This cooking tour in Italy has been designed for lovers of Tuscany and all that it represents - the charming medieval towns, the centuries old traditions, the people and their culture, the art and of course, the great food and wine! We have spent time with our friends, tourism professionals, the guides and chefs all from Tuscany to create a Italy cooking tour dedicated to the secrets and traditions of Tuscan cookery and participants will spend many hands on hours perfecting the skills of Tuscan cooking in the original kitchen of a 14th century Villa and a 13th century Castle. Experience la dolce vita of Tuscany.
Accommodations are in the villa or one of the farmhouses. The rooms and villa are chosen by us based on the size of the group and composition, supplements paid etc. The culinary vacation is designed to have you experience the life in a Tuscan home. The Villa Pandolfini Estate is a 150 hectare estate comprised of a private forest, vineyards and olive groves. Antiques, frescoes, beautiful loggia looking onto a breathtaking renaissance garden. This is the perfect place to discover Florence and enjoy the real Tuscan countryside.
The property has been totally restored 5 years ago. From the living room of the main apartments 2 sets of double doors open onto the loggia and the Italian style gardens with lemon trees, hedges and fountain. The estate is very quiet and private and you can enjoy outdoor dining, visiting the local shops and outdoor fresh produce markets, and pleasant walks. It has 10m high ceilings with breathtaking frescoes, gold gilded mirrors, terracotta floors. The villas foundations date back to the 1200s; the property produces fantastic extra virgin olive oil and wine.
Each room is a pleasure in itself: the main bedroom opens onto the front terrace with views of hills and Florence. The kitchen has a vaulted ceiling and fireplace with a dining table seating 6. Wonderful dining experiences at the many local restaurants, some noted as being the best in Italy. Relax at the villa and enjoy its grounds or discover the many local attractions. Stations, bus stops, and shops are within walking distance and close to all major highways. The villa offers you an incredible vacation experience, letting you live like a king.
The saying that Italians live to eat while the rest of the world eats to live still rings true today. That is why your foodie vacation includes a discussion of the history of the Tuscan diet, typical dishes, Tuscan bread, peasant food, and how the gastronomy has changed throughout the medieval and renaissance periods up until modern times.
Our culinary tour will expose you to the best food and wine that our beautiful region has to offer. We will unveil the Good Tastes of Tuscany not only through cooking but also in understanding the culture of the people behind the delightful food.
The typical cookery class consists of the preparation of a full five course meal where the chefs will instruct you on the coordination and timing of preparing a full menu. Our recipes vary according to the season following what is freshly available on the local market. All cookery classes are hands-on.
There may be participants of all cooking levels in our group which means that instructions may differ with each participant. Lastly, sometimes the day cookery class is changed to evening classes to allow for extra excursions and time to enjoy the estate and lovely long Tuscan days.
I primi piatti: Risottos, Tuscan soups, gnocchi and fresh handmade pasta
Pasta: We will discuss different pasta making techniques, stuffed pastas, coloring and flavoring pastas, different sauces and how to match them with different types of pastas. Handmade pasta from rolling out picci, making pasta with the gitara or the pasta machines.
Risottos: what makes a great risotto? The do's and don'ts, shortcuts, and the broths. Professional tricks to save you all the stirring.
Salads and soups: there are many dishes in our region that focus on soups in the winter and salads in the summer using old bread and the wonderful variety of vegetables in season. The combinations seem countless and it all began with Florence cooking.
Gnocchi: there are many varieties of gnocchi from dressed and undressed! Discover what this means during your florence cooking vacation with us!
The secret of all Italian cookery are the fresh products used. Fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables are the base of all tasty dishes and frozen products are almost never used. During the year the menus in all restaurants change, adapting to the produce available and we will discuss the various dishes popular for each season.
Antipasti is always a must. It is the start of the culinary experience of each meal. It can be a simple bruschetta with fresh basil, tomato and garlic chopped and placed on the country style wood oven baked bread, sprinkled with pepper and salt and drizzled with only the best extra virgin olive oil to an artichoke salad. Do not be intimidated. Also taught in the cooking class is how to prepare artichokes. We have also included how to make a focaccia and Italian pizza.
These are the meat, fish and game dishes accompanied by vegetables and flans. Italy has many meats, the game is handled and treated perfectly and there is no waste of any of the animals, dishes are cleverly invented to use all the organs and cuts of any meats with outstanding results. The vegetable dishes used in the Tuscan cooking class are endless so vegetarians are not disappointed.
Seasonal vegetables make each seasons cookery vacation interesting. Our vegetables include zucchini flowers that are stuffed, fried, or used in risotto or pasta sauces, wild mushrooms, artichokes, black kale, Italian spinach, cabbages, and cannellini beans which have many uses and are also incredible when fresh, used for antipasto as salads and crostone to side dishes in the winter.
Arrival to Villa Pandolfini Estate, orientation and 'Benvenuto' to meet the chefs and your hosts' who will be with you for the cooking vacation.
The entire group will arrive after lunch and settle into their accommodations, having time to explore the estate, relax and freshen up for the 'Benvenuto' which will take place in the villa's historical 14th century kitchen featuring the original stone fireplace, marble sink and vaulted ceiling.
The kitchen will be the heart of this gastronomical adventure. Participants will receive their recipe books and course guidelines. Partners are also welcome to join.
You will feast on traditional Tuscan fare of the season and enjoy the estate's wine. Meet your chefs who, by the week's end will become your lifelong friends! The dinner is prepared by the chef.
Southern Tuscany Tour: this day we have designed to give you an introduction to the Tuscan countryside; its people, history, and culture. We will share with you firsthand the origins of Tuscan produce which is the soul of this land's cuisine.
This will be an authentic travel experience visiting medieval villages, admiring impressive castles and witnessing centuries of history whilst driving through the green Chianti valleys, the Sienese Crete which is farmhouse for its red earth and the magnificent Val d'Orcia.
This is the area where the film, Gladiator, was made. Undoubtedly, it has the most photographed row of cypress trees.
Throughout the day the group visits a charming vineyard estate where everyone has the opportunity to tour the cellar, learn about the wine making to savor their wines including Brunello, olive oil, cheese and salami.
Enjoy a light lunch either at the vineyard's restaurant or in one of the quaint village trattorias.
We then continue onto the characteristic towns of San Quirico and Bagno Vignoni, famous for the natural hot springs.
Relaxation time in Pienza, a quaint village famous for the pecorino cheese, made for centuries in a huge variety of methods. The small shops decorated with incredible varieties are eager to have you taste them. The village is full of lovely shops selling crafts and local produce and the view overlooking the Val d'Orcia is absolutely spectacular.
Dinner is at our local pizzeria then home to rest your weary heads before getting started with the lessons of the cooking tour!
Breakfast in your villa and then head to the kitchen for your cooking class.
There will be a hot pot of moka coffee to greet you and your Tuscan chef.
The 5 course cooking class will finish in a lunch prepared by the students around the long Tuscan table.
Free time in the afternoon.
The group can relax or opt to choose additional activities and tours.
Dinner, if you can fit it in after the five course Tuscan lunch you had earlier. This can be enjoyed at your villa with your group, a glass of Chianti wine and a cheese and meat platter from your basket.
'Chianti & San Gimignano'
Today's cooking class will also finish in a lunch prepared by the students.
You have a free afternoon in Florence. You have the choice to relax and do your own thing or join us on this afternoon trip where we will take you through the hidden country roads through the glorious Chianti region of Tuscany.
We will take you to an ancient Abbey which has a spectacular view over the vineyards of one of the top 2 winemakers in Italy. You will also have the opportunity to taste their wines.
Winding through these country roads, admire & enjoy breathtaking scenery and some of the most charming Chianti villages. If luck allows, you may also get to listen to the famous 'Dante reciting' butcher! People all around the world come to this little town in the hope that they hear his 'pose'.
The group will then visit a farm where 'Chianina' where cows are raised; and here is where we will settle and relax for a wonderful meal while enjoying the view up to the medieval town of San Gimignano. You really will feel like you are part of another century!
The group will leave the estate in the morning to travel into Florence to visit the famous Mercato Centrale, food markets in Florence.
Meet the chef or the guide here and they will tour you through the multi level marketplace where Florentine's have purchased their fresh produce for centuries.
Take a glimpse at an amazing Florentine tradition and then eat lunch together, shoulder to shoulder with the Florentine people.
When time allows we also include a historic tour with the guide of Florence to expose you to what this incredible city is all about from the time of the Medicis.
After lunch you are all free to enjoy Florence, to go shopping in the leather markets, try the best gelato in the world and walk the stone streets enjoying this romantic and enthralling city.
Do not forget to rub the boars nose to ensure your return to Florence, for those who wish to have a personal guided tour of Florence or museums.
Evening dinner at a historical Florentine famous restaurant with us after dinner you will be brought home.
In the hotter summer months the dinner may be in the country on the Florentine hills in which case you can return home after your day where you have time to freshen up, and then experience another incredible Tuscan meal and beautiful setting.
The day's cooking will finish in a 5 course lunch prepared by the students.
Free time in the afternoon.
The group can relax or opt to choose additional activities and tours such as Truffle hunting (seasonal).
This morning we start with a stop at the local bar to savor the pastries and coffee whilst witnessing the not so slow Italian breakfast.
We are going to share with you one of the centuries old crafts that is still alive and well today- hand painted ceramics! Visit to a local ceramic manufacturer, see the products being spun and painted and have the chance to purchase directly from them. They can then ship to anywhere in the world.
Next is you can visit either a local winemaker which has marvelous underground cellars or to one of the nearby hill towns through the winding hills to reach a magnificent Medici villa which we will visit and get an insight into the incredible word of the Medici family and the last royal family of Italy.
The group will then be taken to the nearby medieval hamlet of 'Artimino' which sits on top of a hill overlooking the vineyards and farmland of Etruscan times. Lunch in the Hamlet of Artimino. From this hamlet you can also look over to another of the Medici Villas. You have the opportunity to admire this magnificent villa, famous for its 100 chimneys. This differs from the previous villa in that it was not a residence but a hunting lodge. Dine at a very famous restaurant with incredible views, in the summer and spring we sit on the terrace and in the winter in the old restored farmhouse converted to a restaurant.
We then head back to relax before the cooking class begins in the afternoon.
The purpose of today's cookery class will be the preparation of the farewell dinner for the entire group! At the grand finale dinner, participants will be presented with a certificate of attendance.
The cookery vacation Tuscan experience is a gastronomical discovery of quality, intimacy and enjoyment. Chosen for you are places that only locals find.
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Sagra Food festival: Small villages throughout Tuscany host Sagras for specific foods each weekend like the Sagra di Porcini of Monte Catini in August. At these festivals you have the opportunity to sample the featured food in a variety of different typical recipes and are often for free. Summer also brings the Florentine nightlife outdoors-several major piazzas like Santo Spirito and Santissima Annunziata host nightly live music concerts and an open bar. Piazza Poggi located just below Piazzale Michelangelo features live music of all genres from jazz to folk every night!
The Saracen Tournament: Arezzo's Piazza Grande is the setting of this joust. Held on the first Sunday in September, this tournament dates back to the Crusades in the Middle Ages, when all Christendom dedicated itself to driving the Moors out of Europe. There is a lively and colorful procession preceding the event in which eight costumed knights charge towards wooden effigy of the Saracen. The aim is to try to hit the Saracen's shield with lances. Each pair of knights represents one of Arezzo's four rival districts and their supporters each occupy a side of the piazza. The winner receives a gold lance.
Calcio Storico: June is Florence's golden month. There are fabulous fireworks to celebrate St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, and the final playoff of the historical football match, held on the Piazza Santa Croce on July 24 and 28. It commemorates a similar match played by a soldier trapped in the city in 1530. This Renaissance soccer game is played by teams representing four neighborhoods in Florence: Santa Croce, Santa Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, and San Giovanni. The game is a combination of soccer, rugby, and big time wrestling, sporting 16th century costumes.
Scoppio del Carro: On Easter Sunday a cart (carro) decorated with flowers and loaded with fireworks is set up between the baptistery and the Duomo. A mechanical dove swoops out of the cathedral door and into the cart: if the fireworks ignite, it bodes a good year.
Gioco del Ponte: This sham fight between the people leaving the opposite sides of the Arno takes place on the last Sunday in June, on the ponte di Mezzo. After a colorful procession in the 16th and 17th century costume, the combatants use contraptions on rails in attempts to take the bridge. The "Gioco del Ponte" is the high point of "Giugno Pisano", which also includes a regatta and the "Festa di San Ranieri", a candelight festival on the banks of the Arno commemorating the city's patron saint.
Palio dei Balestrieri: The Palio is Tuscany's most celebrated festival held on July 2 and August 16 each year in the Campo (the main Piazza in Siena). Its roots can be traced back to 1283. The jockeys represent 10 of the 17 contrade (parishes) or district within the walled city of Siena and the horses are chosen by the drawing of straws and are blessed at the local contrada churches prior to the race. These bareback horse races are preceded by heavy betting and pageantry, but only last about 90 seconds each. The winning contrada is awarded a palio (banner) who displays it proudly until the following year.