It is not every day that you get the opportunity to win a week long cooking holiday in Umbria, Italy while enjoying the beautiful nature that this scenic region has to offer. Fortunately for me, a couple months ago BookCulinaryVacations.com and Podere le Olle joined forces with IENS to hold a giveaway that enabled me to do just that!
Fast forward to September, after a short yet enjoyable flight departing from the Netherlands as well as a 3 hour drive on the back roads of Umbria, my wife and I were greeted with a warm welcome by our host, Marina, her husband, Gianluca and their two dogs upon our arrival at Podere le Olle.
Podere le Olle is an organic farm house offering a wonderful range of Italian culinary holidays and coupling it with a variety of activities such as wine tasting, trekking and cycling. Our holiday however, is centered around food and wine and we were presented with a lovely, spacious room in the guesthouse to stay in for the week.
The day of our arrival was quite hot (35°C) so once we checked into our room, we went straight to the pool to cool down. We pretty much spent the rest of the day relaxing and by 8 o'clock, dinner was served. At the dining table, we met a couple from the US and had our first Italian homemade meal prepared by Gianluca.
At the time, there were a total of eight couples staying at the mansion. Even though some couples only stayed for two days or so, we still were able to meet a lot of new people during our trip. Throughout the week, we met nice people of different nationalities (Danish, English, American and Belgian) and this gave us the chance to practice and speak a lot of English.
A great company of new friends of various nationalities
We had our first cooking lesson together with an American couple. Through the class, we learned how to prepare ravioli, lamb, aubergine and tiramisu dishes from scratch! Here, if you want to do most of the preparation yourself, all you have to do is to let the instructor know that you want to give it a try. There are plenty of skills and tips that you can learn from (especially if you are a beginner in cooking). Once we were able to dig into our own creations, we came to the conclusion that the dishes that we have prepared turned out to be more than “okay”. In fact, they were great!
Although most travelers generally come to Umbria to enjoy the nature, beautiful weather and to sight see rather than taking cooking classes, this did not keep us nor five other couples staying at the mansion from enjoying the cooking classes and the scrumptious food accompanied with it! We think it’s the best things about our vacation.
The scrumptious results of our hard work in the kitchen
At some point during our trip, we visited a nearby winery. It was a gorgeous place on the hill with breathtaking views. After a pleasant tour through all the parts of the family business on the winery, we were served a nice lunch with four different types of wines. It was perfect! Straight away, we bought ourselves a bottle of red wine and two bottles of rose wine to bring back with us, to reminisce about this experience while drinking them.
On a side note, for those who are planning to travel to Umbria, it is a good idea to rent a car. Having your own transportation on hand will allow you to go explore more of Umbria whenever and wherever you wish to. When driving however, you should pay some extra attention to the other drivers cause to many Italian drivers, they see the traffic rules as more of a guideline (open to own interpretation) rather than mandatory rules that you must abide.
Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to visit quite a few of both small and big rustic towns. The drive we took to Orvieto and Assisi for example are well worth it. When exploring nearby town, it’s best to take the back roads so that you will see more of the country through this route.
On the fourth day of our stay, we had another cooking lesson in the morning for lunch and we prepared lentils according to my request. We created a dish with lentils decorated with Courgette flan and flowers. It was delicious! At this cooking class, we learned on how to cook food in natural way and how to have them beautifully presented.
Lentils dish with Courgette flan and flowers
During our Umbrian adventure, the presence of Marina & Gianluca’s dogs (Etna and Lupita) who were always around, added that extra feeling of being immersed in the great outdoors.
Though the weather was less than ideal as it was raining on Friday, we took a 3 hour long walk on one of the many walking treks in this area. Even though these routes were intense and really pushed us, the view we got to enjoy along the way made it worthwhile. In the afternoon, we had another cooking class together with an English couple from London. Here, we learned how to make homemade gnocchi and sea bass, which again, were simply perfect!
Learning how to make Gnocchi from scratch in the kitchen
Saturday arrived, and unfortunately this was last day of the indulgent holiday. We decided to take the train to Areezo where we had a very good lunch with a lot of activities. We definitely recommend to visit this town should you plan to visit Umbria sometime soon.
All and all, the experiences we had made it nothing short of a perfect week. If you happen to be looking for a great getaway where you’ll be surrounded by peaceful and beautiful nature and lots of delicious, authentic and fresh Italian food, Podere Le Olle is definitely the place to be!
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