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Join us for this festive event, as our town dresses itself in full medieval decor, locals celebrate in full costume, and the town Piazza becomes a stage for exciting events that include Flag Throwing, Sword fighting, Historic reenactments, and much more. The festival events are woven into our week of cooking, excursions and all sorts of wonderful experiences. These are our two most popular weeks of the year!
Our guests in Soriano stay in their own private village homes, rather than a hotel. All of our homes are beautiful places that date back to medieval times or the renaissance. Each one of them is unique, and has been completely restored with modern conveniences, while maintaining their original beauty. Enjoy private accommodation in a beautiful medieval village home for each night on itinerary. Each party has their own private home!
Most of our village homes are not clustered together. They are peppered here and there in the village, such that your neighbors are not other travelers. Instead, they are locals. You will find yourself getting to know them with that daily 'good morning' wave, smile and Buon Giorno. You will see them here and there in town, and really get a sense of belonging as you weave yourself into the fabric of Italian village life.
While our homes are not clustered together, they are all close. Soriano is a small town that is built around a central square, "The Piazza". It is in the piazza that we meet each morning for breakfast before our day starts, and end each evening after dinner. All of the homes are within several hundred feet of the Piazza, so getting to and from is very quick, and incredibly pleasant each day.
All of our village homes are actual homes that were private residences at one time. As such, they all have private bathrooms, kitchens, refrigerators, etc. All of our homes are also air conditioned and heated. We also have television in each home with satellite service, allowing you English Language programming. Nearly all of our homes also offer free wireless Internet.
Since each home is unique, so is the floor plan and the decor. Some are larger than others, some have valley views, some have castle views, and some have village views. Some offer balconies, while others do not. Some have two bedrooms, and some are one bedroom homes. We don't charge different prices for different homes, so we do our best to assign homes based on what we know about guests that are booking.
It is one of our biggest celebrations of the year, and this week always sells out. If you are considering this week, please do not hesitate. Not only does it sell out, but we sadly end up turning away three to four times more than our capacity each year.
This week-long vacation will consist of a very small and intimate group of around 16 people. It is an all-inclusive experience that embraces Italian Festival life, Italian cooking, culinary and artistic tradition while exploring some of the most incredible off-the-beaten-path treasures that are unique to Tuscany, Umbria and Alto Lazio.
This week of discovery will integrate you into Italian village life, living among the villagers, shopping with them, and getting to know them. Most of all, it is a week of fun, family and laughter as we share what makes Italy so special in a very personal way.
Each year, the town of Soriano nel Cimino, where we base our cooking vacations, holds a huge festival. It is counted among the top festivals in Italy. For the first two weeks of October, during the Chestnut and Wine Harvest, the town transforms into a medieval wonderland.
The town divides into four "Contradas" (Best described as "clans") - San Giorgio, Trinita, Papacqua, and Rocca. Each contrada is represented by a district of the town. During the festival they fiercely compete for a series of prizes, the most significant of which is called the "Palio"; a coveted banner awarded to the contrada that wins the yearly jousting & archery competition.
On Saturday and Sunday, the entire village swells with Romans, Tuscans, and Umbrians (and us!) to watch all kinds of performances, eat in medieval taverns, and shop the fair. . It all happens for just two weekends in October.
You may find an amazing flag throwing performance, sword fighting in the town square, elaborate reenactments of medieval life and events, parades of breathtaking costumes, trumpets, drummers, and so much more
Soriano is more down to earth. Our cooking classes in Soriano are "family style". They are structured like a group of friends cooking family recipes together. The town itself has few "tourist" services. It is off the beaten path, and most of the shops are there for the locals, not visitors. Additionally, you are not staying in a hotel, but rather in a self catering village home. What this means, is that you will not have hotel services here, but you will be living among the local residents.
The Soriano itinerary is very action-packed. Between cooking, excursions, cultural experiences, etc., we have something going on all day, every day. There is little "down time". That said, we structure our excursions and activities on most days in a way that it is easy top opt out of something so that you have whatever amount of down time you like. For example, you may want to opt out of a morning excursion, but be there for the afternoon cooking class. In that case, we would simply pick you up in the afternoon.
The Soriano weeks are very immersive. An immersive experience in Italy has upside and downside. You must be very ready to embrace things as they come. Things are not always on time, a restaurant may be unexpectedly closed, and things will not necessarily work as we want them to. For example, The fact that a home has internet dos not mean it will work on a given day. Getting a tech in a small village is not as easy as you may expect. Additionally, many services people look for may not be available in a small town that is not accustomed to tourism.
We'll have three half-day completely hands-on cooking classes this week, Our cooking classes are not demonstrations. They are 100% hands-on. We structure them so that you can be as involved as you wish in every stage of every course we prepare. With every class, we roll up our sleeves and get wrist deep in making everything fresh, from scratch.
For those would rather eat than cook, our classes take place at our beautiful 18th century country villa. Take control of our 90-bottle wine rack, relax, take a stroll, or just enjoy the wonderful Italian countryside. Whether you are cooking or not, the time we spend at the villa is always a highlight.
During all of our cooking classes, we work, but we laugh and play. We break out the wine (and sometimes the Grappa). We may sing along to the background music as we are prepping, and everyone takes little breaks along the way.
We even have a computer and WIFI Internet right in the kitchen for those of you that can't get away from your e-mail - although guests that leave the technology behind do get more out of this amazing experience.
During the classes we may find that we need some herbs or veggies, and send a few guests out to the garden to pick them. You may need to make a run down to the cellar to fill up on the olive oil, or run across the road to get some squash from the farmers. In other words, don't think of it as 'school'.
Above all, it is a delightful social experience in a breathtaking setting, while you make a mouth-watering meal together and learn how it is done along the way. In fact, when we get the occasional person that doesn't cook with us, they have just as much fun!
While class is happening, you will be invited to spend some "down time" in our incredible wine, cheese & prosciutto cellar, where we will fire up our copper still and make a batch of pure grappa. Feel free at any time to sample from the dozens of spirits & liqueurs we make here on site, such as Grappa, Brandy, Limoncello, Rosolio, Amaretto, or our famous "Fury" & "Inferno".
Once in Soriano we will help you to your accommodations for the week and give you some time to get settled in, unpack and rest up. As you get settled in, you will find some snacks and drinks waiting for you when you get to your home.
At around 5:30PM, we will meet in a local Gelato shop for one of our signature daily activities: Gelato! We believe it is your duty to have at least one gelato per day when you are here, so we will get right to it. While having our gelato, we'll talk about the week ahead and get to know one another a little more. We'll also tell you all about the history of the festival and how the town divides itself into four competing contradas.
For dinner tonight we will dine in an ancient monastery in Soriano that has been converted to a wonderful restaurant. Here we will sample many local specialties in the first of many multi-course meals as we dive head first in Italian culinary culture.
As always, wine is provided with all dinners, and we favor small local wineries wherever we dine. Tonight's wine will be a local red Umbrian wine.
After dinner, we will head down to the piazza to enjoy medieval performances.
Highlights: Welcome to Soriano & The Medieval Chestnut Festival!
Places: Soriano nel Cimino
Dinner: at Taverna dei Frati
Walking on Saturday: On Saturday when you arrive, you will be walking from piazza to your home to check in. We will help with your bags if you desire. In the evening, we take a stroll around the village, then to dinner. Between the stroll and the restaurant where we have dinner, we will walk roughly 0.6 miles (1 km) today, not including the walking between your home and piazza. About 1,100 feet (470 meters) of this is on a slight to moderate incline.
Time in Bus on Saturday: The only time you will be in the bus today is to get to Soriano. If you come from the Rome airport, it is roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you come from the Orte train station, it is roughly 20 minutes.
A "Contrada" can be best described as a "Neighborhood Clan". Soriano divides into four contradas for the festival, and people generally belong to the Contrada that represents the part of town they live in.
Those who live in the medieval Quarter belong to the "Rocca Contrada". Those that live in the north-east part of town belong to the "Papacqua Contrada". Those in the north-west belong to the "Trinita Contrada", while those living on the south side of town are in the "San Giorgio Contrada".
During the festival they are in fierce competition with one another for various awards, the biggest of which is the coveted "Palio", which goes to the winner of Sunday's Jousting & Archery competition.
For week 1 program on October 11, after dinner we will head down to the piazza to enjoy the "Legends and History of Soriano" performance, during which townspeople dressed in medieval costume, sword fighters and more reenact key events from Soriano's history, such as the battle with Vignanello and the Papal recognition of St. Francis of Assisi.
For week 2 program on October 18, After dinner, there will be a performance in Piazza. This evening features the musicians of the Four Contradas. The musicians tonight are in competition with one another for the best group performance. Tonight is something similar to a marching band competition, in that it is all about original music and choreography. However, this is in medieval form. The music is limited to trumpets and drummers, and the groups are in beautiful medieval costumes.
A sampling of Local Salame, Prosciutto, Porcini Bruschetta, Olive Bruschetta, Ascoline Olives (fried sausage-stuffed olives), and Sutrini (a local crepe with Romano cheese)
For our first course tonight, we will have samplings of two local pasta dishes: Gnocchi col Ferro (a local specialty eggless pasta that is hand rolled in an Arrabiata sauce) and Ciuffetti Sorianesi (hand made pasta purses, stuffed with radicchio and speck in a Parmesan cream sauce).
After our pasta dishes we will sample local grilled Tagliata al Aceto Balsamico (A grilled steak, marinated in balsamic vinegar atop a bed of rucola salad). We'll also have Tuscan Roasted Potatoes as a side dish.
Finally we will be brought a lemon sorbet dessert and end our evening with a glass of Limoncello or Grappa.
Today is a day full of festivities in Soriano, so we will stay in town all day. The activities of the day will vary between week 1 and week 2 of the festival.
Soriano will be full of street vendors all day, and nearly all stores in town will be open. Thousands of people will fill the streets shopping the small artisan stands that sell just about everything including salames, cheeses, honey, gift items, wine, clothing, etc. In addition, you will find all sorts of performances happening in the town piazza today!
We'll leave you free to explore all morning, and at around noon, we will all meet up in the town piazza and head to the festival tavern of the Papacqua Contrada.
Each Contrada (Clan) in town sets up a temporary restaurant during the festival, which is run by volunteers to raise money for next year's festival. It is the Italian version of Fair dining, and since this is Italy, the food is always fantastic! We'll have Local Pasta, Bruschetta & Veal-Chestnut stew, sample menu.
Tonight for dinner, we will be eating in the Trinita Contrada's tavern. This is as casual as it gets! Festival Fare, Italian style. Paper place mats, plastic dishes & cups, but great homemade food in an ancient grotto. We'll have Polenta, Fire-Grilled Sausages & Chicken, sample menu.
Highlights: Festival Market, & The Palio or The Medieval Court
Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Orvieto
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Festival Tavern
Dinner: Festival Tavern or Tre Scalini Trattoria
Walking on Sunday: Walking to Piazza from all homes is either flat, or downhill. The amount of walking will depend on how much you explore the fair, and if you go to the Palio.
Time in Bus on Sunday: We will not be in the bus at all today.
Rest Time on Sunday: There is a great deal of free time on Sunday to do as you please.
Spend the morning exploring the town on your own. Browse among the countless vendors here for the festival, selling local art, salames, cheeses, wine, honey, and much more.
For those that would like, we will leave town on foot at about 4:00 p.m. with hundreds of other locals to a field about a mile from town. We will watch the festival's main event: The Palio delle Contrade". Cavaliers run a course in turn for a ring jousting competition, and archers compete for distance and accuracy. The event lasts about three hours, and when it is over a huge celebration follows as we walk back into town (uphill all the way!) with the victors, and enter the piazza, where the thousands will be waiting for our arrival.
For those not coming to the event with us, spend the afternoon at your leisure, and at around 6PM, you will be there as the contradas parade back into town after the palio and the winners are announced.
After dinner, there will be a performance in Piazza. This usually features a performance by the medieval swordsmen of the Rocca Contrada. We take seats in the stands in Piazza. The lights go out and torches light up. After a few moments, we hear deafening drumming as the drawbridge leading up to the medieval quarter & castle lowers, revealing a line of trumpeters. The trumpets begin to sound in sync with the drumming as they march into Piazza.
Suddenly, the swordsmen run into the middle of Piazza and begin a complete performance of acrobatics, sword fighting, and more.
Soriano's swordsmen train all year and perform on a regular schedule. They have been invited to perform all over Italy, eight other countries, including the United States.
This is the final day of the festival, and by far the biggest. The entire town is closed to traffic as thousands of people fill the streets for the big event. Hundreds and hundreds of people will be walking the streets in full medieval costume as the town builds up to the big event: The Corteo Storico.
After lunch, we will have prime seats waiting for us in piazza for the "Corteo Storico" (Historic Medieval Court), a massive parade full of fanfare, amazing medieval costumes, performances of flag throwers & swordsmen, plus much more.
This is truly a magnificent event that you will never forget!
This morning we will all meet in a local coffee bar and pastry shop in Sorianos main Piazza. Here we will have our traditional Italian breakfast of freshly baked pastries and cappuccino.
After breakfast we will drive to the Umbrian city of Orvieto which is the home to one of Italys most magnificent cathedrals, as well as the world-renowned white Orvieto Classico wine and beautiful ceramics shops. Here we will give you the morning free to explore the Duomo & shop in this wonderful cliff-top town.
We'll have lunch in a local restaurant in Orvieto, then head back to Soriano for our first cooking class class.
Dinner tonight will be the results of all of your hard work, and we promise you won't be wanting for more! We have yet to have a guest tell us they have ever had better Panzanella, or better roasted chicken, or better risotto, or better tiramisu. Most important of all, you will know how to make all of this back home.
Highlights: Orvieto + 5 Course Cooking Class
Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Orvieto
Classes: Panzanella; Risotto with Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese & Balsamic Vinegar Reduction; Tuscan Roasted Chicken; Tuscan Roasted Potatoes; Tiramisu
Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Restaurant in Orvieto
Dinner: The Results of Our Cooking Class
Walking on Monday: This is our first full day out. There is no walking in Deruta, as we are just visiting a factory here. In Assisi there is about 0.8 miles (1.4 km) of walking, mostly flat and slight incline. If you decide to also go up to the top, add an addition 0.6 miles (1 km), half of which is uphill, but you can opt out of doing this in favor of shopping or relaxing.
Time in Bus on Monday: The morning drive to Deruta is about an hour and fifteen minutes. The drive from Assisi to Deruta is about 30 minutes. The drive home from Assisi is about an hour an a half.
Rest Time on Monday: Today is a full day out. We will not be back in town until dinner time. Most guests take time to close their eyes on the bus ride.
We'll start with our appetizer, which will either be Panzanella (Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad), Eggplant Parmesan, or Farro Salad. The ingredients are always fresh and local, such as tomatoes from our local garden that you may be asked to run outside to pick, olive oil from our own orchard, and locally grown veggies.
Our first course will either be Ravioli made from scratch with our own Ricotta cheese (made right here!), and a butter and sage sauce, or Pici pasta (also made from scratch), with our amazing fennel-ragu sauce.
The second course and side dishes today will be either Tuscan Roasted Chicken & Potatoes (we'll be cooking it outside in our ancient wood-fired oven!) that we promise will leave you in absolute awe; Or Saltimbocca alla Romana, cutlets sauteed and topped with cheese, prosciutto and sage.
Finally for dessert we will be preparing our family recipe for Tiramisu, which is guaranteed to be the best you have ever tasted.
After our morning breakfast we will head out for a day full of wine, cheese & more in beautiful Southern Tuscany.
Dinner tonight will be in a small country Trattoria in a tiny village near Soriano. They are known for their home-made "Fieno" pasta, which is thinner than angel hair, and cooked in a special way that causes it to remain al dente. We'll also be having local grilled meats tonight.
Highlights: A Day of Wine, Cheese & The Gregorian Chant in Tuscany
Places: Montalcino, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Montepulciano, and Pienza, Tuscany
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: With the owners of a Brunello Winery in Montalcino
Dinner: Trattoria Scacco Matto
Walking on Tuesday: During our evening excursion and dinner in Viterbo, we will walk roughly 1.1 miles (1.7 km) as we stroll through the city. The walk is mostly flat or very slight incline at times.
Time in Bus on Tuesday: The drive to the villa in the morning is about 5 minutes. For the evening excursion, we will be in the bus for roughly 25 minutes each way.
Rest Time on Tuesday: We usually have about 2 hours of down time between the cooking class and our excursion to Viterbo. This depends on how long lunch goes at the villa. Sometimes everyone just chooses to relax at the villa, causes less time back in town before Viterbo. If you wish to opt out of the excursion to Viterbo today, you will also be on your own for dinner, because we are having dinner while out.
We'll start by driving to our furthest point, the town of Castelnuovo d'Abate. To get there, we will be driving the famous Orcia Valley Wine Trail through this picturesque wine region which evokes the classic image of Tuscan rolling hills. This is the area of Tuscany that most of us think of, seen in many well-known movies, such as Under the Tuscan Sun, Life is Beautiful, and many more.
As we arrive, we will visit the St. Antimo Abbey, a beautiful Romanesque church that dates back to the 9th century. It sits in a valley just outside of Montalcino, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Here we will witness the monks of the abbey as they do the Gregorian Chant during a brief service.
After the service, we will go to nearby Montalcino, home of what is arguably the best of all Italian wines: Brunello. Instead of going to the big wineries for impersonal tastings like the tourists, we have something truly exclusive in store for you today. We will visit the small, private Piombaia winery in Montalcino.
We will be hosted to a wonderful lunch with the owners of the estate, as we sample their Brunello wine with our meal. As we have lunch together, they will share their family history with you and answer any question you can imagine. You are sure to fall in love with this gracious family. It is always one of the major highlights on our weeks, and provides for a truly exclusive and unique Brunello experience. After lunch, they will treat us to a private tour of their vineyards before we move on.
Next, we'll take the short drive to beautiful Pienza, known for its incredible Pecorino cheese. You will have a some time to walk around this charming village, do some Pecorino cheese tastings and some shopping before we leave for the town of Montepulciano, where we will do our final wine tasting and tour of the day.
Montepulciano is known for its Vino Nobile wine, a primary competitor for the Brunellos. Here we will tour the town's ancient 14th century cellar that was built underneath the Palace of Cardinal Ricci and is widely considered to be the most beautiful wine cellar in the world. After the cellar tour, we will participate in a complete tasting of Montepulciano's fantastic wines. Those that have seen the 2009 film 'New Moon' (The sequel to 'Twilight') will recognize this wine cellar and other areas of town from the movie.
After our morning breakfast, we'll head back to the local shops in town to do some shopping for this morning's cooking class. We will visit the local butcher, grocer, etc. Once done, we will head back down to the villa and get right to it.
Lunch, of course, will be the meal we prepare in class.
After some espresso, grappa, limoncello, etc., we will head back to town to give you some time to take it easy and rest up.
Highlights: 5-Course Cooking Class & Viterbo: The City of Popes
Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo
Classes: Sausage-Stracchino Bruschetta; Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce, Brasato al Barolo, Sauteed Spinach, Panna Cotta with Chocolate-Hazelnet sauce.
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: The meal we prepare in our cooking class
Dinner: La Zaffera Restaurant in Viterbo
Walking on Wednesday: This is a long day out, but there is only about 0.9 miles (1.5 km) of walking all day. It is mostly flat and there are no uphill walks at all. There is, however, a 0.4 mile (0.6 km) walk after the last winery that is all downhill, which is factored into the total for the day.
Time in Bus on Wednesday: Today is our longest driving day. We will spend a total of about four and a half hours in the bus today. The morning drive to Montalcino will be roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. After that, we will be backtracking toward home for the rest of the day. The drive from the abbey to the winery is ten minutes. The drive to Pienza is twenty minutes. The drive to Montalcino is twenty minutes. Finally the drive home will be about an hour and twenty minutes. Additionally, when we are in Montepulciano, the winery is at the top of the city hill, where we cannot drive. Rather than have you walk up the steep hill, we take a short (5 or 10 minute) city bus ride to get there.
Rest Time on Wednesday: Today is a full day out, and we are having lots of wine. It is very relaxing along the way, but our guests are always thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day. When we get back to Soriano, we have a light dinner before returning home.
Today our appetizer will be a unique Bruschetta with stracchino cheese and either Pancetta & rosemary or local sausage.
For our first course, we will be making pasta from scratch again, either Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce, or Gnocchi with Sorrentina sauce.
Our second course will either be Brasato al Barolo (Beef roast braised in Barolo wine, Brandy and local sspices), Chicken Cacciatore, or our local specialty Porchetta.
Finally, for dessert we will either make Panna Cotta with a chocolate-hazelnut & straberry topping, or Crostata with preserves made right here at the villa.
Today's excursion is an evening outing to the capital of our province, Viterbo. Just nine miles from Soriano, Viterbo is the largest Italian city between Rome and Florence, and while not frequented by tourists, it has remarkable beauty and a riveting history that very few are aware of.
We'll make our way into the ancient walled city, and take a walk through the main shopping district. We'll stop in the Gran Caff Schenardi, a beautiful coffee bar that dates back to 1818 as one of the very first coffee bars in Italy, that went on to serve Popes, Kings, Queens, etc. through its history. It was even a favorite place of Orson Welles, who would take time to think and write poetry here during the filming of Othello in 1958.
Next we will take a walk to the ancient Papal Palace, the official seat for six Popes between 1257 and 1281 when the Vatican was having trouble asserting authority in Rome. This was the location of the first Papal Conclave before it was moved to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, after a controversial Papal Election happened here. It was the longest Papal election in history that lasted nearly 3 years. After it had been going on for almost 2 years, the people of Viterbo became very upset and locked the cardinals inside, then began to ration food to nothing more than bread and water. To make matters worse, they tore the roof off the building to expose the Cardinals inside to the elements! The effects of this reached as far as Marco Polo in China at the time, and when it was all said and done, the people of Viterbo forced the election of a Pope that wasn't even so much as a priest! The result of this disaster created the rules that are, for the most part, the same rules used in electing popes today: The Papal Conclave.
Ask a foreigner what the most breathtaking region of Italy is, and they will instantly say "Tuscany". Ask an Italian the same question, and 9 times out of 10 they will say "Umbria". Umbria borders to the east of Tuscany, and is Italy's lesser known treasure. It is widely considered the most beautiful part of the country, but Tuscany gets all of the marketing money.
We have crossed in and out of Umbria and Tuscany all week, but today is 100% Umbria.
After our morning breakfast we head to the Umbrian city of Deruta
As we leave Deruta, we will make our way to Assisi.
We'll stop for lunch together in a local restaurant in Assisi, then you will have the afternoon on your own to visit the Basilica of St. Francis, browse the many beautiful shops, and do some sightseeing.
On our way home tonight, we will stop in the town of Bassano in Teverina for dinner are a unique restaurant and pizzeria called La Piazzetta.
In the early 20th century this was an Italian Vaudeville Club and theater that has been converted to a restaurant. As we sit down, thy will begin to bring us little bowls of all kinds of food, so much that it will completely cover our table. By the time we think no more can come, they will bring us pizza by the meter, and meter, and meter.
As always, the wine flows freely, and this place serves a wonderful Sangria as well!
Highlights: Great cities of Umbria: Assisi & Deruta
Places: Assisi, Deruta
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Restaurant in Assisi
Dinner: La Piazzetta
Walking on Thursday: Today offers the most challenging day for anyone that is out of shape. When we get to the dying city, there is a 1,000 foot (320 meter) foot bridge to get up to the village. This bridge is high, fairly narrow, and half is on a moderate incline, and half is a steep incline. Once in the village, everything is mostly flat. Guests choosing to come with us, but not walk the bridge can wait for us at a cafe if they choose. But there is no legal way to get up to the village other than on foot. After the dying city, there is no significant walking for the rest of the day.
Time in Bus on Thursday: As we get to the end of the week, we stay closer to home. The drive from Soriano to the dying city is about 45 minutes. The drive from the dying city to the winery & olive mill is about 20 minutes. The drive back to the villa in the afternoon is about 40 minutes.
Rest Time on Thursday: Today is a quite relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.
Deruta is home to a centuries old ceramics tradition that is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and is among the most valued Italian ceramics internationally. We will have a factory tour, and those that are up to it can try their hand at the pottery wheel. If you are interested in purchasing any pottery or ceramics this week, this is the place with extremely deep discounts compared to what you will find elsewhere, a fraction of the costs back home.
Assisi is the hometown of St. Francis. Still surrounded by its ancient walls, it sits on the slopes of Mount Subasio with beautiful rose stone buildings, winding narrow streets, noble palaces and balconies full of flowers.
After breakfast we will head out for the nearby dying city of Civita di Bagnoregio.
In the early afternoon, we will take a short drive to a small family-run winery and antique olive mill in the village of Castiglione in Teverina.
After lunch, we will drive back to the villa for our final (and always most popular) class of the week: Country Wood-Fired Pizza!
For week 2 of our program we will go for a festival excursion after dinner.
Highlights: The Dying City, An Olive Mill & Winery & Pizza Class
Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Civita di Bagnoregio, Castiglione in Teverina
Classes: Pizza Class, making: Focaccia with Melon, Prosciutto & Mortadella (Figs when in season); Margherita Pizza; Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Pizza; Caramelized Onion Pizza; Caramelized Sugar Pizza; Ricotta & Nutella Pizza; plus Zucchini Flower Pizza when in season.
Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Buffet Lunch at the Winery & Olive Mill
Dinner: Class resulting in our farewell dinner
Walking on Friday: In Orvieto, you can estimate 0.75 miles (1.2 km) of walking today, mostly flat.
Time in Bus on Friday: The drive to Orvieto is about 40 minutes each way. There will also be a short ride in a funicular, followed by a city bus while in Orvieto to get us from the parking area to the Cathedral, then a short funicular ride back down.
Rest Time on Friday: Today is a quite relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.
This dying city is a nearly deserted town that was originally built by the Etruscans in the 6th century BC. It is called the dying city because it is literally crumbling away thanks to thousands of years of erosion, to the point that it is now accessible only by a foot bridge.
Civita resembles a ghost town, but is extremely well kept as a place where time is frozen.
At Castiglione in Teverina, one of the owners will give us a private tour of their wine cellar and olive mill, followed by a tasting of their line of wines and their olive oil.
As we are tasting, we will have a wonderful buffet lunch in their garden made by the owners with many local delicacies, and of course their wine!
We will prepare several kinds of dough, and prepare the fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and many other ingredients for this wonderful evening together.
Each person will help while they learn every stage of this event. You will make the dough, drink some wine, prepare the ingredients, drink some wine, help fire up the oven, drink some wine, and even handle the peel as the pizza cooks, and then we will drink some wine! It will be true Italian country pizza, like nothing you have ever experienced.
We will learn to make Focaccia, Pizza Margherita, Sweet Onion pizza, Sausage and Porcini Pizza, then for dessert we will have Sugar Pizza and finally Nutella Pizza
After dinner, we will head back into town as this is the first evening of the second weekend of the festival. Based on past schedules, tonight's performances are brought to us by The San Giorgio and Papacqua Contradas.
We are back to an evening of fanfare and beautiful costumes as the San Giorgio Contrada's fire breathers perform, followed by the slaying of the dragon. Papacqua will do a reenactment of medieval life in Soriano, including the Pope's blessing of St. Francis, and the burning of a local witch at the stake.
When we are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible excursions. We'll visit some amazing wineries, including small family-run places where we will meet the owners and dine with them, and the most beautiful wine cellar in the world.
We'll visit a small home-based olive mill that still uses the antique methods to produce some of the most incredible extra virgin olive oil. We'll visit a real Deruta ceramics factory where we will try our hand at the pottery wheel, and we'll of course see many popular sights, such as Assisi, Orvieto, Pienza and more.
Arrivals: We are unable to do an afternoon pick up on the start date, because we are unable to get our transportation into town. Because of this, we only do morning shuttles this week.
Sunday is mostly On Your Own: The first full day of the week is Sunday, and all of the roads into town are closed today in order to host the festival booths, festivities, and influx of people here. Because of this, we have no activities scheduled this day, but rather allow you time on your own to enjoy the festival. We do, however, have lunch and dinner together, and on dates during which there is a performance with seating in the square, we all have tickets together.
Festival Food: For one lunch an dinner on Sunday, we will be eating in the local festival "taverns". These are volunteer-run temporary restaurants that hare here just for the festival. As festival-sytle taverns, the dishes and flatware are plastic, but the food is incredibly good!
Walking: There is more walking than normal this week. Since on the weekends, the town closes to vehicle traffic for most of the day, we cannot get our transportation in and out of town. So when we drop you off on a few days, we will need to drop you off rightly 500 feet from the town square. Additionally, as you browse the festival, it ill be all on foot.
Seating Issues: Some of the festival events have reserved seating, and some do not. When they do not, it is always on a first come, first served basis, and people often grab seats hours in advance. As such, when reserved seating is unavailable, our guests need to individually make do with what they can find. At times, we are able to secure a balcony in the stands so we can all see the festivities, but it is not always possible. When reserved seating IS available, we always buy a block of tickets for our guests in advance. The one item of caution when we do have seating, is that the stands are designed in such a way that the only exit from the stands in right into the main square, so spectators cannot leave the stands during a performance in the square. While this isn't an issue for most events, as they are rarely longer than 45 minutes, on the final Sunday of the festival, the main event can last up to 3 hours.
The Palio: The Palio competition during the festival happens in the afternoon of the 1st Sunday of the festival. It does not happen in the center of town, but rather just below town, about 1 mile (1.6 km) away. Everyone that attends gets there and back on foot, and the roads are closed to vehicle traffic. The walk to the Palio event is downhill, making the return an uphill walk. The event consists of ring jousting an archery. Each of the 4 clans run their horsemen through the track once for each round, meaning that you will see 12 ring jousting runs. The archery has each clan's archer shooting at targets from 3 different distances. There is always a long pause between the rounds, such that the entire event usually runs about 3 hours. There is NO seating at the event, so all attendees stand or sit on the grass. Most of our guests usually choose to walk the fair, rather than attend the Palio, but when guests wish to attend, we will always have some of our team come with you. In such cases, we will usually leave an hour or so into the competition, such that we don't have 3 hours watching the same thing.
Timing and Logistics: As much as we like for everything to go according to schedule, during the festival weeks, we are at the mercy of things we cannot control. We never completely know how the schedule will work out, as last minute changes are frequent. As such, all of our plans are "so long as there are no surprises".
Crowds and Noise: This is one of the larger festivals in the country. Our little town of 8,000 people will swell beyond its limits for the two weekends. On one hand, there is a wonderful charge of energy that cannot be put into words, but on the other had, it will get crowded on the weekends. You will be hearing lots of trumpets and drums while you are here, and people will be out very late at night. On the weekends, do not expect quiet until at least after midnight.
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!
Many of our cooking vacations are based in Soriano nel Cimino, which is right at the border between Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany. While largely unknown internationally, Soriano is just 15 minutes from Italy's major rail lines and the main A1 Autostrada (Expressway). That puts us at an extremely convenient near half-way point between Rome and Florence, right in the heart of Italy and within close proximity to most of Italy's most popular destinations: Rome, Florence, Assisi, Tuscany, Umbria, and much more!
The village of Soriano nel Cimino (often simply called Soriano) is one of those few remaining places in central Italy that is still unspoiled by the ravages of mass tourism. Soriano is still unspoiled. It has incredible beauty and charm, but the real Italian life is still here. Soriano still has the mom and pop grocer, the butcher that slices your proscuitto by hand, and the vegetable stand that sells produce grown on his own farm. You still see the villagers mingling on a Sunday morning before church, and you still see the women walking around doing their morning shopping every day.
Soriano is a place where children still are allowed to run free at night, and many still leave their doors unlocked. You feel it the moment you get there. Stunning beauty with an innocent feeling of a time long gone for the rest of us. All of this exists in this amazing place, yet it is still extremely close to all of the destinations so many people dream of visiting. In this way, Soriano offers the perfect balance of actually experiencing Italian life, while still having the opportunity to see the sights you have always looked forward to.
Soriano is a castle-topped hill town. There are moderate inclines while walking in town. Furthermore, some of our homes are in the medieval quarter, which is up a hill in an area that only allows foot traffic. Some of the homes have stairs (none more than three flights). All of our days start and end in the town piazza. The homes are all close to the piazza, but in different locations. The most distant home is 580 feet (175 meters) from the piazza. 250 feet (80 meters) of that walk is up a moderate incline.
While all of our guests stay in town, your cooking classes will take place at Villa Eddarella which is 2 miles (3.5km) as a crow flies from the village of Soriano. It is perched atop one of the rolling hills of the Tiber valley, just outside of town, among olive and hazelnut orchards. The views from the villa are breathtaking, making it the perfect setting for days of Italian country cooking & relaxation. On days that we have cooking classes in the morning, we all have breakfast together in town before boarding our minibus for the five minute drive to the villa. When we have cooking classes in the afternoon, we head here after our morning excursions.
While you will have your private village home in town, one thing is common among all of our guests. Villa Eddarella becomes home. From the moment you first arrive here for the first cooking class, you will quickly get into the rhythm: Our house is your house. When you are at the villa, you will find that you are truly our house guest for the week. Feel like some wine? Just get a bottle from the wine rack. Thirsty? The refrigerator is yours to raid. Want some coffee? Just go ahead and help yourself. We do everything we can to make you feel completely at home, so it simply becomes 'home base' for everyone.
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!
If you will have a rental car, getting to Soriano is extremely easy. We are about 1 hour from Rome and 90 minutes from Florence, just 15 minutes off of Italy's main A1 Autostrada (Expressway).
If you will not have a car, and cannot make one of our shuttles, we are always happy to arrange private transportation for an extra cost.
We offer an included shuttle service for our guests from the Rome Fiumicino (FCO) airport and the Orte Train Station. For those that arrive in Italy the day our vacation begins, our shuttle leaves the Rome airport at 10:30 AM, and it takes about 75 minutes to get to Soriano.
The Orte Train station is the first major hub north of Rome on the line between Rome and Florence, and is about 15 minutes from Soriano.
There are trains to Orte from almost every major city, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Bologna, Naples, and many more.
The train to Orte from Rome takes about 35 minutes. From Florence it takes about 90 minutes.
For those that are already in Italy on the day our vacation begins, or arrive after our 10:30 airport shuttle, we offer an included shuttle service from the Orte Train station at 3:30 PM, giving our guests time to get there from just about anywhere in Italy.