Sorry, we have no availability on our site for this listing in the coming period.

You have successfully signed up for our newsletter!

Sign Up for Our Newsletter! Don't miss our special promotions, exclusive offers, new destinations and inspirational stories!

8 Days Palio di Siena, Cooking & Wine Tours in Tuscany

  • Palazzo Leopoldo, Via Roma 33, 53017 Radda in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

8 Days Palio di Siena, Cooking & Wine Tours in Tuscany

  • Palazzo Leopoldo, Via Roma 33, 53017 Radda in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscan Cooking Holidays

Just once per year during our regular cooking and wine vacations in Tuscany, we will visit Siena at the famed "Palio di Siena". We will have an insider's experience as we become honorary members of the Onda Contrada, dine with them, root for them, and experience festival life in Italy. Enjoy cooking classes, Tuscan wineries, wonderful sightseeing in Central and Southern Tuscany, and many other exclusive experiences that you can only experience this week. Booking this trip with us includes highly coveted balcony space for the Palio Race!

Highlights

  • 5 wine tours, 5 wine tastings
  • Cheese tasting, olive oil tasting
  • 3 cooking classes, baking class
  • Excursions in Tuscany, Chianti, Siena
  • Experience exclusive access at Palio di Siena
  • Culture Discovery Vacations apron & recipes
  • 7 breakfasts, 7 dinners, 6 lunches, wines
  • 7 nights accommodation
  • 6 days with instruction
  • English
Hide all

Palazzo Leopoldo

Our home for the week is the beautiful "Palazzo Leopoldo". This ancient Palazzo dates back to the 1400's. A private villa for centuries, the Palazzo was recently restored and converted into a beautiful boutique hotel with just 18 rooms. It features large rooms, beautiful views, and a true small-town Tuscany experience.

Amenities

  • While small, the palazzo offers most traditional services. Free WIFI throughout, air conditioning, heating, in room safes, hair dryers, laundry service, etc.

Bedrooms

The hotel Palazzo Leopoldo receives your guests in elegant bedrooms, Junior Suites and Suites with ancient furniture that witness the splendid past of the manor house, bedrooms with all the comforts, from the satelllite TV to the air conditioning. Palazzo Leopoldo's rooms and suites offer sophisticated elegance in historical ambient, together with original frescoes, cotto floors and fireplaces wide bathrooms with hydro massage shower and a enchanting view on the hills of Chianti.

Wellness Centre

Holidays in Palazzo Leopoldo are made more beautiful by the fitness and wellness area. There is the possibility to have sauna, solarium, wellness treatments, massages and to use the fitness area with gym equipment and the indoor heated pool. Palazzo Leopoldo is glad to make for its guests personalized wellness packages.

The outdoor swimming pool

The guests of Palazzo Leopoldo can, without any extra charge, use the outdoor swimming pool of Ultimo Mulino, 4 stars hotel of Ross Hotels Group that is far from Radda in Chianti only 5 minutes by car. By the swimming pool it is possible to rent towels or to have a delicious snack or lunch by the restaurant of the hotel!

Our story

If you have been reading through Culture Discovery Vacations website, it should be clear that there is a personal story behind everything we do, and this is no exception. It all started when Spartaco and Rocky were scouting the area. They really wanted to put something together here, mostly because this is Spartaco's favorite area of the country.

They happened to meet Massimo, the owner of this and three other hotels in the area, and somehow there was an instant connection. So much so, that when they told Michael about what they had put together, most of their excitement was about Massimo! They said that he was just like us, and asserted that the moment Michael met him, he would be "all in" as well.

This was roughly two years before we launched this new location, and in that time, Michael Did meet Massimo, and Was "all-in" after meeting him. In fact, in that time, a friendship was born that went beyond business. Massimo has been our guest in Soriano and we frequently visit, if for nothing else, just to hang out.

The point is that it is rare to find people that truly share our philosophy. When we do, we need to work with them for the sake of working with them. That is, people that believe that it is about friendships, and passion, and not about money, need to stick together!

Day 1: Saturday

Highlights: Welcome to Tuscany!

Places: Florence Airport; Radda in Chianti

Classes: None

Dinner: at La Loggia del Chianti

Walking on Saturday: On Saturday when you arrive, you will be walking from piazza to the hotel for check in. We will help with your bags if you desire. The total is just about 200 feet (60 meters) on a very slight incline. Dinner tonight will be at a restaurant in town that will be the equivalent of several flights of stairs each way (down on the way to dinner, and up on the way back). Total walking Saturday is about 0.25 miles (0.4 km).

Time in Bus on Saturday: The only time you will be in the bus today is to get to Radda. The drive from the airport is 37 miles (60 km), and should take roughly an hour due to winding roads and traffic.

Welcome dinner menu

Appetizer

  • A sampling of Local Salame & Bruschetta

First Course

  • Panzerotti & Pici Pasta

Second Course

  • Tagliata (Tuscan Steak w/ Balsamic Vinegar)

Dessert

  • Cantucci (Tuscan Almond Biscotti) that we will dip in sweet Vin Santo wine

Day 2: Sunday

  • Highlights: The Meleto Castle, Chianti Classico & Our First Cooking Class
  • Places: Radda in Chianti; Gaiole in Chianti
  • Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo
  • Lunch: At L'Ultimo Mulino in Gaiole
  • Dinner: The meal we prepare in cooking class
  • Walking on Sunday: There is very little walking today, and no hills to speak of. Total walking today is about 0.25 miles (0.4 km).
  • Time in Bus on Sunday: We'll be staying very close to home today. Each leg of the day is within 10 minutes, for a total of about 35 minutes in the bus today.
  • Rest Time on Sunday: After lunch we will have an hour to an hour and a half o rest at the hotel before our first cooking class begins.

Chianti wine tour #1

We will begin our first full day together with a drive to the nearby Meleto Castle, at the boundary between the ancient Republics of Siena and Florence. It will feel like a like a fairytale as we drive up the cypress lined driveway to this beautiful 13th century medieval castle surrounded by vineyards. The Castle dates back to 1269, having belonged to the Benedictine monks of the Coltibuono Abbey.

After a tour of the castle and the wine cellars, we will be treated to a private wine tasting of several of the wines that come from this property, including their Chianti Classico DOCG.

Cooking class #1

Appetizer

  • Fried Sage

First course

  • Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi

Second course

  • Pork Fillet in Chianti Wine Sauce

Dessert

  • Limoncello-Raspberry Tiramisu

Day 3: Monday

Highlights: A Day of Wine & Cheese in Southern Tuscany

Places: Montalcino; Montepulciano; Pienza; Radda in Chianti

Classes: None

Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo

Lunch: At Piombaia Winery

Dinner: At De Ricci Winery

Walking on Monday: This is a long day out, with about 1.2 miles (2 km) of walking all day. Most of the walking is during the afternoon in Montepulciano. You will have free time to browse the town on our way to the main piazza. This is about 1/2 mile (0.8 km), which is on an uphill incline. If you prefer not to do this, there is a city bus that will bring you to the piazza. There is also a 0.4 mile (0.6 km) walk after the last winery that is all downhill.

Time in Bus on Monday: This is our longest driving day of the week. The drive to Montalcino is 48 miles (78 km), which will take about 90 minutes in the morning. From there, Pienza is 19 miles (30 km), which will take about 30 min. Next the drive to Montepulciano is 7 miles (12 km), taking about 10 min, and finally the drive home is 49 miles (78 km), which will take about 80 min.

Rest Time on Monday: Today is a full day out. We will not be back in town until after dinner . Most guests take time to close their eyes on the bus ride.

Tuscany wine tours #2

We'll start by driving to our furthest point, the town of Montalcino. 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.

Montalcino is 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 will visit the small, private Piombaia winery in Montalcino.

This is the only winery we have ever encountered that makes a truly artisan wine. That is, all of their grapes are hand-picked & selected, and all of pressing is done with a manual wine press, the way it has been done for over a thousand years. They produce only five to eight thousand bottles per year here, making it something truly exclusive. However, their pricing doesn't reflect the exclusivity of this wine, except that you can only get it here.

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.

Cheese tasting

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, tour (and dinner) of the day.

Tuscany wine tours #3

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. 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.

As you visit the cellar, you will get a better feeling for how connected Culture Discovery Vacations is to this place, as well as the first winery we visited today. You are sure to hear stories about the wines we are producing together, and how an unlikely friendship of otherwise competitors was born through Culture Discovery.

After the cellar tour, we will participate in a complete tasting of these fantastic wines with dinner at the cellar, and with the owners of the winery. Again, you will have an extremely unique insider experience today, and will learn much more about wine and the business of Italian wines that you ever otherwise could.

Day 4: Tuesday

Highlights: The Palio di Siena (Day One)

Places: Radda in Chianti, Siena

Classes: None

Meals: Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo

Lunch: At the Onda Contrada

Dinner: At the Onda Contrada

Walking on Tuesday:

Tuesday will be our first day at the Palio of Siena. It is difficult to say how much walking there will be today, because we have no idea how the festival will play out, or what guests will want to do. That said, assume a couple miles (3 km) of walking, mostly flat today. Also note that this is one of Italy's most popular festivals. It will be very crowded today!

Time in Bus on Tuesday: The drive Siena is 16 miles (26 km), and will take about 40 minutes each way.

Rest Time on Tuesday: This is another full day out, however we get a late start today, and won't be leaving the hotel until around 11:30 AM.

Excursion: Palio di Siena festival

The Palio di Siena is perhaps the most famous of Italian festivals. It is a truly iconic event that has been running since the 1600's. For millions, this is a bucket list event, much like the running of the bulls in Spain.

The "Palio" is a tall banner that serves as the trophy awarded to the winner of a horse race that will take place tomorrow. The race is held in the center of the city in Siena's Piazza del Campo. Riders from 10 of the city's 17 wards (called Contrade) will race bareback around the piazza in an effort to win the highly coveted Palio.

But this event is about much more than a mere horse race. That is simply the main event that is surrounded by one of Italy's most famous festivals. The event is more about the rivalry amongst the contrade, the pageantry, the incredible decor, and life in Siena for centuries. Ask anyone from Siena, and they will tell you that the Palio may only happen twice per year, but they live it every day, all year long.

This festival is very crowded and can be very chaotic. This will be an adventure, and guests that expect order should reconsider. Things will not go as we expect, restrooms will be difficult to find, areas to sit may or may not be easy to find, etc. There will be a good amount of walking, and while we have this itinerary planned out to some degree, it is nearly impossible to how things will actually play out. We will not be able to cater to guest needs while at the festival.

Please note that Onda may not race in this Palio. There are 17 contrade in Siena, and only 10 run the race. If a contrada ran in the last race, they participate in a draw with the other contrade that also ran the last race. The 7 that did not run will automatically run this time. Of the 10 that did run in the last race, 3 are chosen to run this time. Onda most recently ran (and won) the August 2013 Palio, so they will be participating in the July 2014 draw. If they are not selected, we may have some of our meals in other taverns. Whether or not they run, Onda is our contrada, so we still support them and wear their colors!

Day 5: Wednesday

Highlights: The Palio di Siena (The Main Event)

Places: Radda in Chianti, Siena

Classes: None

Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo

Lunch: At The Onda Contrada

Dinner: At the Onda Contrada

Walking on Wednesday: Our second day at the festival will be much like the first. It is difficult to say how much walking there will be today, because we have no idea how the festival will play out, or what guests will want to do. That said, assume a couple miles (3 km) of walking, mostly flat today. This is the main day of the Palio, so it will be even more crowded today!

Time in Bus on Wednesday: The drive Siena is 16 miles (26 km), and will take about 40 minutes each way.

Rest Time on Wednesday: This is another full day out, however we get a late start today, and won't be leaving the hotel until around 11:30 AM.

Excursion: Palio di Siena festival

Today will be even more chaotic than yesterday! We cannot stress enough that guests wishing to come for this week are prepared. The crowds will be massive and disorderly. We have no way of knowing what to expect today, so you must have a sense of adventure.

Day 6: Thursday

Highlights: The Chianti Cashmere Farm, Vignavecchia Winery & The Grigliata!

Places: Radda in Chianti; Gaiole in Chianti

Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo

Lunch: At Vignavecchia

Dinner: The Grigliata

Walking on Thursday: When we visit the cashmere farm, our mini bus may not be able to get all the way there. If this is the case, we may need to walk about 0.25 miles (0.4 km) each way. Other than that, there is very little walking today.

Time in Bus on Thursday: There is very little time in the bus today, with a total of about 20 minutes.

Rest Time on Thursday: Today is a quite relaxing day. After lunch, we have a couple hours of relaxation time at the hotel before the Grigliata.

Baking class

Dessert

  • Tuscan Biscotti & Tartufo

Day excursion: Cashmere goat farm

Nora Kravis is an American woman that has lived here for more than 30 years, and has developed this wonderful farm where she produces some of the best cashmere in the world. We'll get to know her goats and learn all about her wonderful cashmere while here.

Wine tasting #4

After the farm, we will stop in at the Vignavecchia winery, which is just 2 minutes away. The Meleto winery we visited a few days back was a good example of a larger, more commercial winery of the Chianti region. This gives us an example of a more mid-sized winery in the area.

Day 7: Friday

  • Highlights: Greve in Chianti, Schiacciata & Our Final Cooking Class
  • Places: Greve in Chianti; Castellinuzza; Radda in Chianti
  • Breakfast: At Palazzo Leopoldo
  • Lunch: At Castellinuzza e Piuca
  • Dinner: The meal we prepare in cooking class
  • Walking on Friday: There is not much walking today, except what you do on your own in Greve, which is completely flat. Estimate roughly 1/2 mile (0.8 km) today.
  • Time in Bus on Friday: There will be about a total of 1 hour in the bus today, half hour each way.
  • Rest Time on Friday: After lunch, we will have about an hour and a half of rest time at the hotel before our cooking class.

Day excursion: Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti is a great little town with a large piazza, full of excellent shopping. Being the final day of the week, we have set aside a couple hours today give everyone time to get some shopping and browsing in on their own.

Tuscan wine tours #5

As we leave Greve, we will head up to the tiny little hamlet of "Castellinuzza". Just two families live in this little hamlet, and they are the Tuscan answer to the Hatfield's and the McCoys! We'll be spending the afternoon with one of the families. Here, they raise Chianina Cows. These are the cows used for Florentine Steak, considered the best in Italy. They also have a tiny little winery here, giving us our fifth winery of the week.

Cooking class #3

Appetizer

  • Pear and Pecorino Tart

First course

  • Tuscan Lasagna

Second course

  • Stuffed Turkey Breast with Local Herbs

Dessert

  • Cantucci (Tuscan Almond Biscotti) with Vin Santo Wine

The Palazzo Leopoldo is right in the heart of Radda in Chianti, on the main pedestrian road, just a few steps away from the Piazza. The location just couldn't be better, as you step out the front door and find yourself on the main "corso" of this darling little Tuscan village with shops, cafes, etc. Radda is a Tuscan hill town. There are moderate inclines while walking in town. The town is very small, but being on a hill, there will be some up and down, as well as stairs as you explore the town.

Activities
  • Fitness center
  • Gym
  • Indoor swimming pool
  • Massage
  • Outdoor swimming pool nearby
  • Sauna
General
  • Bar nearby
  • BBQ facilities
  • Caf nearby
  • Concierge desk
  • Garden
  • Lobby
  • Multilingual staff
  • Restaurant
  • Terrace
Services
  • ATM/banking nearby
  • Free! WiFi
  • Laundry
  • Room cleaning
  • Shop nearby
  • Tour assistance

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!

Testimonials

  • Review by a traveler from Canada

    "I have had the pleasure to go on two vacations with Culture Discovery. The first one I literally lived with the Italians in a small village and learned so much about the culture. The second one was on the Amalfi Coast which I will always remember as a dream vacation."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Sabrina G.

    "The trip was wonderful! I was contemplating not going, and I'm so glad I did! The guides were so wonderful, the weather was perfect, and the tours were incredible! The food was also amazing. The whole trip exceeded my expectations. I will definitely do another one with Culture Discovery. Thank you for making us feel so at home!"

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Chris L.

    "Our Culture Discovery vacation was the best purchase I have ever made. Be it a car, a home, or any other vacation. I liken it to when you spend money on something that is handmade, be it food, clothing or art. This is a company in name only, it is a family of employees who walk their talk when they say you will "live" Italian culture, not just see Italian tourist attractions. By the second day I (and I believe all who were in my group), knew we had made the right decision to "do" Italy in this way. Mornings spent peering from my balcony over medieval village rooftops to view layer after layer of colors and hues of the distant hills blend into the mountains. Stops in the tiny,local produce shop to pick up fresh figs and honey colored grapes to enjoy with my pastry choice of the morning...pistachio, almond, currant topped, or any one of the dozens available. Sipping espresso amidst chatting Italian villagers while greeting "Buongiorno" (Good morning) to my traveling companions as they arrived. Reclining in the tour bus to begin an IMAX-like experience of driving through narrow cobblestone streets that open up into the pastel green dotted landscape from the olive trees. Gaping up at one Medieval Village after another perched high in the distance looking down at us as a fortress, but upon arrival greeting us as guests as though we were sent for to celebrate a special occasion. Our home base was the little town of Soriano, and from there we had excursions to locally owned wineries, a small family owned olive oil business, meals in homes and local restaurants, shopping in villages and more. An utter feeling of timelessness and of losing oneself in another culture."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from United States

    "This was my second trip with Culture Discovery in Soriano and my third trip with Culture Discovery overall; and the introductory tour for my husband and step-daughter. There is an incredible team that supports each location including two guest-hosts, and the kitchen-cooking team. I don't know how any tour could pack in more fun, adventure, and experiential unique aspects than this trip does. Rather than crowd into the large mega-wineries, Culture Discovery Vacations takes you to small family run wineries where you meet the owners and even have lunch or dinner with them on their property. Where else would you have the opportunity to have dinner in the home of a local Italian, someone who opened her home to us and prepared a fabulous meal although she speaks very little English. The most unique aspect of this tour with Culture Discovery Vacations is that you stay in an apartment in this mid-evil village, and your neighbors are all Italians (who for the most part don't speak English!). One of our favorite rituals was the daily walk from our apartment through the village to get to the piazza where we had cappuccino and croissant, whilst sitting amongst the locals and listening in on their passionate conversations to each other all in Italian of course! My husband said that experience alone - living among the locals - was a once in a lifetime experience and made the trip worth every penny. The food - well, there is more food than you can ever imagine at every meal. The meals we prepared were incredible! The cooking classes aren't so much about technique and formal cooking, but just as much about sharing an experience among friends while laughing and having fun. If you are interested in technique and aspects of the recipes that have been handed down for generations, Carla is more than willing to share more. In fact, once you return home and try a recipe - if you have questions, she or Katia will respond on Facebook with answers. I have used these recipes so many times and have shared with family and friends who all rave about the food. The excursions are so interesting and not jammed with tourists. You have attention and focus of a guest host who wants to ensure the overall experience is what you expected. During our week, we had Ilaria and Linda (pronounced Leeeeenda) and they kept us laughing all week long, and very well informed about the places we visited. While during this week there were some 'snafu's' - the whole Soriano team went out of their way to make it an incredible week. You read on the website about the Culture Discovery Vacations family, and once you're there - you experience it and feel it - and know its real. At the dinner on the first night a group of 12-14 strangers starts off friendly but still reserved, and by the last night everyone feels like they've made lifelong friends, and are in tears knowing the week has come to an end. "

    "If you want to experience Italy; get away from the tourists; go deep on the culture; have great food and wine; and have a heck of a lot of fun - this is a tour you'll never forget."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Kelly E.

    "Carla, Linda, and all of the lovely ladies at Culture Discovery made our family feel like we were a part of a large, loving Italian family gathering for a wonderful home cooked meal. We laughed, learned had wine, and listened to music while Carla shared with us her family recipes and taught us how to prepare them. We all agreed it was our favorite part of our visit to Soriano. "

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Randy from United States

    "I was part of the "Olive Pickers" group from October 31 - November 7, 2015. Our group was truly blessed with very professional people who taught us the true culture of a rural small town in Italy. Every day was filled with new and exciting hands on lessons. The staff accommodated every wish of our group and our friendships with other group members grew stronger. I think this says it best, my wife and I are signed up for another week in September of 2016! Thank you Rocky for a spectactlar week!"

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by Lori from United States

    "CDV delivers on providing a true Italian experience. The Norcia November experience far exceeded expectations thanks to Spartaco's care and feeding of his new 18 member family. The accommodations and experiential opportunities for olive oil pressing, truffle hunting, and cooking with Emanule and his very capable staff were fabulous. Can't wait for my next CDV experience."

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by Andrea from South Africa

    "What a great week in Norcia! CDV delivered everything that was promised and more. From the unexpected surprise of a 5-course world class dining experience to a fun filled barbecue at Anna and Chicco's home, with wine tasting, olive picking, cheese making, truffle hunting and three cooking classes in between, each day was filled with wonderful experiences. Big thanks to Spartaco, who handled our group with humour, grace and kindness."

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from New Zealand

    "My wife and I booked this one week visit to Soriano Nel Cimino and learnt a lot about the Italian way. We were with a group of 13 people, 10 Americans, 1 Canadian and us 2 kiwis. They were all great people. It was fantastic, the food, the culture, the tradition, the cooking classes all exceeded our expectations. The people from CDV were all great people and very helpful and very funny. Carla the head cooking teacher was funny and a great teacher. Linda was an excellent funny cheeky tour guide. We went to Rome after this trip for a week and it was great that we got to see both sides of Italy"

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by Morrisa C

    "My husband and I recently took our second vacation with the Culture Discovery team and, as with our first trip, we were blown away with every aspect of the week. This trip we joined the Sicily tour and were treated like royalty all week. From Sophie's amazing leadership to Ivan's and Betta's hospitality, we could not have asked for a more top rate experience. The culture we were exposed to on the island of Favignana is something we never could have arranged on our own. Great food, unique and fascinating activities, and a great team to guide us. CDV, another great vacation for us. Can't wait to come back and try yet another of your amazing itineraries. All the best!"

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from United Kingdom

    "Some experiences in life you never forget - for once they happen, you are forever changed. Such was our week in Soriano nel Cimino with Culture Discovery Vacations. With CDV you aren't a customer, you are a guest - a friend - a member of the family.You don't just see Italy, you see it through the loving eyes of those who know its secrets and hidden treasures.You don't just eat the food, you learn to prepare and savor local dishes you make yourself under the expert guidance of those who have a passion for the culture and history of the cuisine. You don't stay in a hotel, you live as the locals do in a home in the village. In short, with CDV you don't tour Italy - you live it.The greatest gift of all is the people of CDV - Michael, Carla, Rocky, Ian, Linda, Katia, Rita, Sergio - professional and knowledgeable, and their work is marked by their love of what they do. When this group uses the word family - it is genuine and sincere. They care about you, and make it their mission to see that you experience the best of Italy. With these friends to lead you, the journey is inspiring, intimate and an experience you will never forget."

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from United States

    "Just got back from a week in Soriano and I cannot say enough nice things about this company. They are very well organized and the trip was exactly as they promised. The cooking classes are fabulous and all of places we visited were wonderful. Definitely not places that you would find on your own or even have access to. My only complaint is that I can no longer button any of my pants. I hold them completely responsible."

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from Canada

    "Its taken me a couple of weeks to formulate a review after an amazing week in Sicily (Sept. 13-20). I was the lone solo traveler in a group of couples and one foursome and although I had trepidations prior to my arrival that I would be a fifth wheel (or in my case, the 11th wheel), the experience I had was wonderful and I will certainly be back to take part in another CDV tour.From the moment I was greeted by the lovely Sophie at the airport in Palermo, I knew this was going to be a great experience. The food was made from the best ingredients, fresh, rustic and delicious. The outings were amazing (especially jumping off the top deck of the boat with Ivano), but it was the people we encountered along the way that make this trip marvelous.From Francisco, who insisted on giving us, not only a tutorial on making ricotta cheese and collecting honey, but an explanation on the Sicilian dialect, to his beautiful family for making us feel so welcome. Then there was Adelina, Rita and Graciella the kitchen goddesses and of course Ivano, Shepio, Paulo (Maria) and Laura and the fishermen - this is what makes CDV a rich and fulfilling experience.If you go, relax. Go with the flow. Try everything. I didnt think I would like sea urchins, but I did. I didnt think I would like eel, but I loved it. This is probably not the holiday for you if you dont like fish, as the meals on this excursion are fish dominated. Favignana is very proud of its rich tuna heritage. I love tuna, so it was paradise for me.The accommodation at Nido del Pellegrino was fantastic. The little apartment style villas were perfect. Despite several of my fellow travellers commenting on the beds being hard and the pillows being too flat, I found the bed and pillows very comfortable. The rooms were clean, spacious and each had a private front and back patio. The sea view from the villa was beautiful. What more could you ask for?I will be back. Alone. I loved being able to be part of a group or just take the time to relax and unwind by myself. I had the safety net of a group to take part in the various cooking classes, wine drinking, salt harvesting, sausage making, wine drinking, cheese making, honey pressing, wine drinking, swimming and fishing in the Mediterranean, but plenty of down time to nap, read a book, drink some more wine and eat. See you in a couple of years. I wonder which tour Ill try next."

    Trip Advisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from San Francisco

    "I had the good fortune to learn of Culture Discovery Vacations from a family friend. Given my love for travel and food, it was an easy decision to sign up for a week of culinary indulgence in this small town in Italy. This was my 2nd week long culinary adventure in Tuscany and it didn't disappoint. Seamless execution of all the little details. Amazing culinary lessons, enjoying the fruits of our labor afterwards. Varied, unique and thoroughly enjoyable/special side trips to nearby towns. And an amazing crew behind and in front of the scenes. I would absolutely return for another adventure in another part of Italy with Culture Discovery Vacations and have no reservations about sending friends and family their way. Visited October 2014"

    January 4, edited