPTIONAL afternoon tour (to be paid separately)
'Chianti & San Gimignano'
You either have the choice to relax or join us on this afternoon trip where we will take you through the hidden country roads through the glorious Chianti region of Tuscany. We will take you to an ancient Abbey which has a spectaculars view over the vineyards of one of the top 2 winemakers in Italy. You will also have the opportunity to taste their wines. Winding through these country roads, you will admire and enjoy breathtaking scenery and some of the most charming Chianti villages. If luck allows, you may also get to listen to the famous 'Dante reciting' butcher!! People all around the world come to this little town in the hope that they hear his 'prose'. The group will then visit a farm where 'Chianina' cows are raised; and here is where we will settle and relax for a wonderful meal while enjoying the view up to the medieval town of San Gimignano. You really will feel like you are part of another century!
Day Five - Wednesday – Visit to 'Mercato Centrale, Lunch and afternoon in Florence
The group will leave the estate around 10am to travel into Florence to visit the famous 'Mercato Centrale'. You will meet the chefs here and they will guide you through the multi level marketplace where for centuries Florentine's have purchased their fresh produce. You will take a glimpse at an amazing Florentine tradition and then eat lunch together , shoulder to shoulder with the Florentine people.
After lunch you are all free to enjoy Florence, to go shopping in the leather markets, try the best gelato in the world and walk the stone streets enjoying this romantic and enthralling city.
For those who wish to have a personal guided tour of Florence, this can be arranged and restaurants for those who want to stay in town for dinner can be booked.
Evening dinner at a historical Florentine restaurant with us! We will meet you in Florence at the restaurant and dine with you and bring you home.
Day Six - Thursday
Today is your third cooking class (10am-3pm) followed by a light lunch prepared by the students.
Afternoon – Truffle hunting (seasonal) or Free Time.
The group can relax or opt to choose additional activities and tours offered in our 'Additional Activities' program
Day Seven - Friday
This morning we are going to share with you one of the centuries old crafts, that is still alive and well today- hand painted ceramics! We will visit factories where you will see the products painted and have the chance to purchase directly from the manufacturers who can then ship to anywhere in the world. This little village which has become world renowned for their artisans is also charming to wander around, browsing through the stores.
Medici Villa- We will go through the winding hills to reach a magnificent Medici villa which we will visit and get an insight into the incredible word of the Medici family and the last royal family of Italy.
Lunch in the Hamlet of Artimino
The group will then be taken to the nearby medieval hamlet of 'Artimino' which sits on top of a hill overlooking the vineyards and farmland of Etruscan times. From this hamlet you can also look over to the Medici Villa.You will have an opportunity to admire this magnificent villa, famous for the 100 chimneys, this differs from the previous villa in that it was not a residence but a hunting lodge.
You will dine at a very famous restaurant with incredible views, in the summer and spring we sit on the terrace and in the winter in the old restored farmhouse converted to a restaurant.
We then head back to relax before the fourth cooking class begins in the afternoon
4pm-8pm - Cooking - 8PM – DINNER
The purpose of today's culinary program will be the preparation of the farewell dinner for the entire group - partners welcome of course! You will also learn interesting presentation of an 'apperitivo'.
At the grand finale dinner participants will be presented with a certificate of attendance.
Day Eight - Saturday - Arriverderci!
Buon viaggio! Check out by 11am.
*Please note that the program outlined is a guide and the order of the days may change due to seasons, weather, public holidays, etc. Some cooking classes may start in the afternoon instead of the morning which will provide you dinner and also leave you much of the day free to relax or enjoy additional activities.
*The content or order of the itinerary may change depending on dates, availability of services or activities, local festivals/holidays, weather constraints, etc. Menus are samples and may vary according to the season
SAMPLE TEN NIGHT "COOKING AND CYCLING" ITINERARY
Saturday : Welcome Dinner
Sunday - Cooking Class 10am-3pm
Monday: Ride : Chianti hills and towns.
Tuesday : Florence Day : central food markets and guide. Dinner in the evening.
Wednesday: Cooking Class #2 - Free afternoon
Thursday: You can choose to do a ride or a cooking class. The ride would be a different area of Chianti towards the magnificent San Casciano from Lastra A Signa. Pizza dinner.
Friday: Ride : Lastra A Signa to Montelupo - Vinci -Artimino - Lunch, afternoon Cooking Class #3 followed by dinner.
Saturday: Choice of a ride or a tour. Siena - San Gimignano, light lunch, free evening
Sunday: Ride to Florence hills and the secret backroads of the old Florence. Lunch .
Monday - Cooking Class #4 - 10am-3pm
Tuesday - Checkout
The cost is the same as the culinary week and any extra nights will be pro-rated
Welcome basket for breakfast items, bike hire, and helmut are included for the cycling itinerary.
*** Days/activities may be swapped around depending on weather conditions and availability of the cyclist guide.
*Please note, the above is a sample itinerary and we are also happy to change it based on any requests.
DAY / MULTI-DAY COOKING CLASSES
Cooking classes usually begin at 9:00am or 10:00am with lunch as your meal but please inquire if you would be interested in an afternoon class instead with dinner as your meal (class beginning at 4:00pm or 5:00pm).
GENERAL " Classes are held nearly every weekday and then weekends upon request. The classes are held in one of the two kitchens on the estate - there is a kitchen in the villa and the other in the medieval castle of the estate in the Torre. The chefs are all native Tuscans who speak very good English. The classes are a mix of hands on and demonstration and run from 3-12 people. As there are two kitchens on the estate we can cater to larger groups, up to about 28 people.We have two levels for our single day classes – Introductory & Full Immersion. Both the classes include a HUGE lunch and wine all day.
We can also provide transport to and from the villa estate from a central meeting point in the center of Florence for the cost of 10€ per person round trip to be paid in Italy. NOTE – PICK UP IS NOT FROM HOTELS
The 4 hour Introductory Class is an introduction to Italian foods with a focus on Tuscan cuisine. You will make antipasto, first course (usually fresh pasta with a sauce), second course with a side dish, and dessert accompanied by coffee. All participants receive a 150 Tuscan recipe book.
The 5 hour Full Immersion Class takes this a step further, it is a 5 course class and focuses on stuffed pastas such as ravioli, coloring pasta, more sauces, how to make a perfect risotto beginning with making the broth, second courses of meat/game with one or two side dishes and of course dessert. We also include a 150 page cookbook for the full immersion class and apron.
You don't have to be an advanced cook to take either of these classes. You will spend more time learning how to prepare more complex dishes but the chefs will guide you through the entire program.
MULTI DAY CLASSES
If you wanted to participate in a multiple day class we can also offer those and really customise the menu to suit the groups likes and dislikes. These are always Advanced classes, so we can cover much more in the extra time. We can customize the program to really suit what you would like to learn and each days' menu is completely different.
'Mezza Luna' with zucchini and pesto
Pasta fresca – tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms
Baked pork loin marinated with oranges and cooked with scallions and fennel
Parmesan baskets filled with a seasonal salad
Risotto with Zucchini and Fresh Zucchini Flowers
Potato gnocchi drizzled with truffle oil
Stuffed & Fried Zucchini Flowers & Sage
Panzanella Summer Salad
Ravioli filled with grilled eggplant & walnutsgarnished with butter and fresh parsley
Cinghiale in Umido – Wild Boar Stew
Tuscan White Beans
Crostata Autunalle- Autumn tart
Pear & Gorgonzola
Chicken Breast rolled in pancetta and sage, stuffed with artichokes & cheese
Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce
*Photos Courtesy of Jennifer D'Angelo Swain
A minimum of 2 participants is required to run this tour and the tour is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.
(The number of participants refers to how many persons are required to run the tour, not to how many persons you must have in your party. Please inquire.)
HOW TO ARRIVE
Closest airports and train stations:
Pisa Airport: 45 minute drive to villa
Florence Airport: 15 minute drive to villa
*These details are provided as additional information. Please check below to see if transfers are included in this tour.
*Program subject to modification according to the season and by personal request.
NON RESIDENTIAL DAY COOKING CLASSES
Day Cooking Class (4 Hour)/US$185
Day Cooking Class (5 Hour)/US$245
Multi Day Classes (3 classes or more)/Please inquire for discount
Optional Market Visit/US$60 (minimum 2 persons)
*Pricing may vary depending on market fluctuation
After availability is confirmed, a 30% per person deposit and the completed and submitted registration form will secure your reservation. Final payment is due in full 75 days before your arrival date.
Dates are flexible. Please inquire. Some weeks may also start on Sunday instead Saturday.
*Seven nights' double accommodation in one of the self catering accommodations at the estate (maid service everyday but Sunday)
*Welcome basket containing fruit, yogurt, cereal, bread, prosciutto, cheeses, juice, coffee, tea, wine etc.
*Welcome dinner prepared by the estate's chef in the 13th Century Villa
*Visit to central market in Florence with lunch and transfers
*'A full day Southern Tuscany Villages & wine excursion
*Florence Day, with historic guide with food market tour, lunch and dinner. Full day culture tour ceramics/Medici villa tour/Artimino
*Four (4) five hour cooking classes with Italian chefs (English speaking)
*All food ingredients
*Most lunches and dinners each dat at excellent restaurants and trattorias
*Apron and 150 page recipe book
NOT INCLUDED (for participants and non-participants)
Airfare, personal expenses, city/tourist taxes, any additional meals, optional day tours, transfers to/from the estate, car rental, tips and gratuities, groceries purchased for your private accommodations, rental of cell phones (we can normally arrange a cell phone rental for you), phone calls, any additional cleaning or maid service, purchase of estate wine and olive oil, occasional meals and any of the optional activities. Internet keys are also available for hire at €15 per week plus usage which is based on a per hour rate
For further inquiries or to register, click here.
Please contact us for cancellation policy information. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Vicki C., Pasadena, California"I had an awesome time in Tuscany on the Authentic Tuscan Cooking tour! Thank you to Jo-Ann of Active Gourmet Holidays for arranging our tour and being so responsive. It really made a difference to have someone patiently answer all our questions. And of course, there was no need for concern with our incredible hostesses who are very warm and accommodating. The Villa is an incredible place to stay, even in the midst of winter it was as beautiful as one could imagine. Thank you to our chefs, Alberto, Maurizio and Simone for a delicious culinary experience. They were fun and patient teachers. At the end of each lesson is a wonderful feast for the eyes and tummy. I've already made dishes from my lessons in Italy and hope to continue learning! I felt immersed and truly transported to another place on this tour…finally a vacation well worth the trip!"
Peggy W., Claremont, California"Dear Jo-Ann, Thank you for all of your help in planning this vacation for us. We appreciate your quick response to all of our inquiries and helping us prepare before our cooking trip in Tuscany. We just got back, and it was absolutely lovely experience. We had a spacious apartment at the Villa and the welcome gift basket we received upon arrival had an overabundance of fruits and food. The chefs that taught the cooking classes were funny, engaging, and passionate about the food that they were teaching us to cook. The food was absolutely delicious, and each morsel was just an experience in itself with wonderful hosts. They were organized and helped us plan so that we could do all the activities and excursions that we wanted without feeling rushed or flustered. It was definitely one of my top vacation experiences. Thank you!"
Sheryl and Shane N., Toronto, Canada"The cooking lessons were a lot of fun as you experience different teaching methods by 4 different chefs. The excursions were great as I would never have gone to all of the small towns that we visited. It was wonderful to meet new people from all over the world and of course to share this experience with my son as we both expand our love of cooking."
Robin B., Hoodsport, Washington"Our teacher/chef was Maurizio and he was wonderful! Friendly, skilled, patient, and very handsome. (He could have made beans and weinies and we three women would have been totally enthralled), but really, the menu was exquisite. I even got to take a taste or two back to my husband who was feeling under the weather, and he LOVED it. We have been home only a couple of days and I have already used my new recipes and techniques! Can't wait to try the pannacotta again - my favorite! Thanks for a great experience and a beautiful memory that I will always cherish."
Dr. Roger S,. Boston, Massachusetts"I loved the whole thing! It was a true culinary adventure with great food and wine, lots of hands on cooking, and plenty of great Chianti wines! I would highly recommend anyone who want to learn more about Tuscan cooking this weeklong experience! This is THE opportunity to learn how to cook delicious Italian meals in an unparalelled environment. Being in a Castle from the 12th century and staying in a villa overlooking Florence and the Duomo is just amazing. If you have the chance, take it. The site is wonderful and the chefs, the guides and the staff are just fantastic!"
Linda C."The food made by our group was fabulous. The chef was a marvelous teacher, with an enthusiastic, great personality. Our international class was a delight. The hands-on learning was great."
Dawn K., Cary, Illinois"If you're going to Firenze, don't miss the opportunity to take one or two classes at this Villa. It's outside of Florence and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Villa is beautiful and should not be missed. Meaghan and Elizabeth are great hosts and you will be in great hands with two wonderful trained chefs who are extremely friendly, very enthusiastic and will even make a novice feel very comfortable in the kitchen. There's no better way to learn about the Tuscan cuisine than from this kitchen. Since arriving home I've made panacotta, ricotta cake as well as chicken with olives and white wine and the bruschetta. The home made pasta with sage and butter and tirimasu are next on my list and once autumn arrives, the wild boar stew will be made. Every dish was delizioso, the wines magnifico and the surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful." I am already planning to go back to Italy and will take more classes at the Villa."
Angela M."The classes were very informative and helpful. My favorite part of the day was sitting down to eat at the end of the class, with the kitchen fire blazing! Everything was just perfect. I have already made some of the dishes I learnt in the classes – I have already made the pork with Fennel and Shallots, the Pappa Pomodoro, Ravioli Medici with Ragù Classico and the Crostada with Apple. I enjoyed the variety of cooking classes and tour days, it was a nice pace. Every trip was wonderful. Everyone at home is so envious of my cooking trip of a lifetime! Thank you for all your kindness and help. It was a most memorable 40th birthday!"
This exciting region is depicted below. You can also access Google MapsTM by clicking HERE.
*In some cases mapping may give clients a general sense of location due to changes in venue. Please inquire about specific location.