7 Days Castle Cooking Course in Italy

  • The Awaiting Table Cookery School, Via Idomeneo, 41, Lecce, Italy

Lecce Cooking Course Italy

Held in a 16th century castle south of Lecce, this week-long cookery courses at the castle are larger than life celebrations - imagine yourself at a long table enjoying extravagant country lunches, overflowing with Southern Italian familial tradition. It will be your time around the chalkboard learning about wine, in the kitchen putting your knowledge to work, and at the table on the barons stone lodge that youll cherish most. Youre likely to find your next favorite grape here. Youll make friends from foreign countries. Southern Italy will never be the same for you again.


  • Pasta making sessions
  • Cooking in the stone kitchen
  • Visit the local olive oil producer
  • Daily visits to the herb garden and fruit-picking
  • First-hand glimpse into the life of former European aristocracy
  • Learn the history and culture of the region
  • 6 nights castle accommodation
  • Daily self-prepared meals
  • 7 days with instruction
  • English
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You will stay in a 16th century castle throughout the holiday.

Each meal, you will learn the history and culture of the region and how that drives the cuisine, then you move into the kitchen and using your own hands, turn theory into practice. Whether its making fresh pasta from scratch nearly every meal, grilling sea bass over olive wood embers, or covering impossibly ripe fruit with impossibly fresh ricotta, its always hands on, all the learning reinforced by doing.

And because you are staying in a working castle, these courses represent a rare, first-hand glimpse into the life of former European aristocracy. You will cook in the barons impressive stone kitchen, dine on his Bougainvillea sprayed lodge, and drink a cascade of local but world-class wine from oversized goblets in his underground olive mill - each lunch going well into the afternoon, each dinner late into the evening. In the warmer months, you will finish your evenings bobbing in the castles impressive pool with local bubbly in your glasses. If its cooler, you will gather around the barons stone fireplace with freshly split firewood from recently felled fruit trees.

Daily, you will visit the herb garden, and depending on the season, fill your cradling apron with rosemary, lavender, bay, sage, and basil. You will pick fruit from the barons hundreds of fruit trees, and you will burn off lunch by walking the stone walls among the nearby olive groves, with a neighbors overly-friendly dog tagging along with you.

What often surprises the guests is that the castle grounds make up a quarter of the historic center of a small Southern Italian town - exit the kitchen door and you are at the fountain in the main piazza. You will get to know Serena the greengrocer, Armando the butcher, and you will visit the local olive oil producer in her gorgeous palazzo, giving you a chance to take some extra virgin olive oil home with you.

  • Silvestro Silvestori

    Self Taught (Italian)

    Silvestro has been teaching the food and wine of Puglia and, in particular, Italy's Salentine peninsula, since 2003. He has a lot of very pragmatic, blue collar work experience in the food and wine industry. He baked bread, cut meat, decorated wedding cakes, made wine, picked olives, cooked in restaurants, waited tables, and picked artichokes. In addition to his knowledge of Pugliese food and culture, Silvestro is a nationally certified sommelier in Italy, and a staff writer for Wine and Spirits magazine, covering all their Southern Italian food and wine content.


As a region, Puglia has more coastline than most countries. Its odd shape is in fact so long that few things are true for the entire region - not the diet, the wine grape, the oil olive, the language, the flour used for pasta, or even the ethnic make up of the population.

Linguists will tell you that Puglia comes from Apluvial, Latin for place that doesnt rain, ironic as Puglia is one of the few southern regions that does not have fresh water issues. Its Italys luscious garden and fertile vineyard, dipping right down into the Mediterranean.

A large part of the domestic tourism to Puglia is based on the food and wine, easily accessible dishes and ingredients based on pure, simple flavors. The fresh ingredients astound, the wines delight, and both are kept simple so that the flavors of the earth and sea come through, as if you were pressing the two together, then forced sunshine through them, the same way you make espresso.

But as you travel down Puglia, you will eventually hit a point where the Adriatic is joined by a second sea, the Ionian, and that is more or less of where the Salento, or Salentine peninsula begins.

The Salento

With very few hills to stop the moist winds coming off the two seas, it is most Mediterranean breezes that drive the food and wine of the Salento like no other factor. The humidity is why the Italians train their grape wines into thigh-high free standing trees - to allow for the passage of air, it is why there are no pigs or cows - its too hot for both in the hotter months of the year, it is why even if they did exist, their proteins would not be able to be preserved in the form of aged cheese or preserved meats, too warm and moist the air.

This though, turns out to be a strength - remove these elements, a robotic need for sugar and any culture whatsoever of distilled alcohol, and you have the Mediterranean diet, a way of eating so healthy that it is actually protected by international law. Its how your doctor wants you to eat. Its how she likely eats, herself.


The Awaiting Table is located in the vibrant cultural capital of the Salento, Lecce, a university town of 100,000 people, famous for its world-class architecture, nearly all of it baroque. It is a city of sprawling wine bars, set among well-lit but ancient architecture. School children travel great distances to see the architecture of Lecce, which makes up part of a the national education.

Inside Italy, the city is famous as a bubble of modern intellectual brilliance (the city nowadays is synonymous with nano technology) and liberal thinking (Puglias highest ranking politician is openly gay), together rendering the city one of the best of Europe. It just might be the prettiest place youve never visited, the food and wine that youre missing.

  • Cooking classes
  • Swimming pool
  • Beach nearby
  • Dining area
  • Fireplace
  • Garden
  • Kitchen
  • Hair dryer
  • Wireless internet
  • 6 nights accommodation
  • Daily self-prepared meals
  • Daily cooking classes
  • Daily visits to the herb garden
  • Pasta making sessions
  • Visit the local olive oil producer

Arrival by airplane

Arriving from outside of western Europe: Most international destinations fly into Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) in Rome. It is by far the easiest way to arrive eventually in Lecce. Flying into local airports has been problematic in the past, mostly for delayed arrival of luggage. As always, youre free to arrive however you like.

Arriving from London or other destinations in western Europe: Depending upon the flights available from your point of origin, you might consider flying into Brindisi or Bari as opposed to Rome. This is particularly true if you are coming from London. Brindisi is a popular hub for many European airlines, and is a 30-minute cab or shuttle ride away from Lecce. Flights from Stansted fly directly into Bari and Brindisi, although the days of the week vary with the seasons. Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, France, and Spain all now arrive and depart from Bari or Brindisi. You can either take the shuttle for 13 EUR, or a cab around 60 EUR from the line of cabs out front. It is the same for departure from Brindisi.

Arrival by train

You are recommended to take the train from the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) to Termini. You can buy the train tickets anywhere, and the clerks almost always speak English. Ask for tickets to Termini.


  • Rome - 5 hours and 30 minutes' train ride


  • Review by A traveler

    "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."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Fabbiola from US

    "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!"

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by A traveler from 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!"

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from United States

    "We had one day with Silvestro. First, a trip to several markets, with Silvestro imparting lots of knowledge about each place, the food they were selling and why he shops at each place. Then a great lunch, which we helped prepare, including pasta. And, of course, local wine, about which he's very knowledgeable. In fact, Silvestro's background is fascinating as is the breadth of his expertise. Lots of insights into Lecce and Puglia, travel, language and life in general. Then, a siesta and back to prepare and eat a wonderful dinner, with more wine and conversation. A lifetime experience."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from Italy

    "From making the booking to the day itself, everything was superbly done. If you don't give a day to this while in Lecce you will be really missing out. You don't need to be the world's best cook just be prepared to give it a go. It's about the fresh food, making pasta, the cooking (of course), the wine and Silvestro's knowledge plus the chatting with others sharing where they have been or are going."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by a traveler from United Kingdom

    "We spent the day with Silvestro and his charming team of helpers. From beginning to end we had a great time - fun, great tips on food preparation, wine, and even cheese production. We created two fabulous meals and learnt some very useful techniques. We ate and drank very heartily all day. I would thoroughly recommend this experience. We left with a greatly enhanced understanding of food , wine, and the beautiful region that is Puglia. We will be back and encourage anyone who loves to cook to visit."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Jan L

    "The weeklong cooking class at the castle was a wonderful experience for learning Italian cooking, experiencing local wines and sharing ideas with new mentors and friends. For those wanting to immerse themselves into the cuisine of Puglia, this is the perfect course. Every day we prepared two meals, lunch and dinner. Prior to each meal, Sylvestro (the head of the school) would lead a discussion of the upcoming meal, its preparation and the wines accompanying it. Following the discussion, we would prepare the meal in a large well-equipped kitchen. Sylvestro and his staff were always there to assist us but this is truly a "hands-on" cooking course. All meals were shared at a beautiful outdoor setting, where we continued to discuss the food, our thoughts on its preparation, and the wine chosen to accompany the meal. The meals were hours of delicious food, meaningful discussion and forging new friendships.A week at the castle passed very quickly. The accommodations in the castle were very comfortable and the small town surrounding the castle was very welcoming to the class participants. Sylvestro is an outstanding teacher, very knowledgeable of both cooking and wine, and he enjoys sharing his knowledge with the class as well as learning from the class.The staff is excellent and very helpful from enrollment in the class and travel tips for your arrival to daily assistance while you are at the course. I'm sure this class is just the first of my classes at The Awaiting Table Cooking School."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Siobhan Petri from Australia

    "After my first great experience at The Awaiting Table back in May, I returned to for the annual Tomato Sauce making course where we all rolled our sleeves up, chopped, diced, stirred, spilled, sipped, bottled, got messy, and had a great laugh.We also returned to the kitchens and cooked our own truly local lunches and dinners, and along the way learnt about the cultural relevance of what we were eating, seasonality of produce, about wine, olive oil, the language, and so much more. I learnt much more than just putting ingredients into a pan and left with a greater understanding of this regions cuisine, history, and culture.If you have a sense of adventure and an adventurous spirit, love food, wine, and don't want a 'cookie cutter' style holiday, I couldn't recommend this more."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Jason A. from New York, United States

    "I made a return trip to The Awaiting Table, this time to participate in the sauce-making course. I would highly recommend - and hope to return for a third time!"

    TripAdvisor website, edited

  • Review by Jef McCready from Canada

    "Our group of 15 Canadians spent three days at The Awaiting Table's castle location in Spongano, where the kitchen is pretty much an exact replica of Silvestro's kitchen in Lecce. The castle setting is enchanting and the accommodations excellent. Each day, we made two types of pasta that were typical of the Puglia region. We also made delectable chicken, fish, rabbit, and vegetable dishes to go with our handmade pasta. For each meal, Silvestro expertly paired a Puglian wine, be it a ros, white, or full-bodied red, including the delicious negroamaro. Silvestro is engaging and eager to share his extensive knowledge of food and wine. His staff are warm and welcoming. In short, this was an amazing experience that I will not soon forget and will hope to repeat. I would unreservedly recommend this experience to my friends and family."

    TripAdvisor website, edited

Lecce, Italy

The Awaiting Table offers cookery courses and culinary vacations in Italy.

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7 days / 6 nights

Sunday September 3, 2017
(7 days / 6 nights)

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