Unending food, never a dull moment and a really special dinner that surprised us all mid-week. Silvestro has created a very special program, very well organized, delicious food, tireless staff and lovely group of participants to cook with. None of us were professional chefs, but all had an interest in cooking. We started as a group of 14 strangers and were good friends by the end of the week. Of those, 5 were solo travelers (myself included), three were neighbor friends and the remaining were couples. Five were returning clients from past years, which speaks volumes about the program. Though I was traveling solo for the first time, I never felt alone. This is a really good program for a solo traveler. Accommodations at the castle were spacious and very comfortable. Weather in October was beautiful, not too hot and not too cool, afternoon lunches were on the patio of the historic castle. Silvestro's teaching went beyond the kitchen and included a walk to the butcher, the vegetable market and a social lesson in ordering coffee at the local cafe, as odd as that sounds but for a foreigner with little or no language skills, it was very helpful. We learned much about the olive oil industry that was concerning and not known to us as consumers. Before this class, making pasta was an intimidating prospect but after making pasta twice each day, we were all proficient by the last day. Staff worked tirelessly, we all very much enjoyed and appreciated Desi, Anna and Paola, they took care of all the parts of cooking that we all like the least, the prep and cleanup. Silvestro's advice for travel considerations were very helpful for pre-planning - follow them - its bang on - he has thought of everything. The Awaiting Table offers a few referrals for Lecce accommodation, one was at Palazzo Gorgano and much appreciated, good advice. When checking in, I asked Marta at Palazzo Gorgano if she knew of the Awaiting Table and what was to come, she described it as 'magical' --- it was. Memorable! A far better trip to Italy than the typical week in a hotel doing tours. Thank you Silvestro -- and Desi, and Anna, and Paola.
Just returned from Olive Oil U, a course featuring all things olive oil. The course was held south of Lecce and the group took over a castle in a small town. We cooked lunch and dinner all but one day and learned so much about the local cooking techniques and ingredients. AND we helped pick olives, went to the grinding mill, and had an olive oil tasting of different types of liquid gold--all leading to the discovery that our every day olive oil at home is so deficient. We all received a 5 liter can, due to arrive any day now. We learned how to make all types of pastas, local vegetable and meat dishes, and they were served in stunningly beautiful settings. The staff was top-notch and Silvestro provided well-documented and understandable instruction. If you love to cook, and you want an intensive cooking experience, this is for you!
A traveler Denver
This was my 7th trip to the Awaiting Table school to take a group of guests. People always ask me if that gets boring going back to the same place, but it's just the opposite: after a few visits, the staff have become friends, the locals no longer strangers, and the experience more intimate. I'd highly encourage you to not only attend the program, but to go back - try the school in town, try the school at the castle, attend the birthday week celebration like we did this year to make tomato sauce - or attend the combined biking and cooking school program like I will do next year with 20 friends. Not only will you keep learning about southern Italian food and wine, but I'm guessing you'll make some lifelong friends!