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Welcome to the world of Villa Michaela, a magnificent 18th century villa, whose heritage, assets and raw beauty, all set in the heart of Tuscany, will add a magical touch to your plans, whatever they may be. The Rhode school of cuisine is a long established Italian cooking school once more back in its original home at Villa Michaela. They offer you the opportunity to participate in a week-long cooking courses and to relax, enjoy the surroundings and participate in various excursions. Either way, its an experience youll never forget!
Villa Michaela, previously Villa Nottolini, and belonging to the Rhode family, is situated at the foot of the Zano mountain, only a short distance from the "pieve" of Vorno. The building has 3 floors and basement. The original building dates back to the 15th century, but through the years there have been many changes. The actual aspect of the villa is that of the early 1800s when it was purchased by the Nottolini family. The main faade is the one facing north, which has a large door with architrave and stone frames. There is also a similar entrance on the south side of the building where there is the flower garden, a pond, flowerbeds, rose gardens, paths, and pergolas.
The estate also includes other buildings such as the Limonaia, the building where the lemon trees were traditional stored each winter, now a beautifully decorated full service kitchen often utilized for cooking school demonstrations, the stables (coach house) where the wine cellar and wine tasting room are located, and the "Annunziata Chapel", now consecrated for Anglican wedding ceremonies, which is of historic and artist interest. The chapel dates back to the 13th century.
The "Annunziata" has been owned through the years by different families; the Giglis, the Macariuis, the Simibaldis, the Carbolanes, the Lucchesinin and at the beginning of the 18th century it passed on the hand of the Nottolini family who restored the house, and between 1860 and 1870 rebuilt the chapel to a public chapel where mass held every Sunday and until the 17th century had its own priest. Each year on March 25 big feast were held with luminary processions and food was given to the poor people of Vorno.
The chapel has a fine neo-classic faade, with an arch on the upper part of the building portraying floral motives and the Annunciation. You arrive at the chapel by a driveway built in 1910 after the old road of Valle was made private by the Capannori commune. In the last century, Villa Michaela has been owned by the Basttananis, the Ciurlanis and the Rossis. The current owners have greatly restored the Villa and all its frescoes, transforming it into a modern and luxurious property without spoiling its original beauty.
Villa Michaela has 12 large double bedrooms for rent for two nights or longer; 10 of these are en-suite and 2 share a shower room. There are wonderful views and a 12-meter pool with separate childrens pool, outside dining area, tennis court, central heating, air conditioning, cable TV, and an American pool table. The house is luxuriously furnished in the style of an English country house. All bathrooms have showers and the main bedroom, Dante, has a double Jacuzzi bath with spectacular views of the sunsets over Vorno church.
The main dining room with its impressive frescoes and chandeliers can seat 36 to 80 people, and its perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding parties, family reunions, film shoots and product launches. An American pool table, ping pong and a cinema or party room in the sound proof basement perfect for late night or early morning festivities. There are not many places in Italy where you can continue to play music into the night!
There are wonderful views of the surrounding hills, forests, olive groves and the Apuan Alps, sometimes snowcapped in the winter. Villa Michaela is a very large, listed, early 19th century frescoed villa, designed by the famous Lucchese architect, Lorenzo Nottolini, who was also responsible for the celebrated aqueduct which used to bring water down from the hills to the city.
In 2013, the adjoining but separate Casa Una was magnificently restored to a very high standard. With 5 large bedrooms, Casa Una enjoys spectacular views of the beautiful Tuscan valleys stretching toward the coast. There is nowhere more perfect to enjoy a Tuscan sunset than the terrace of Casa Una with a glass of Prosecco. Due to its vast size the villa can provide perfect locations for large family groups or reunions, weddings in its beautiful consecrated chapel, corporate meetings, off-sites, away days, product launches and film sets.
The legendary Rhode School of cuisines international chefs will showcase their talents, hands-on, so that you can savor a delicious lunch poolside at Villa Michaela or have a dinner under the three chandeliers in the magnificent dining room, where the table can seat forty guests. This could be the authentic Tuscan dinner that you and your team have prepared that day. Probably with the ingredients that you selected that morning at one of the colorful local markets surrounding the magical walled city of Lucca.
Recipes vary according to the season. Lunches and dinners are enjoyed with magnificent local wines often supplied by our friends nearby enoteca. Definitely worth a visit during your stay. Lunches lasting well into the late afternoon are one of Tuscanys great culinary traditions. Italians believe that eating together, where generations share laughter and debate, where family recipes are handed down and treasured, are the most important times in their lives.
Drinks and canaps on arrival at Villa Michaela.
Settle in, unpack, and acquaint yourself with the villa and grounds.
Anyone feeling energetic can take a turn around the charming, historic village of Vorno with one of the Rhode School of cuisine staff.
17:00 Meet your hosts and tell them what would make your week perfect. If they can, they will make all the necessary arrangements. The huge Tuscan kitchen used to be the Limonaia, where the ancient lemon trees were kept in their original terracotta pots during the winter to protect them from any exceptional frost. It has now been transformed into a vast kitchen with a la Cornue oven and dining for 20; breakfast and lunches are often eaten here with grand dinners being held in the Villa Michaela dining room which seats 36 with its three crystal chandeliers and frescoed walls.
19:30 Early buffet dinner prepared by your chef; 6 antipasti, 2 primi and 2 main courses served with local wines from the Lucchese hills; fresh fruits, homemade gelato and Tuscan patisseries to follow.
09:30-12:30 Cooking demonstration and tuition.
12:30-14:30 Traditional Tuscan Sunday lunch at the villa.
14:45-18:00 Depart with an English speaking guide to historic Lucca for an afternoon tour of this jewel of a walled city. Try to catch Luccas renowned mercato antiquariato, the antique market which spills into all the little alleyways and piazzas - everything from wrought iron gates to monogrammed silk sheets. Lucca was voted by Forbes magazine 3 years ago as one of the best places in the world to live and visit. Known as the undiscovered jewel in the Tuscan crown, and of course immortalized by Tolstoy in the opening line of War and Peace (Well, prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Bonaparte) the city is also famous for its perfectly fortified walls which surround the city affording wonderful walking and bicycling and also for its churches with one hundred in existence at the end of the middle ages. The city became a colony of ancient Rome in 180 BC and bordered the Etruscan country. The survival of the anfiteatro from these Roman times is due largely to Lorenzo Nottolini, court architect to Lucca, who also built the aqueduct between Lucca and the hills. Nottolini was also responsible for the chapel at Villa Michaela and various other aspects of the villa.
18:30 Meet at the bar by San Giovanni church for aperitivi and canaps before attending the Puccini or the Verdi opera recital in this church - a different program every night; a tenor, soprano and pianist together with wonderful acoustics. Of course Puccini is Luccas most famous son and his best arias are at the forefront of these wonderful performances. Mozart, Verdi and others also feature but Giacomo Puccini is inevitably the star.
Dinner after the concert at ristorante Giglio, 5-minute walk from the venue, with its wonderful fresco dining room.
09:00-11:30 Hike up the hill for amazing views of the valley or have a hit on the tennis court and then take a dip in the villas beautiful pool.
11:30-13:30 Wine tasting at one of Tuscanys famed vineyards.
13:30-14:30 Delicious lunch at the local, classic enoteca near Guamo, with Giuseppe and Giovanna - always a highlight.
15:00-19:00 Preparation of cinematic dinner at the villa.
20:45 The film. They usually select an Oscar winning Italian film to run in the Villa Michaela screening room. Some of La dolce vita was filmed in Lucca. The original Italian job is a popular favorite, but there is a library of all the great Italian films to choose from.
After breakfast, you head up the coast to a fish market.
Seafood lunch in the fishing village of Lerici on the bay of La Spezia where the famous English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was drowned. The Cinque Terra has just been included in the UNESCO 10 most beautiful places in the world list. On the way home, visit the famous marble quarry city of Carrara where Michel Angelo sourced his marble for the statue of David.
17:30-20:30 Cooking class.
20:30 Dinner at the villa.
Departure for the famous Pistoia food market; a wonderful photographic opportunity as this magnificent cornucopia of plenty unfolds against the backdrop of this ancient city.
Early lunch in Montecatini Terme, a famous spa town with great shopping.
Return to the villa for the afternoon Hills of the north cooking session, using the wonderful fresh ingredients that you purchased in the market.
09:45 Departure for a trip to Greve in Chianti for wine, olive oil, and vinegar tasting.
A delightful lunch in Greve. The journey boasts some of the most outstanding scenery in the region.
Dinner at Il Bimboto in Vorno.
Visit the magnificent rococo Villa Torrigiani with its celebrated garden attributed to Le Notre.
Lunch in Lucca. Take your time for shopping.
Return to the villa for gala dinner prepared by your host chefs and the presentation of your Rhode School of cuisine graduation Certificate of culinary achievement. Celebrate until the early hours.
Come back soon!
This retreat will take place in the region of Tuscany, Italy.
Arrive at Pisa international airport (PSA). Rhodes School of cuisine will pick you up. The pick-up is included.
Arrival at Lucca railway station. Rhodes School of cuisine will pick you up. The pick-up is included.
Bookings can be made with Bruno's taxi.
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