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Culinary & Medieval Festivals in Italy

On this holiday, you will live alongside the locals in small-town Italy with a small and intimate group of around 16 guests. This week you will embrace Italian-Festival life, Traditional Italian cooking, and cuisine utilizing locally-sourced products. Besides the delicious food and wine, you will also explore 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, shopping with them, and getting to know them. Most of all, it is a week of fun, family, and laughter as Culture Discovery Vacations shares what makes Italy so special in a very personal way.

Highlights

  • 3 cooking classes, baking class
  • Reserved seatings, excursions during medieval festivals
  • Wine tastings, cheese tasting, olive oil tour, olive oil tasting
  • Daily excursion in Tuscany, Umbria, Alto Lazio
  • 7 breakfasts, 7 dinners, 6 lunches, wines
  • Villa Eddarella apron & recipe book
  • 7 nights accommodation

Styles


4 days with instruction
Group size: Maximum of 16 participants
Airport transfer included: Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
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Accommodation

Facilities

  • Air-conditioned rooms
  • Kitchen
  • Free Wi-Fi

Private village homes

The guests in Soriano stay in their own private village homes, rather than a hotel. The homes are dispersed around the central area of the town, such that while you are on vacation, your neighbors will be the local residence. True local living. Each of the homes is a beautiful place that dates back to medieval times or the renaissance. Each one of them is unique and has been completely restored with modern conveniences while maintaining its original beauty. There is absolutely no better way to immerse yourself into the local culture.

Immersed in local tradition

Since the homes are peppered here and there in the village, it becomes quickly obvious that the neighbor next door is not another traveler. Instead, they are locals. You will find yourself getting to know them with that daily 'good morning' wave, smile, and Buongiorno.

They are often as curious about you as you are about them, and while many have become accustomed to running into guests, you are always a welcome visitor. 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. You may even find some of your neighbors offering to buy you a drink before you know it.

Surrounding

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.

Location

While the 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. Unlike a hotel, in which you simply go to your room at night, you will literally be going back to your local village home.

Amenities

All of the village homes are actual homes that were private residences at one time. As such, they all have private bathrooms, kitchens, refrigerators, etc. All of the homes are also air-conditioned and heated. They also have a television in each home with satellite service, allowing you English Language programming. Nearly all of the homes also offer free wireless Internet. Given that these are actual homes, each is completely different from the other. There is no "standardized model" like most hotels provide. Additionally, with the exception of a mid-week cleaning and linen change, there is no housekeeping or room service.

Assignment

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.

Culture Discovery Vacations doesn't charge different prices for different homes, so Culture Discovery Vacations does its best to assign homes based on what they know about guests that are booking. For example, if Culture Discovery Vacations knows that you would rather not walk up a few flights of stairs or uphill, Culture Discovery Vacations will give you one of the lower-lying homes if available.

If you are a married couple booking, Culture Discovery Vacations will give you a one-bedroom home if available. Culture Discovery Vacations tries to assign two-bedroom homes to couples or friends traveling together.

If you request a specific home, Culture Discovery Vacations will try to be sure you get the one you desire. However, Culture Discovery Vacations also has to consider logistics. For example, Culture Discovery Vacations cannot put a solo traveler in a two-bedroom home that sleeps four when it has two couples traveling together that would like to share a home, and that is all it has left.

Program

Day 1: Welcome to Soriano and the medieval chestnut festival

  • Places: Rome FCO Airport, Soriano nel Cimino
  • Classes & Experiences: n/a
  • Meals: Dinner: Welcome dinner at Tre Scalini (included)

Culture Discovery Vacations offers a shuttle to Soriano nel Cimino from Rome Fiumicino airport at 10:30 a.m. Note: Unlike Culture Discovery Vacations' other Soriano-based vacations, during the festival weeks Culture Discovery Vacations does not have an afternoon shuttle, and everyone must arrive in town before 1:00 p.m. This is due to the fact that the main streets in town are closed to vehicle traffic in the afternoon and evening. For those arriving at times that do not coincide with the shuttle schedule, Culture Discovery Vacations can arrange for a private driver to bring you to Soriano for an extra charge.

Once in Soriano, the Culture Discovery Vacations team 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 5:30 p.m., you will meet in a local Gelato shop for one of Culture Discovery Vacations' signature daily activities: Gelato! Culture Discovery Vacations believes it is your duty to have at least one gelato per day when you are here, so Culture Discovery Vacations will get right to it. While having gelato, you'll talk about the week ahead and get to know one another a little more. Culture Discovery Vacations will also tell you all about the history of the festival and how the town divides itself into four competing contradas (clans).

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" (or "The Rock"). Those that live in the northeast part of town belong to the "Papacqua Contrada" (or "The Papal Waters").

Those in the northwest belong to the "Trinita Contrada" (or "The Trinity"), while those living on the south side of town are in the "San Giorgio Contrada" (or "The St. George"). 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 dinner tonight, you will dine in an ancient monastery in Soriano that has been converted to a wonderful restaurant. Here you will sample many local specialties in the first of many multi-course meals as you dive headfirst in Italian culinary culture.

The menu for tonight's dinner is:

Appetizer

A sampling of Local Salame, Prosciutto, Porcini Bruschetta, Olive Bruschetta, Ascoline Olives (fried sausage-stuffed olives), and Sutrini (a local crepe with Romano cheese)

First course

For your first course tonight, you 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).

Second course

After the pasta dishes, you will sample local grilled sausages and Tagliata al aceto balsamico (a grilled steak, marinated in balsamic vinegar atop a bed of rucola salad)

Dessert

Finally, you will be brought a lemon sorbet dessert and end the evening with a glass of Limoncello. As always, wine is provided with all dinners, and Culture Discovery Vacations favors small local wineries wherever you dine. Tonight's wine will be a local red Umbrian wine.

During week #1 of the festival:

After dinner, you 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.

During week #2 of the festival:

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.

Note: Because of the festival, most roads in town will be closed today. The transportation must run on a very tight schedule today. Culture Discovery Vacations will not be able to wait for anyone that is late, and Culture Discovery Vacations will not be able to provide any transportation that would get you into town after 5:00 p.m.

Day 2: Festival market and the Palio or the medieval court

  • Places: Soriano nel Cimino
  • Classes & Experiences: Festivities of the Chestnut Festival (included)
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: One of the festival taverns (included), dinner: one of the festival taverns (included)

Today is a day full of festivities in Soriano, so you will stay in town all day. The activities of the day will vary between week 1 and week 2 of the festival.

During week #1 of the festival:

In the morning hours, 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 salamis, cheeses, honey, gift items, wine, clothing, etc. In addition, you will find all sorts of performances happening in the town piazza today!

You are free to explore all morning, and at around noon, you 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! You'll have Local Pasta, Bruschetta, and Veal-Chestnut stew.

In the afternoon, for those that would like, you will leave town on foot at about 4:00 with hundreds of other locals to a field about a mile from town. You 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 you walk back into town (uphill all the way!) with the victors, and enter the piazza, where the thousands will be waiting for your arrival.

For those not coming to the event, spend the afternoon at your leisure, and at around 6 p.m., you will be there as the contradas parade back into town after the palio and the winners are announced.

Tonight for dinner, you will be eating in the Trinita Contrada's tavern. This is as casual as it gets! Festival Fare, Italian style. Paper placemats, plastic dishes, and cups, but great homemade food in an ancient grotto. You'll have Polenta, fire-grilled sausages and chicken.

After dinner, there will be a performance in Piazza. This usually features a performance by the medieval swordsmen of the Rocca Contrada. You take seats in the stands in Piazza. The lights go out and torches light up. After a few moments, you hear deafening drumming as the drawbridge leading up to the medieval quarter and 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.

During Week #2 of the Festival:

Today is the final day of the festival and by far the biggest. Spend the morning today exploring the town on your own. The entire town is closed to traffic as thousands of people fill the streets for the big event.

Browse among the countless vendors here for the festival, selling local art, salames, cheeses, wine, honey, and much more. 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.

At around noon, you will all meet up in the town piazza and head down 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!

After lunch, you will have prime seats waiting for you in piazza for the "Corteo Storico" (Historic Medieval Court), a massive parade full of fanfare, amazing medieval costumes, performances of flag throwers, and swordsmen, plus much more. This is truly a magnificent event that you will never forget!

Finally, in the evening you will have dinner in the Trinita Tavern.

Day 3: Orvieto + 5-course cooking class

  • Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Orvieto
  • Classes & Experiences: Cooking class resulting in dinner (included). App: Panzanella, 1st: Risotto with Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese & Balsamic Vinegar Reduction, 2nd: Tuscan Roasted Chicken, side: Tuscan Roasted Potatoes, dessert: Tiramisu
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: in Orvieto (included), dinner: The results of the cooking class (included)

This morning, you will all meet in a local coffee bar and pastry shop in Soriano’s main Piazza. Here you will have your traditional Italian breakfast of freshly baked pastries and cappuccino.

After breakfast, you will drive to the Umbrian city of Orvieto which is the home to one of Italy’s most magnificent cathedrals, as well as the world-renowned white Orvieto Classico wine and beautiful ceramics shops. Here you will have the morning free to explore the Duomo and shop in this wonderful cliff-top town.

You'll have lunch in a local restaurant in Orvieto, then head back to Soriano for your first cooking class. The Italian cooking classes are held at Villa Eddarella, which is just 5 minutes from town. The villa is an 18th-century farmhouse that was built by Paola's own ancestors. The owners have completely restored into a beautiful country villa, with a breathtaking 700 sq.ft. teaching kitchen on the ground floor and views of the rolling hills that are to die for.

As you arrive, the owners will give everyone a quick familiarization tour of the villa, and you will immediately learn one of the most important themes of the week: "Casa mia e' casa tua" (my house is your house). In other words, when they show you how they divide wine bottles in our 90-bottle wine rack, they'll also show you where the openers are, and where the glasses are. When you want some wine, have at it :-). You are all a big family this week.

After you have been given your aprons and recipe books (yours to take home at the end of the week), you will get down to business. You have a huge meal to make for dinner, so you'll not waste much time, especially since the cooking classes are extremely 'hands-on'.

Together, you will prepare Panzanella, which is a Tuscan bread salad made with fresh tomatoes from the gardens, onion, olive oil, vinegar, and other various fresh veggies growing outside. For your first course, you will prepare a delicate white Risotto with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a balsamic vinegar reduction, followed by a family recipe for Tuscan roasted chicken and potatoes that Culture Discovery Vacations promises will leave you in absolute awe. Finally, for dessert, you will be preparing a family recipe for Tiramisu, which is guaranteed to be the best you have ever tasted.

During all of the cooking classes, you work, but you laugh and play as well. You break out the wine (and sometimes the Grappa). You may sing along to the background music as you are prepping, and everyone takes little breaks along the way. The villa even has a computer and WIFI Internet right in the kitchen for those of you that can't get away from your e-mail.

You may find that you need some herbs, and a few guests will be sent out to the garden to pick them. 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 Culture Discovery Vacations gets the occasional person that doesn't cook, they have just as much fun!

Dinner tonight will be the result of all of your hard work, and Culture Discovery Vacations promises you won't be wanting for more! Culture Discovery Vacations has yet to have a guest tell them 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.

Day 4: A day of wine and cheese in Tuscany

  • Places: Montalcino, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Montepulciano, and Pienza, Tuscany
  • Classes & Experiences: Possible truffle hunting or wine grape harvest depending on the time of year (included)
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: With the owners of a Brunello Winery in Montalcino (included), dinner: Cantina de' Ricci (included)

After breakfast, you will head out for a day full of wine, cheese, and more in beautiful Southern Tuscany. You'll start by driving to your furthest point today, the town of Castelnuovo d'Abate. To get there, you 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, Letters to Juliet, and many more.

As you arrive, you 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. The monks now pray privately outside of the abbey, however, you are still able to listen to the Gregorian chants of the monks that reside here.

After the service, you 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, Culture Discovery Vacations has something truly exclusive in store for you today. You will visit the small, private Piombaia winery in Montalcino.

Piombaia is a true artisan "micro-winery". They are one of the very few growers that still make wine manually with ancient basket presses, completely by hand. Their wine is completely organic and their vineyards are biodynamic. They produce only around 600 cases of their Brunello per year!

The owners are extremely close friends of Culture Discovery Vacations, and they will host you to a wonderful lunch as you sample their Brunello wine with your meal, as well as some of their other special wines. As you 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 of Culture Discovery Vacations' weeks and provides for a truly exclusive and unique Brunello experience.

After lunch, they will treat you to a private tour of their vineyards before you move on. If time and weather permitting, you may go on a truffle hunt while you are here.

Next, you'll take the short drive to beautiful Pienza, known for its incredible Pecorino cheese. You will have some time to walk around this charming village, do some Pecorino cheese tastings, and do some shopping before you leave for the town of Montepulciano, where you will do your final wine tasting and tour of the day.

Montepulciano is known for its Vino Nobile wine, a primary competitor for the Brunellos. Here you will tour the Cantina de'Ricci. This ancient 14th-century cellar was built underneath the Palace of Cardinal Ricci and is widely considered to be the most beautiful wine cellar in the world.

Like Piombaia, the owners here are very close personal friends. In fact, you will be treated to a visit to the ancient 3,000-year-old private cellar where "EMIRO" wine is aged. EMIRO is a project between Piombaia, Cantina de'Ricci, and Culture Discovery... a special wine to seal the mutual friendship. One in which these three friends have produced a first-ever exclusive blend of Brunello and Vino Nobile and only 1,000 bottles (83 cases) per year are produced. While in the cellar, be sure to ask about "The Grappa Bottles" and you will quickly come to understand the deep bond between these winemakers and the founders of Culture Discovery.

After the cellar tour, you 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.

For dinner tonight, you will be the guests of Enrico (the owner of the winery) and his family and dine at a specially prepared meal only for your group.

Day 5: 5-course cooking class and Viterbo, the city of Popes

  • Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo
  • Classes & Experiences: Cooking class resulting in lunch (included), App: Sausage & Stracchino Bruschetta, 1st: Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce, 2nd: Sautéed Spinach, Side: Tuscan Roasted Potatoes, Dessert: Panna Cotta with Chocolate-Hazelnut sauce
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: The meal we prepare in our cooking class (included), dinner: Katia's Taverna (included)

After breakfast, you'll take the short drive to Villa Eddarella for your second cooking class. Today the appetizer will be a unique Bruschetta with stracchino cheese and either Pancetta and rosemary or local sausage. For your first course, you will be making pasta from scratch again, either Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce or Gnocchi with Sorrentina sauce. Your second course will either be Brasato al Barolo (Beef roast braised in Barolo wine, Brandy and local spices), Chicken Cacciatore, or local specialty Porchetta. Finally, for dessert, you will either make Panna Cotta with chocolate hazelnut and strawberry topping or Crostata with preserves made by you from fruit grown at Villa Eddarella.

Lunch, of course, will be the meal you prepare in class.

After some espresso, grappa, limoncello, etc., there is usually some time to relax back in town before your afternoon and evening excursion. 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. It has been the backdrop of many movies, including La Dolce Vita, and is truly one of Italy's hidden treasures.

You will make your way into the ancient walled city, and take a walk through the main shopping district. If you're in the mood for some gelato, you'll stop in the Gran Caffè 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, you 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, which lasted nearly three years. After it had been going on for almost two 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.

After visiting the Palace, you will make your way on foot to the San Pellegrino district of Viterbo, which is known to be the best-preserved medieval quarter in all of Europe.

Before returning to Soriano, you will take a nighttime walk through the San Pellegrino district and enjoy the amazing medieval buildings bathing in amber light... truly breathtaking.

For dinner tonight, you will be hosted in Katia's private family tavern. Katia is like your long-lost Italian sister. Everyone loves her while she helps Carla teach cooking classes. Her tavern, built by her husband, Lucca, is a place where their family gets together for special occasions. Her family will be cooking and hosting a wonderful dinner for you tonight.

Day 6: Highlights of Umbria: Assisi and Deruta

  • Places: Assisi, Deruta
  • Classes & Experiences: Try your hand at the potter's wheel in Deruta (included)
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: Osteria degli Orti in Assisi (included), dinner: Maria Grazia's Villa (included)

After breakfast, you head to the Umbrian city of Deruta, which is known for its world-famous 'majolica' ceramics. 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. You 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.

As you leave Deruta, you will make your way to Assisi, 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.

You'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.

After this long day, you will drive back to Soriano. Tonight you are hosted in the Mountain Villa of Maria Grazia, the sister of a member of the team. She has a tiny B&B in the mountains above Soriano, and you will dine with her and her husband Cesare, who happens to be Culture Discovery Vacations' contractor! Maria Grazia will have prepared a wonderful home meal for you tonight. This is always a major highlight of the trip.

Day 7: The dying city, an olive mill, and winery and pizza class

  • Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Civita di Bagnoregio, Castiglione in Teverina
  • Classes & Experiences: Pizza (included), Pecorino & Ricotta Cheesemaking (included), Grappa making (included)
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included), lunch: At Madonna delle Macchie Winery and olive mill (included), dinner: The pizza you make at the villa! (included)

This morning, you will all meet in a local coffee bar and pastry shop in Soriano's main Piazza. Here you will have a traditional Italian breakfast of freshly baked pastries and cappuccino.

After breakfast, you will head out for the nearby dying city of Civita di Bagnoregio, 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 footbridge. Civita resembles a ghost town but is extremely well kept as a place where time is frozen. Guests often say that this is their favorite of the 'destinations'. This town has a striking beauty like nothing else.

In the early afternoon, you will take a short drive to a small family-run winery and antique olive mill in the village of Castiglione in Teverina. Here, one of the owners will give you a private tour of their wine cellar and olive mill, followed by a tasting of their line of wines and their olive oil.

As you are tasting, you will have a wonderful buffet lunch in their garden made by the owners with many local delicacies, and of course… their wine! This is likely to be one of the highlights not only of the vacation but your life. In fact, when Culture Discovery Vacations does Alumni trips, their past guests always tell them that coming back here is at the top of their list.

In Italy, making Pizza is a social event, similar to the way many people think of having a Barbecue. It is a time of fun and laughter where bonds are forged. It is a truly special experience while the group shares the homemade pizza one tray at a time as it is pulled from the wood-fired brick oven and carried piping hot to the garden table under the vines and stars.

You 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 you will drink some wine!

It will be true Italian country pizza, like nothing you have ever experienced. Each guest will have the opportunity to make their own pizza, plus you will make all sorts of additional pizzas, such as Focaccia, Pizza Margherita, Sweet Onion pizza, Sausage and Porcini Pizza, and for dessert, you will have Sugar Pizza and finally Nutella Pizza.

While all of this is going on, you will be visited by a local shepherd, who will bring some fresh milk. You will make fresh Ricotta and Pecorino cheese together! Naturally, this fresh cheese is used in the classes!

f the Grappa-Master is in town, you will head down to the wine cellar for hands-on participation in making this Italian liquor in a copper still. For farewell dinner, you will hang out in the cabana or the villa dining room for a wonderful and casual pizza dinner to end your week!

Day 8: Goodbye (but see you again soon!)

  • Places: Rome FCO Airport
  • Classes & Experiences: n/a
  • Meals: Breakfast: Cappuccino and pastries at Bar Roma (included)

Sadly, your week comes to a close this morning. The shuttle leaves town at 6:15 a.m. as most outbound flights require early morning airport arrivals. You will be at the Orte train station for a drop-off by 6:40 a.m. and at the Rome Fiumicino airport by 8:00 a.m. This will be sufficient time for outbound flights leaving after 9:45 a.m.

Note

Festival schedule is unpredictable

Culture Discovery Vacations bases this planned itinerary based on past years' experience, but Italian festival schedules are usually only finalized weeks before the festival and are subject to change. Additionally, events may be moved around or canceled based on weather conditions. For example, the Palio event and the outdoor shows in the main piazza cannot be held if it is raining. In these cases, Culture Discovery Vacations will do their best to find alternatives. If the festival events are re-scheduled, Culture Discovery Vacations makes every effort to rearrange their own schedule to accommodate, but those changes cannot be guaranteed.

Itinerary subject to change

This is a base itinerary, which is subject to minor changes before the vacation begins. Changes may be a reorganization of days due to closure and festivals, changes due to weather, or seasonal changes. Additionally, these itineraries are prepared well in advance, and at times there are unexpected closures for various reasons that require Culture Discovery Vacations to alter the plans. In the end, their goal is always to make it better for guests, and when substitutions happen, they are always wonderful.

Menu variations

The menus listed on the itineraries are subject to change depending on the season. Culture Discovery Vacations uses only fresh ingredients wherever possible, so if they are unable to prepare a certain dish, it will be substituted. Occasionally Culture Discovery Vacations makes changes to some items as certain dishes prove to be very popular.

Weather

Some places on the itineraries don't work well with cold weather or rain. Culture Discovery Vacations may have to have some of the meals indoors that we're scheduled to be outside. When Culture Discovery Vacations does expect rain, they try to rearrange the schedule to make the best of it, but substitutions may be made.

Included excursions

Historical sites, factories, wineries, and mills you will visit:

  • Medieval Chestnut Festival: Reserved seating at shows and fair meals
  • Asssi - Birthplace of St. Francis
  • Madonna delle Macchie Winery and olive mill in Castiglione (Orvieto wine and Umbrian olive oil)
  • Piombaia Winery in Montalcino (Brunello Wine)
  • Cantina de' Ricci Winery in Montepulciano (Vino Nobile and Vin Santo Wine)
  • Ceramics factory in Deruta

Location

Many of the 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 the location at an extremely convenient near halfway 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 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 many people.

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 your 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 the 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 and relaxation.

On days that you have cooking classes in the morning, you all have breakfast together in town before boarding the minibus for the five-minute drive to the villa. When you have cooking classes in the afternoon, you head here after morning excursions.

While you will have your private village home in town, one thing is common among all of the 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. Culture Discovery Vacations does everything it can to make you feel completely at home, so it simply becomes 'home base' for everyone.

Food

This holiday is all about food and wine, and if there is one comment Culture Discovery Vacations hears 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, Culture Discovery Vacations doesn't do "tourist food". Culture Discovery Vacations insists on the highest quality at all times, and always pulls out all of the stops.

The wine is always flowing at lunch and dinner. Culture Discovery Vacations always focuses on local wines from the area you are in, and it is always fantastic! Additionally, the meals at 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!

What you'll be cooking

Class #1 - 5-course family lunch - honoring traditional Italian cooking

  • Appetizer: Tuscan Panzanella
  • First Course: Ravioli - from scratch with home-made Ricotta & Spinach
  • Second Course: Tuscan Roasted Chicken (made in a wood-fired oven)
  • Side: Tuscan Roasted Potatoes (made in a wood-fired oven)
  • Dessert: Special recipe for Tiramisu

Class #2 - 5-course regional Italian classics

  • Appetizer: Pancetta & Stracchino Cheese Bruschetta
  • First Course: Pappardelle Pasta from scratch with Bolognese sauce made from scratch
  • Second Course: Brasato al Barolo Wine Roast
  • Side: Sautéed Zucchini from the garden
  • Dessert: Panna Cotta with berry sauce (or wine sauce in season)

Class #3 - Traditional wood-fired oven baked pizza

You prepare the dough together, as well as all of the toppings as you fire up the 500-year-old wood-fired brick oven! Each guest will have the chance to make their own individual pizza with toppings of their choice. And that's not all...

It's a regional and Roman tradition to make pan-pizzas. You'll help Carla prepare several types of them such as Margherita Pizza, Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Pizza, Caramelized Onion Pizza, Cherry Tomato Pizza, Zucchini Flower, and Cream Pizza. Even a dessert pizza made with the fresh ricotta cheese we've made and also includes a homemade, Nutella-style, hazelnut, and chocolate spread.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Alcoholic beverages

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
  • Other dietary requirements on request
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 7 nights private accommodation in a beautiful medieval village home for each night on the itinerary (each party has their own private home)
  • 20 meals (7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 7 dinners) as listed in the itinerary
  • All cooking classes and associated food costs
  • Culture Discovery apron and recipe book
  • Welcome goodies in your home (wine, mineral water, coffee, cookies, etc.)
  • Daily day trips and excursions
  • Wine with all lunches and dinners
  • Transfers to and from Rome Airport or Orte Train Station (transfers based on the published schedule)
  • Transportation all week to all destinations (by bus)
  • All entry fees for excursions, tours, and tastings
  • English-speaking vacation host and guides throughout the duration

What's not included

  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses
  • Any consumption of minibar or bar/restaurant facilities in a hotel outside the planned activities
  • Alcohol beyond what is on pre-planned menus
  • Room upgrades

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Airport transfer is included in the price. Culture Discovery Vacations offers one free shuttle for arrivals from Rome (FCO) Airport: Departure at 11:00 a.m. If you are flying on the same day, be sure to get a flight that arrives before 10:30 a.m. in order to give you time to get through customs.

Please note that while on other Soriano weeks, Culture Discovery Vacations offers an afternoon train station pick up, but they do not offer it on the medieval festival weeks because Soriano closes to vehicle traffic in the afternoon.

On the last day, there is one morning shuttle for departures. You leave Soriano at around 6:00 a.m. You arrive at the Orte Train Station at around 6:30 a.m. This will be sufficient time for trains leaving after 7:00 a.m. You arrive at the Rome (FCO) Airport at around 8:00 a.m. This will be sufficient time for outbound flights leaving after 10:00 a.m. If all departing flights or trains are late enough to allow you to leave later, you will leave later. Similarly, if someone has an early flight, the group may leave a bit earlier.

If you are continuing on to another destination within Italy, Culture Discovery Vacations suggests that you ask them to drop you off at the Orte Train Station. From there, you can quickly get to the main train station in Rome for trains nationwide. If you would like to rent a car at the end of your vacation with Culture Discovery Vacations. the most convenient (and cost-effective) way would be to have Culture Discovery Vacations drop you off at the Rome FCO airport, where there are many rental agencies and easy access. Note: There are no reliable car rental agencies in or around Soriano.

If you would like to sleep in and depart at a later time, Culture Discovery Vacations can generally arrange it so long as they know in advance. Transportation in this case will be at your own expense. Culture Discovery Vacations will need to have access to your home no later than 9:00 a.m. for cleaning.

If you make this choice, you will be on your own for transportation as Culture Discovery Vacations is limited to one vehicle for transfers, and the staff is spread thin on Saturdays with cleaning the homes, checking people in, and helping people with their departures.

There is no taxi service from Soriano, nor are there any car rental agencies. There is, however, a regularly scheduled bus service to the Orte Train station from which you can get to just about any other destination in Italy.

Airport: Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport Airport transfer included: Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
8 days / 7 nights
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Saturday October 15, 2022
(8 days / 7 nights)

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