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Imagine yourself in an olive orchard nestled in the hills of Umbria, where "the best" Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes from. The olives are ripened to the perfect balance of flavor and there you are, with the nets resting on the ground, ready to harvest the olives from the trees and take them to the mill for pressing. This truly is an exclusive week as it only happens once a year from Culture Discovery Vacations' Soriano-based location. Their friends at the olive mill only share this experience with you. Seeing the olives get harvested is common, but they harvest and even make their own oil this week!
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 their original beauty. There is absolutely no better way to immerse yourself into the local culture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This itinerary closely resembles Culture Discovery Vacations' "Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun Vacation Week", during which guests do many of the same things such as; cooking, visiting wineries in Tuscany, etc. However, this week when you visit the Frantoio (Italian for olive oil mill), you will go to the trees and pick olives. It's not all fun and games as you have to take some wine breaks in-between! When you've picked enough, then you're on to the cold press where your olives will be processed to make your very own Extra Virgin Umbrian Olive Oil!
This experience is so unique that time is set aside for you at the mill to allow you to make the olive oil from the olives that you picked! You will be bringing home the Extra Virgin Olive Oil YOU made! Culture Discovery Vacations is confident in saying that this will be the most amazing olive oil you have ever had!
Take a look at the rest of what your eight-day, seven-night all-Inclusive, small group vacation in Central Italy will look like.
For those arriving in Italy today on early flights, Culture Discovery Vacations offers a shuttle to Soriano nel Cimino from Rome Fiumicino airport at 11:30 a.m. If you are already in Italy, or your flight arrives after 10:30 a.m. in Rome, Culture Discovery Vacations offers a second shuttle from the Orte Train station (a 35-minute train ride from Rome Termini station, and easy access from other major Italian cities) at 2:00 p.m. 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 that is within walking distance from your home. You will all spend some time getting to know one another over some aperitivi and gelato as you discuss what's ahead for the week.
As you leave, you will stop in one of Soriano's "Porchetta" trucks for a taste of Soriano's famous roasted suckling pig that people drive hours to try! Next, you will do a little shopping for tomorrow's cooking class. You will stop in a local fruit and vegetable shop, and the grocers next door! You will meet and get to know some of the shopkeepers in the village and pick up what you will need.
While shopping, you will get your first introduction to some of the ingredients that make Tuscan and Umbrian cooking so unique. Especially the locally produced Fennel Pollen. These are ingredients most people back home are unaware of and will be featured in much of this week's cooking!
Time permitting, you will do a casual walking tour of Soriano's medieval quarter through the narrow cobblestone streets of this beautiful village.
For dinner tonight you will dine in one of the finest restaurants in the area - Tre Scalini. Here you will dive headfirst into Italian culinary culture as you'll be treated to several local specialties in the first of many multi-course meals. The typical menu for tonight's dinner is:
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 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 Porciini Mushroom Ravioli - A Sorianese favorite as the porcini are all locally picked.
After pasta, you will be treated to a chef's selection of seasonally prepared meat and vegetable dishes.
Finally, you will be brought either a wonderful tart or chestnut, chocolate, and grappa dessert and end your evening with a glass of Limoncello or Grappa. As always, wine is provided with all dinners, and people favor small local wineries wherever they dine. Tonight's wine will be from nearby vineyards.
You will begin your first full day together with a bang. In the morning, you'll meet for daily traditional Italian breakfast at Bar-Pasticceria Roma, a local pastry shop and coffee bar located in Soriano's lively central piazza, a very short walk from the home you are staying in. As with every morning, coffee and freshly baked pastries are on us (tea, milk, juice, etc, is also available). You will have breakfast alongside the local villagers before transportation arrives to take you to the villa for your first cooking class.
Your 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 ancestors. You 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 team 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 the team shows you how they divide wine bottles in the 90-bottle wine rack (not to mention our 500 bottle cellar), they'll also show you where the corkscrews 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 lunch, so you'll not waste much time, especially since the cooking classes are extremely "hands-on".
You'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 a garden that you may be asked to run outside to pick, olive oil from its own orchard, and locally grown veggies.
Your 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 (you'll be cooking it outside in an ancient wood-fired oven!) that will leave you in absolute awe; or Saltimbocca alla Romana, cutlets sautéed and topped with cheese, prosciutto, and sage.
Finally, for dessert, you will be preparing our 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 too. 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 -- although guests that leave the technology behind do get more out of this amazing experience.
During the classes, you may find that you 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 Culture Discovery Vacations gets the occasional person who doesn't cook, they have just as much fun!
While class is happening, you will be invited to spend some "downtime" in the incredible wine, cheese, and prosciutto cellar, where you will fire up a copper still and make a batch of pure grappa. Feel free at any time to sample from the dozens of spirits and liqueurs that are made here on-site, such as Grappa, Brandy, Limoncello, Rosolio, Amaretto, or the famous "Fury" and "Inferno".
Lunch today will be the result of all of your work, you won't be wanting for more! Culture Discovery Vacations has yet to have a guest tell them they have ever had better. Most important of all, you will know how to make all of this back home.
After some espresso, grappa, limoncello, etc., you will head back to town to give you some time to take it easy and rest up. For those that wish to stay on the move, 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.
You'll make your way into the ancient walled city, and take a walk through the main shopping district. We'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 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.
Tonight you will have dinner in the nearby town of Vasanello at La Pecora Ladra. A wonderful, family-owned restaurant that will be making you a very fabulous dinner.
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 our 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.
After breakfast, you'll head back to the local shops in town to do some shopping for this morning's cooking class. As with Sunday, you will visit the local butcher, grocer, etc. Once done, you will head back down to the villa and get right to it.
Today your appetizer will be a unique Bruschetta with stracchino cheese and either Pancetta and rosemary or local sausage. For the 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 right here at the villa.
Lunch, of course, will be the meal you prepare in class.
After lunch, you will head back to Soriano for some time to rest. This afternoon we have little mid-week downtime, giving you the chance to either take an afternoon of relaxation or explore Soriano at your own pace.
For those that would prefer to get a tour of Soriano, you will do a casual walking tour of Soriano's medieval quarter. You'll have a walk around the narrow streets of this beautiful village. During the walk, you'll stop in the studio of the extremely talented local artist, Riccardo Sanna, and have a look at what he is working on.
You'll be meeting in the piazza this evening for tonight's dinner. All of you will have gotten to know Katia by now in the kitchen at Villa Eddarella. She and her husband have a beautiful ancient cellar in town that they have restored as a "hang out" of sorts, where they get together with friends, cook up a meal and enjoy good company. Tonight you are Katia's guests as she prepares a wonderful dinner for you, including her amazing Lasagna!
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 the furthest point, 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 people 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, you have 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 ours, 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 the 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 we leave for the town of Montepulciano, where you 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 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 our 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.
This morning, you have breakfast at Bar Roma, then head out to harvest olives! Depending on the week you come (Culture Discovery Vacations won't know which week until October), you will head to harvest olives at the Olive Orchard at Villa Eddarella, Castiglione in Taverna, or Campello sul Clitunno
You will spend a couple of hours harvesting olives from the local trees. The area is known for its volcanic soil, which produces excellent olives for making the best olive oil, so you are in for quite a treat!
Imagine... these are places you go on all of your vacations in the area, but this is one of only a couple weeks of the year that you actually get to be part of the olive oil-making process!
After you have harvested olives, you will head to the Madonna delle Macchie Olive Mill and Winery in the tiny village of Castiglione in Taverna which borders with the well-known Umbrian city of Orvieto. This is a tiny family-run artisan operation with very low production of the highest quality wine and oil. Depending on the week, you may opt for harvesting at the Carletti Antique Olive Oil Mill in Umbria, another high-quality, small production family olive oil mill.
Culture Discovery Vacations picks these olive oil mills for good reasons. First, they are dear friends! But there is more to it than that. The olive mills at these locations are very unique and rare. They are ultra cold-press mills that produce the absolute highest quality extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil with the lowest possible acidity. Consider that in order to be called Extra Virgin, olive oil needs to have less than 0.8 percent acidity, and the olive oil from these mills averages 0.2 percent, four times less than the standard! In other words, it is simply the best of the best of the best.
As you arrive, you will walk into the mill and weigh our olives before we dump them into a container that will start the process. You will learn all about how the olive oil-making process works as our olives are being pressed into olive oil.
If you are at the Castiglione location, you will then head to their wine cellar where you will be given a private tour of the winery side of the operation, as well as their ancient olive mill by one of the owners. During the tour, you will have a full wine tasting of all their wines, as well as a tasting of the newly produced olive oil. In either location, while the olives are pressing, you will have a wonderful homemade buffet lunch.
You will then head back to the mill, where the olives have now been made into Olive Oil. Finally, each of you will walk up to the centrifuge in the mill where the oil is going through the last step of the process as all water is separated from the oil. As the thick, green oil drips from a spout, you will each fill a one-liter can of the oil that came from the olives you picked this morning and milled this afternoon!
Harvesting olive is one of the experiences Culture Discovery Vacations offers in its Umbrian Vacation. Spend a day harvesting and pressing olives.
Today you will go home with oil that you made, and came from olives you harvested. This is an exclusive experience, as these olive mills only do this with Culture Discovery Vacations' guests. There are others that offer "Olive Oil" vacations. Most allow you to see the process. Some even allow you to pick some olives. But the ability to pick the olives, press them into oil, and take your own oil home is truly a CDV Exclusive! Today will have been pure magic. A day you will never forget.
As you leave the mill with gigantic grins on your faces, you will head back to town and give you a few hours to rest and clean up. Tonight you will meet again for dinner at the Tre Scalini Trattoria in Soriano.
Today is market day in Soriano. This is a truly local market, not a tourist market. Here you will find clothing, accessories, kitchen items, food, etc. You will have the early morning to enjoy the market at your leisure or sleep in a bit before you start your day.
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. You'll visit the magnificent Gothic cathedral (The Duomo), then give you time to explore and shop in this wonderful cliff-top town.
In Italy, making Pizza is a social event, similar to the way many of us 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!
If the Grappa-Master is in town, you will head down to the wine cellar for hands-on participation in making this Italian liquor in the own copper still.
For your 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!
Sadly, the 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.
It is highly likely that the order of the days on this itinerary may change. This is because Culture Discovery Vacations cannot be sure of cooperative weather on a given day for the olive harvest. As such, Culture Discovery Vacations will do its best to schedule the harvesting on the day with the best-expected weather of the week, and reorganize the other days around it.
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 us to alter the plans. In the end, Culture Discovery Vacations' goal is always to make it better for its guests, and when substitutions happen, they are always wonderful.
The menus listed on the itineraries are subject to change depending on the season. Culture Discovery Vacations used only fresh ingredients wherever possible, so if it is 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.
This is an autumn itinerary, so expect days to be chilly, and you may have rain. Please be prepared. Some places on the itineraries don't work well with cold weather or rain. You may have to have some of your meals indoors that were scheduled to be outside. When we do expect rain, Culture Discovery Vacations tries to rearrange the schedule to make the best of it, but substitutions may be made.
Cities and villages you will visit:
Historical sites, factories, wineries, and mills you will visit:
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 Culture Discovery Vacations' 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 Culture Discovery Vacations' primary guide for their excursions since 2007, and now he hosts many of their 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 Culture Discovery Vacations' groups to all of their locations... and their guests invariably love her!
Alyssa is Michael and Paola's daughter, and Sam is her other half. Like Michael, they are both from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angels (Like, Totally!), but they now split their time between Orlando, Florida and Italy. Alyssa grew up actually speaking Italian before English, but was mostly raised in the States, spending her summers in Italy. Sam, on the other hand, came to Italy for the first time in 2013, but picked up the language in a heartbeat and is sometimes even mistaken for an Italian.
During our Norcia weeks, we always have a pizza class at a pizzeria near Assisi, and Luigi has always been our instructor. Guests invariably fell in love with him, and a friendship developed over time. As it turned out, Luigi had been a tour guide for years in the past, and really missed that part of his life. So one day, in a pinch, Luigi hosted one of our vacations, and it was phenomenal! Next thing we knew, we got to talking and here we were. Luigi has become so much more than the Pizza Chef! He is now a host on many of our trips!
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.
The package includes 20 meals (7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 7 dinners) as listed in the itinerary.
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!
Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
Please book your flight to arrive at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Airport transfer is included in the price. Culture Discovery Vacations offers two free shuttles for arrivals:
1) From Rome (FCO) Airport: Departure at 11:30 AM.
2) From Orte Train Station: Departure at 2:00 PM.
If you are flying on the same day, be sure to get a flight that arrives before 10:30 AM in order to give you time to get through customs.
If you are already in Italy on the start date or will arrive later, Culture Discovery Vacations offers a free afternoon shuttle from the ORTE Train Station at 2:00 PM, which is roughly a 30-minute train ride from downtown Rome. IF that will not be possible, let Culture Discovery Vacations know and they can help arrange a private transfer at an additional cost.
On your departure day, there is one morning shuttle for departures. You leave Soriano at around 6:00 a.m. (If all departing flights or trains are late enough to allow the group to leave later, you will leave later. Similarly, if someone has an early flight, you may leave a bit earlier)
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 you are continuing on to another destination within Italy, Culture Discovery Vacations suggests that you have the team 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 the team 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.
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