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We will be harvesting olives together and bringing them to a local cold press olive oil mill. We will make our own olive oil from the olives we picked, and take our own olive oil home with us. Have a fun time during our cooking classes with upscale Italian recipes and a Pizza class. We will also be at the annual Prosciutto Festival, plus excursions to Assisi, Spoleto, Montefalco and more. We'll visit a Sagrantino winery and make our own Ricotta cheese as well.
Our home for the week is the stunning "Palazzo Seneca". This ancient 16th century palazzo was just recently restored by the Bianconi family of Norcia. Their vision was to restore it to its original beauty, sparing no expense to detail, and converting it to a charming boutique hotel. To say they did an amazing job is an understatement. It is absolutely beautiful down to every detail.
But it isn't the beauty of the property that really attracted us. It was the Bianconi family and how they run it that impressed us most of all. Since our vacations are all about a family experience and integrating our guests into the local lifestyle, we cannot simply choose a hotel that is beautiful. After all, hotels are generally impersonal, and they detract from the true local experience. But this one was different. Very different.
We, Vincenzo and Federico Bianconi, welcome you to make your stay with us memorable. Our family has handed down the passion for hospitality and foodservice from father to son. The Palazzo Seneca project represents the evolution of 150 years tradition, of our studies, experiences and researches carried out throughout Italy and worldwide.
A house in an Umbrian Palace, this is not a slogan, it is rather a way of thinking, projecting, hosting, living this elegant residence of the sixteenth century. We have collected tradition, design, simplicity, genuine feeling and creativity in order to let you experience a new Umbrian tradition.
The location could not be better. It is right in the heart of Norcia. Step outside, and you are right in the middle of everything -- Shopping, cafes. bars, gelato shops, etc. Taking an evening stroll in this area is simply the stuff of dreams.
Our rooms combine generosity and love for details. Materials, shapes and noble colours give each room and each suite a personal and exclusive charm. Tradition, in perfect harmony with environment and service, will satisfy all your expectations. In all our rooms an exclusive comfort is provided by the famous Italian-made Simmons mattresses, among the best in the world, with one-by-one paper wrapped up springs and an extra small mattress to provide the best comfort.
The Palazzo has all amenities one would expect from a luxury property: Free WIFI Internet, Laundry Service, Daily Cleaning, Sattellite Television with English Channels, Spa, and an off-site pool. In addition, there is a 24 hour free snack and drink buffet for our guests.
We first discovered it by accident. We were in Norcia on a day excursions during one of our Soriano based vacations. We were unhappy with the restaurant we had chosen for the day, so while our group was browsing the village, we set out to find other options for the future. Michael (One of CDV's founders) walked into a restaurant, and was greeted by Enzo Bianconi. He fell in love with the restaurant, and they got to talking.
After a few minutes, Enzo showed Michael Palazzo Seneca, and he was astounded. Along the way, he met the whole family, and they quickly became friends. It was evident that this family was just like us. The authentic experience was very important to them, and everything they did revolved around authenticity and family.
Michael returned for a week, and was hosted by the Bianconi family. With every passing day, they showed Michael around, and it was obvious that while this was a hotel, it was right up our alley like no other place we had seen in Italy. Every member of the staff was part of a big family. We saw them in town, bought drinks for one another, and felt that sense of belonging.
Because of this wonderful feeling, and the stunning beauty of the area, the Bianconi family started talking to Michael about cooking vacations based in Norcia. They did cooking classes with others, but never to the degree that Culture Discovery does (big 4 and 5 course family meals). We all agreed that they would do everything our way with us so here we go!
Umbricelli pasta with Sausage & Fresh Ricotta
Brasato di Sagrantino (Chianina Beef braised in Sagrantino wine)
Honey & Pollen Parfait
Chianina Beef & Vinaigrette Vegetable Salad
For our first course, we will make Ricotta Ravioli with butter & Sage Sauce completely from scratch.
Our main dish will be a Local Sausage & Romano Cheese Country Tart.
Finally, for dessert, we will make Hot Chocolate Mini Cru.
Smoked trout salad made with trout from Norcia's local rivers.
Casteluccio Lentil Soup
Specialty menu made with local lentils grown on the nearby Casteluccio plains, which are known to be the best in the world, with Umbrian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Wood-fire grilled Norcia Sausages, Pancetta, and other local meats with fresh seasonal vegetables.
Pick of the day from the restaurants in-house bakery.
Today, Mario and Luigi have closed their pizzeria to the public in order to host us for what will be one part pizza class, and one part party. We'll mix our dough together, then each guest will have the chance to pick their own toppings, make their pizza, and cook it in the wood-fired oven. This is one of the highlights of our week together, and our guests always leave having had one of the most amazing experiences of their lives!
We will taste samplings of Norcia salames and prosciutto, Local cheeses with honey and marmalade, Panzanella, Farro salad, Focaccia with local prosciutto and cheese, Quiche with local onions and pancetta, Guanciale with Sage, Goat cheese with dried fruit, Smoked trout with ricotta, Assorted bruschetta, Fruit with sweet Sagrantino wine, Torta al Testo, Grilled Veggies, Porchetta, and Gelato.
Of course, dinner will be accompanied by an assortment of local wines.
Our guide for the hunt will be Nicola and his amazing truffle hunting dogs. This is an actual truffle hunt, so we never know what we will find, or how much we will find, but some of the truffles we find on our hunt will come back to town with us to be used in our cooking class today!
Note: In some periods of May and September, truffle hunting is not allowed in Norcia. When this is the case, our truffle hunt will be more of a demonstration than an actual hunt, and we will let our guests know before we head out.
Farro Salad with Prawns & Salted Ricotta Cheese
We will make Tagliatelle Pasta with Truffles & Mushrooms from scratch using truffles.
Fruit-Crusted Turkey Spiedini
Farro & Pear Cake with Sagrantino Wine Sauce
We will visit with Carlo Carletti and his Olive Orchards & Mill. He runs one of the last remaining "traditional" olive mills in Italy. The kind with the big millstones.
In fact, his mill dates back to the 16th century, and the only difference between now and then is that motors have replaced donkeys for power to run the mill! The olive mill here is an ultra cold-press mill that produces a top-quality extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil with the lowest possible acidity. Consider that in order to be called Extra Virgin, olive oil needs to have less than 0.8% acidity, and the olive oil here averages 0.2%, four times less than the standard! In other words, it is simply the best of the best of the best.
As we arrive, we will head up to the hills, where we will spend a couple hours harvesting olives in one of his orchards.
Then we will head back to the mill and unload our olives into the mill, where we will watch them get crushed my the giant millstones. We'll then take the resulting paste and operate the mill ourselves as we stack plates full of olive paste from our olives, and finally move them over to the press.
We will learn all about how the olive oil making process works by doing it ourselves as our olives are being pressed into olive oil.
While the press is squeezing our olives, we will have lunch in the room next door, obviously sampling the new oil from that day with our lunch.
Finally, each of us will walk up to the centrifuge in the mill where our oil is going through the last step of the process as all water is separated from the oil. As the thick, green oil drips from a spout, we will each fill a one liter can of the oil that came from the very olives we picked this morning and milled this afternoon!
Tagliatelle pasta with Summer Truffles & Mushrooms
Norcia sausage stuffed with truffles and local cheese
Crostata with Ricotta and Castelluccio Lentils
Set in beautiful rolling hills full of vineyards (and sunflowers in the summer) right at the Tuscany border, the scenery at Scacciadiavoli winery is just breathtaking.
Well visit the beautiful ancient cellars and enjoy a tasting of their incredible wines, including their celebrated Sagrantino (DOCG), Montefalco Rosso (DOC), Sagrantino Passito (DOCG), Grechetto Umbria (IGT), and Spumante (BRUT).
It all comes together tonight as we head just outside of town to a local farm, where we will have a "Grigliata", or Italian BBQ.
Tonight we will get together with some of the locals we have gotten to know (from Palazzo Seneca, the pig farmer, local butcher, and their friends and families) and have a traditional Italian "friends and family" BBQ. We'll grill up sausages, pancetta and more together for an evening you will never forget.
This is not a restaurant type experience. It is a true cultural experience as you live the true Italian life in a way very few travelers ever experience. We will all do a little bit of everything. Some of us will man the grill, some will set the tables, etc. We'll have a wonderful evening as we get to know people we have been seeing all week in a completely different way as friends. We'll dance, we'll sing, and we will firm up new bonds in a way that "tourists" can never experience. This is always a night our guests never forget.
Herb Crusted Trout Roll
Norcia Lentil Soup that you will have been begging us for after having tried it the second night.
Lentil Crme Brulee
Besides the striking beauty, Castelluccio is recognized at the source of the best lentils in the world. For guests visiting us in June, it is Flower Season, and people come here from all over the world to see the amazing flowers growing here!
We'll head up into the tiny village and visit a local shepherd, where we will have the opportunity to make Pecorino and Ricotta cheese while experiencing the incredible views.
Experience the amazing Gregorian Chant by the monks in the church built at the birthplace of St. Benedict.
This will be their "Compline" service, during which all the lights of the church are turned off and the monks chant by candlelight. It is a truly moving experience.
Crisped Gnocchi with Pecorino fondue and Sagrantino wine reduction.
Guinea Fowl in wine, basil, tomato & olive sauce with roasted potatoes.
Local berry compote, layered with sweet & crispy wafers and freshly whipped cream.
When we are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible excursions and experiencing things most other travelers can only dream of. We'll go on a Truffle hunt with a national champion truffle hunting dog, we will visit an absolutely incredible winery, a Traditional Cold Press Olive Mill, local farmers, a Ricotta Cheese Producer, and much more.
We'll even spend an evening experiencing the Gregorian Chant with the monks at the St. Benedict Monastery. You will even experience a true Italian "Grigliata"; and Italian BBQ, during which we get together with some of the locals you have met during the week and have a wonderful party together, true Italian style.
Our day trips will take us to Assisi, Spoleto, Perugia, and the breathtaking "Castelluccio Plain". To sum it up, this week's excursions are all set in some of the most beautiful settings in Italy that will evoke the Italian dream at every moment.
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 & Sam
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!
Ask any Italian from Milan to Sicily, or from Rome to Tuscany. The moment you mention the name "Norcia", they will get dreamy eyed. But chances are, you have never heard of it. The Italians dream of Norcia for several reasons. For one, Norcia is one of Italy's most prized culinary hotspots. This tiny little town of just about 3,500 people is has been famous for centuries for food. It is the home of Italy's prized "Prestigious Black Truffles".
It is the source of the best prosciutto in the world, the best salami in the world, and so much more. People come from all over Italy to purchase these things here because it is so prized. In fact, thorughout Italy, butcher shops specializing in high-quality pork products are called "Norcinerie", which comes from the name of the town. It is simply the best of the best. Even a common Italian word for cold cuts (Norcine) comes from this town!
Additionally, Norcia is in the heart of the Sibillini National Park, considered one of the most beautiful natural treasures of Italy. The raw beauty of this area with rolling hills colliding with large mountains, and ancient castle-topped hill towns sprouting up here and there is like something from a story book. It is a photographers dream come true. When our guests are here, they can hardly believe that a place like this is real.
The town of Norcia itself is charming and pristine. This was the birthplace of St. Benedict, and the location of the St. Benedict Monastery. Everything is kept beautifully with loving pride. You will find the streets lined with adorable sidewalk cafes, gelato shops, wonderful shopping, and butcher shops are something of a time gone by.
Norcia is at an altitude of 604 m (1,982 ft). Most of the week we will be at this altitude or lower, with the exception of the visit to Castelluccio at the end of the week, which is at 1,452 m (4,764 ft). Getting around Norcia is very easy. The town is completely flat, and our hotel is in the center of town. We do walk roughly 1/4 mile each day to and from where our bus can pick us up and drop us off, but it is all flat.
|Activities ||General ||Services|
We are all about food & wine, and if there is one comment we hear more than any other from our guests throughout the week, it is "I can't eat another bite". You will never be hungry, and you will never want for more wine, period.
All of the restaurant meals are in small, local restaurants that are considered the best of the best for their area. These are the places the locals rave about, not the touristy places. Furthermore, we don't do "tourist food". We insist on the highest quality at all times, and always pull out all of the stops.
The wine is always flowing at lunch and dinner. We always focus on local wines from the area we are in, and it is always fantastic! Additionally, the meals at our cooking classes are not little 'learn to make pasta' classes like many others. Instead, the classes are traditional Italian 'Sunday Family Meals' 5 courses, done to the max.
When the week is over, you will have experienced the real Italy that few tourists have ever experienced. You will have made new friends, and you will have learned why Italian culture is so amazing, because you will have lived it!
In the basement of the palace, a mystic silence wraps up the wellness rooms. Ceilings with barrel and groin vaults and old stone floors ideally frame the Sibilla room, where you can enjoy a massage, or the rest room, where you can sip herb tea made with herbs from the Monti Sibillini National Park.
The stone hydro-massage bath for 6 people in a private room is next to the Turkish bath and sauna. All these areas, along with other small rooms, represent a proposal for wellness suitable to this residence. You will have full access to Sauna, Steam Baths & Pool at Hotel. Treatments are additional fees.
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