A slightly modified version of our other cooking vacations with a special added bonus. One day this week we will be harvesting olives together and bringing them to a local cold press olive oil mill. We will make our own olive oil from the olives we picked, and take our own olive oil home with us. This week also features three hands-on cooking classes, plus excursions to Assisi, Orvieto, The Tuscan hill towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano and Pienza, Deruta, Castiglione in Teverina and Viterbo. We'll visit three wineries and make our own Ricotta cheese as well.
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.
This is a very special week, during which we will do many of the things we do on our other weeks (cooking, visiting wineries), but we will also spend a morning harvesting olives, then head over to a cold press olive oil mill and make our own Extra Virgin Umbrian Olive Oil. This is a truly exclusive week, as the olive mill only does this with our guests. You will pick the olives. You will experience the olive mill, making oil from your olives, bring home the olive you made!
The huge crowds of tourists that fill Italy every year have diminished, and there is a slight chill in the air. It isn't quite winter yet, but the bustling cities settle into a quieter calm, and the farms seem as though they are preparing for hibernation. There is one job left this year, and it is perhaps the best of all: The Olive Harvest.
There is a magnificent beauty to Italy this time of year. You wake up to misty mornings, while afternoon gelato gives way to hot sipping chocolate. The fresh vegetable salads of the summer give way to wonderful soups such as Ribollita, and the crowds normally found in museums and attractions have all but completely disappeared.
But there are two words that really matter during the first two weeks of November: Olio Nuovo, or new oil. There is nothing quite like it, and if you have never had freshly milled olive oil, you are in for quite a treat. Other companies offer olive oil experiences, but we are unaware of anyone else that offers anything close to what we are doing today. This is truly a life experience none of our guests ever forget.
On one day this week we will be harvesting olives and making olive oil! We will either harvest olives right at Villa Eddarella, or head to an Umbrian Olive Orchard and harvest their olives. This is where Italy's Best olive oil is grown. We'll spend the morning harvesting olives together, then will make our way to a cold press olive mill with our baskets of olives.
As we arrive at the mill, we will weigh what we picked, then dump it into the mill. We watch our olives get sucked into the press, where they will begin a crushing process. While the olives are being turned into olive oil, we will take a tour of the winery here, do a wine tasting and try some of this harvest's oil while we have a wonderful lunch here at the mill. After the tour and tasting, we will head back into the mill.
Our olives have now been made into olive oil, and each one of us will walk up to the spout where our oil comes out of the centrifuge, and fill our own one liter can of olive oil that we just made from olives we just picked. This is the only time of year that we actually see it in operation and have the opportunity to experience it first hand. Furthermore, an exclusive experience that the olive mill only does with us!
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. Our first two classes are complete five-course meals, during which you are completely involved in everything. Our final class of the week is all about pizza!
Depending on the week you come, we may make fresh papardelle pasta with home-made Bolognese sauce, Home-Made Ravioli, Tuscan Herb-Roasted Chicken in our wood-fired oven, Country Wood-Fired Pizza, Eggplant Parmesan, Chicken Cacciatore, Fresh Ricotta Cheese, Home-Made Biscotti, Gelato, and much more.
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.
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 6 PM, we will meet in a local Gelato shop that is walking distance from your home. We will all spend some time getting to know one another over a Gelato as we discuss what's ahead for the week.
Next, we will do a little shopping for tomorrow's cooking class. We will stop in a local fruit and vegetable shop, a grocer, and local butcher. We will meet and get to know some of the shopkeepers in the village and pick up what we will need. While shopping, you will get your first introduction to some of the ingredients that make Tuscan and Umbrian cooking so unique. These are ingredients most people back home are unaware of, and will be featured in much of this week's cooking!
Next we will do casual walking tour of Soriano's medieval quarter. We'll have a walk around the narrow streets of this beautiful village. During our walk we'll stop in the studio of the extremely talented local artist, Riccardo Sanna and have a look at what he is working on.
For dinner tonight we will dine in an ancient monastery in Soriano that has been converted to a fantastic 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 Umbrian wine from nearby vineyards.
Highlights: Welcome to Soriano!
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 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.
We will begin our first full day together with a bang. In the morning, we'll meet for our daily traditional Italian breakfast at Bar-Pasticceria Roma, a local pastry shop & 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 & freshly baked pastries is on us (tea, milk, juice, etc, is also available). We will have our breakfast alongside the local villagers before our transportation arrives to take us to the villa for our first cooking class.
Our 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. We 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 we arrive, we'll 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 we show you how we divide wine bottles in our 90-bottle wine rack (not to mention our 500 bottle cellar), we'll also show you where the corkscrews are, and where the glasses are. When you want some wine, have at it. We 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), we will get down to business. We have a huge meal to make for lunch, so we'll not waste much time, especially since our cooking classes are extremely 'hands-on'.
Lunch today will be the results of all of your 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. Most important of all, you will know how to make all of this back home.
After we have had our lunch and chased it with some espresso (one member of our group is always chosen as our "Barista" for the week!). Or maybe you would prefer a little Grappa or Limoncello after the meal!
After some espresso, grappa, limoncello, etc., we 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.
Tonight we will be back in Soriano for dinner at the Tre Scalini Trattoria, which is in walking distance to your home.
Highlights: 5-Course Cooking Class & The City of Popes
Places: Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo
Classes: Panzanella, Ravioli w/ Ricotta & Spinach, Tuscan Roasted Chicken, Tuscan Roasted Potatoes, Tiramisu -or- Eggplant Parmesan, Pici Pasta w/ Fennel Ragu, Saltimbocca alla Romana, Frascati Sauted Porcini , Tiramisu -or- Umbrian Farro Salad, Ravioli w/ Ricotta & Spinach, Tuscan Roasted Chicken, Tuscan Roasted Potatoes, Tiramisu
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar-Pasticceria Roma
Lunch: The meal we prepare in cooking class
Dinner: At the Tre Scalini Trattoria in Soriano
Walking on Sunday: Walking to Piazza from all homes is either flat, or downhill. The villa for our cooking classes requires no walking. In the afternoon, we will visit Viterbo, where the total amount of walking will be roughly 0.6 miles (1 km) which is all flat.
Time in Bus on Sunday: The drive to the villa in the morning is about 5 minutes. For the afternoon excursion, we will be in the bus for roughly thirty each way.
Rest Time on Sunday: 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 eveyone just chooses to relax at the villa, causing 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 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.
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.
After our morning breakfast we head to the Umbrian city of Deruta, which is known for its world-famous 'majolica' ceramics.
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.
After this long day, we will drive back to Soriano. Tonight we 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 we will dine with her and her husband Cesare, who happens to be our contractor! Maria Grazia will have prepared a wonderful home meal for us tonight. This is always a major highlights of the trip.
Highlights: Great cities of Umbria: Assisi & Deruta
Places: Assisi, Deruta
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Pozzo della Mensa
Dinner: Maria Grazia's House
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.
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 our morning breakfast, we'll head back to the local shops in town to do some shopping for this morning's cooking class. As with Sunday, 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.
For those that would prefer to get a tour of Soriano. we will do casual walking tour of Soriano's medieval quarter. We'll have a walk around the narrow streets of this beautiful village.
During our walk we'll stop in the studio of the extremely talented local artist, Riccardo Sanna and have a look at what he is working on.
We'll be meeting in the piazza this evening for tonight's dinner. All of you will have gotten to know Catia 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 we are Catia's guests as she prepares a wonderful dinner for us, including her amazing Lasagna!
Highlights: 5-Course Cooking Class & Soriano
Places: Soriano nel Cimino
Classes: Pancetta-Stracchino Bruschetta, Pappardelle pasta from scratch w/ Bolognese, Brasato al Barolo Roast, Sauted Zucchini, Panna Cotta -or- Sausage-Stracchino Bruschetta, Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, Chicken Cacciatore, Sauted Bell Peppers, Crostata -or- Pancetta-Stracchino Bruschetta, Pappardelle pasta from scratch w/ Bolognese, Porchetta, Tuscan Beans, Panna Cotta
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: The meal we prepare in our cooking class
Dinner: Catias Cellar
Walking on Tuesday: The walking tour in Soriano will be about a half a mile (0.8km) for those that wish to join in. Soriano, as you will know by now, ahs lots of hills and cobblestone streets. Dinner tonight will be in the Catia's cellar, which will be about a 5 or 6 minute walk down the cobblestone streets of Soriano. The return is a little bit uphill with some stairs.
Time in Bus on Tuesday: The drive to the villa in the morning is about 5 minutes.
Rest Time on Tuesday: After lunch today you have the bulk of the afternoon and early evening for rest.
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.
After our morning breakfast we will head out for a day full of wine, cheese & more in beautiful Southern Tuscany.
After this long day, we will return to Soriano for dinner right in town, near your homes.
We will be eating at the Rottezia restaurant, which is truly unique. Under Soriano, there is a network of ancient caves, some of which dug out as an escape route for Popes living in our castle, and some during the Nazi occupation of the town in World War II. Some of these caves right under our piazza have been converted into a restaurant and pub, which is where we will have dinner 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 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 Monepulciano, 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.
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.
This morning we have breakfast at Bar Roma, then head out to harvest olives!
Depending on the week you come (we won't know which week until October), we will do one of two things: 1) We will head down to Villa Eddarella and harvest the olive trees at the villa. Or 2) We will head to an olive orchard in Casiglione in Tevernia and harvest some of their olives.
We will then head to their wine cellar where we 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.
We will then head back to the mill, where our olives have now been made into Olive Oil.
Finally, each of us will walk up to the centrifuge in the mill where our oil is going through the last step of the process as all water is separated from the oil. As the thick, green oil drips from a spout, we will each fill a one liter can of the oil that came from the olives we picked this morning and milled this afternoon!
Today you will go home with oil that you made, and came from olives you harvested. This is exclusive experience, as the olive mill only does this with OUR guests. Today will have been pure magic. A day you will never forget.
As we leave the mill with gigantic grins on our faces, we will head back to town and give you a few hours to rest and clean up. Tonight we will meet again for dinner at the Tre Scalini Trattoria in Soriano.
Highlights: Harvesting Olives, Making Oil & Wine Tasting
Places: Castiglione in Teverina
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: Castiglione in Teverina
Dinner: Tre Scalini Trattoria
Walking on Thursday: Today we will be in the fields for the harvesting of olives. There is not much walking to be worried about, but the orchard is in the countryside, so there are uneven surfaces.
Time in Bus on Thursday: The drive to the olive orchard and mill is about 40 minutes.
Rest Time on Thursday: We will get home at around 3:00 PM, assuming everything goes according to schedule. However, timing may shift due to weather. If we stay on schedule, you will have the afternoon to rest and clean up before dinner tonight.
We will spend a couple hours harvesting olives from the local trees. Our area is known for its volcanic soil, which produces excellent olives for making the best olive oil, so we are in for quite a treat!
Imagine, this is a stop on all of our tours, but this is one of only a couple weeks of the year that we actually get to be part of the olive oil making process!
After we have harvested our olives, we will head to the Madonna delle Macchie Olive Mill and Winery in the tiny village of Castiglione in Teverina, which borders with the well-known Umbrian city of Orvieto. This is a tiny family run artisan operation with a very low production of the highest quality wine and oil.
The olive mill here is an ultra cold-press mill that produces a top-quality extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil with the lowest possible acidity. Consider that in order to be called Extra Virgin, olive oil needs to have less than 0.8% acidity, and the olive oil here averages 0.2%, four times less than the standard! In other words, it is simply the best of the best of the best.
As we arrive, we will walk into the mill and weigh our olives before we dump them into a container that will start the process. We will learn all about how the olive oil making process works as our olives are being pressed into olive oil.
During our tour, we will have a full wine tasting of all their wines, as well as a tasting of the newly produced olive oil and a wonderful homemade buffet lunch.
Today is market day in Soriano. This is a true 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 we start our day.
After breakfast we 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. We'll visit the magnificent Gothic cathedral (The Duomo), then give you time to explore & shop in this wonderful cliff-top town.
We'll meet up again for lunch in a local trattoria, then after lunch we will drive back to the villa for our final (and always most popular) class of the week: Country Wood-Fired Pizza!
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.
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!
Highlights: Market Day, Orvieto, & Pizza Class
Places: Orvieto, Soriano nel Cimino
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.
Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma
Lunch: in Orvieto
Dinner: Pizza 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.
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 we will make all sorts of additional pizzas, such as Focaccia, Pizza Margherita, Sweet Onion pizza, Sausage & Porcini Pizza, and for dessert we will have Sugar Pizza and finally Nutella Pizza.
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.
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.
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