You will quickly pick up on the fact that we are all connected outside of "business". Rocky is a great person to start with to convey this! Like Michael, Rocky grew up in Los Angeles... in fact, just a few blocks from Michael. They never knew one another, but they had a very close mutual friend most of their lives. That friend visited Michael and Paola in Soriano in early 2011, and brought Rocky with. He joined in on one of our week-long cooking vacations in Soriano, and felt an instant connection.
Yes, Spartaco really is his name, so when you meet him, remember to utter these words: My name is Spartacus! A Soriano native and long time family friend, Spartaco has been our primary guide for our excursions since 2007, and now he hosts many of our vacations outside of Soriano. Ladies, be prepared. You will be charmed and fall in love. His accent will grab you, those little mistakes in English will make you smile... and whatever you do, make sure he does his Tony Soprano impersonation!
Sophie is one of those rare Italians that you meet and simply cannot believe speaks English as a second language. Her perfect British accent, however, is a dead giveaway for the fact that she was raised by an English father, albeit in Italy. She lives just over the hill from Soriano in Viterbo, and travels regularly with our groups to all of our locations... and our guests invariably love her
Alyssa is Michael and Paola's daughter, and Sam is her other half. Like Michael, they are both from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angels (Like, Totally!), but they now split their time between Orlando, Florida and Italy. Alyssa grew up actually speaking Italian before English, but was mostly raised in the States, spending her summers in Italy. Sam, on the other hand, came to Italy for the first time in 2013, but picked up the language in a heartbeat and is sometimes even mistaken for an Italian.
During our Norcia weeks, we always have a pizza class at a pizzeria near Assisi, and Luigi has always been our instructor. Guests invariably fell in love with him, and a friendship developed over time. As it turned out, Luigi had been a tour guide for years in the past, and really missed that part of his life. So one day, in a pinch, Luigi hosted one of our vacations, and it was phenomenal! Next thing we knew, we got to talking and here we were. Luigi has become so much more than the Pizza Chef! He is now a host on many of our trips!
a traveler Canada
I have had the pleasure to go on two vacations with Culture Discovery. The first one I literally lived with the Italians in a small village and learned so much about the culture. The second one was on the Amalfi Coast which I will always remember as a dream vacation.
The trip was wonderful! I was contemplating not going, and I'm so glad I did! The guides were so wonderful, the weather was perfect, and the tours were incredible! The food was also amazing. The whole trip exceeded my expectations. I will definitely do another one with Culture Discovery. Thank you for making us feel so at home!
Our Culture Discovery vacation was the best purchase I have ever made. Be it a car, a home, or any other vacation. I liken it to when you spend money on something that is handmade, be it food, clothing or art. This is a company in name only, it is a family of employees who walk their talk when they say you will "live" Italian culture, not just see Italian tourist attractions. By the second day I (and I believe all who were in my group), knew we had made the right decision to "do" Italy in this way. Mornings spent peering from my balcony over medieval village rooftops to view layer after layer of colors and hues of the distant hills blend into the mountains. Stops in the tiny,local produce shop to pick up fresh figs and honey colored grapes to enjoy with my pastry choice of the morning...pistachio, almond, currant topped, or any one of the dozens available. Sipping espresso amidst chatting Italian villagers while greeting "Buongiorno" (Good morning) to my traveling companions as they arrived. Reclining in the tour bus to begin an IMAX-like experience of driving through narrow cobblestone streets that open up into the pastel green dotted landscape from the olive trees. Gaping up at one Medieval Village after another perched high in the distance looking down at us as a fortress, but upon arrival greeting us as guests as though we were sent for to celebrate a special occasion. Our home base was the little town of Soriano, and from there we had excursions to locally owned wineries, a small family owned olive oil business, meals in homes and local restaurants, shopping in villages and more. An utter feeling of timelessness and of losing oneself in another culture.
a traveler United States
This was my second trip with Culture Discovery in Soriano and my third trip with Culture Discovery overall; and the introductory tour for my husband and step-daughter. There is an incredible team that supports each location including two guest-hosts, and the kitchen-cooking team. I don't know how any tour could pack in more fun, adventure, and experiential unique aspects than this trip does. Rather than crowd into the large mega-wineries, Culture Discovery Vacations takes you to small family run wineries where you meet the owners and even have lunch or dinner with them on their property. Where else would you have the opportunity to have dinner in the home of a local Italian, someone who opened her home to us and prepared a fabulous meal although she speaks very little English. The most unique aspect of this tour with Culture Discovery Vacations is that you stay in an apartment in this mid-evil village, and your neighbors are all Italians (who for the most part don't speak English!). One of our favorite rituals was the daily walk from our apartment through the village to get to the piazza where we had cappuccino and croissant, whilst sitting amongst the locals and listening in on their passionate conversations to each other all in Italian of course! My husband said that experience alone - living among the locals - was a once in a lifetime experience and made the trip worth every penny. The food - well, there is more food than you can ever imagine at every meal. The meals we prepared were incredible! The cooking classes aren't so much about technique and formal cooking, but just as much about sharing an experience among friends while laughing and having fun. If you are interested in technique and aspects of the recipes that have been handed down for generations, Carla is more than willing to share more. In fact, once you return home and try a recipe - if you have questions, she or Katia will respond on Facebook with answers. I have used these recipes so many times and have shared with family and friends who all rave about the food. The excursions are so interesting and not jammed with tourists. You have attention and focus of a guest host who wants to ensure the overall experience is what you expected. During our week, we had Ilaria and Linda (pronounced Leeeeenda) and they kept us laughing all week long, and very well informed about the places we visited. While during this week there were some 'snafu's' - the whole Soriano team went out of their way to make it an incredible week. You read on the website about the Culture Discovery Vacations family, and once you're there - you experience it and feel it - and know its real. At the dinner on the first night a group of 12-14 strangers starts off friendly but still reserved, and by the last night everyone feels like they've made lifelong friends, and are in tears knowing the week has come to an end.
If you want to experience Italy; get away from the tourists; go deep on the culture; have great food and wine; and have a heck of a lot of fun - this is a tour you'll never forget.