Overview

Experience the Magic of our Medieval Festival & Harvest Season!

It is one of our biggest celebrations of the year, and this week ALWAYS sells out. If you are considering this week, please do not hesitate. Not only does it sell out, but we sadly end up turning away three to four times more than our capacity each year.

This week-long vacation will consist of a very small and intimate group of around 16 people. It is an 8 day, 7 night all-inclusive experience that embraces Italian Festival life, Italian cooking, culinary and artistic tradition while exploring some of the most incredible off-the-beaten-path treasures that are unique to Tuscany, Umbria and Alto Lazio. This week of discovery will integrate you into Italian village life, living among the villagers, shopping with them, and getting to know them. Most of all, it is a week of fun, family and laughter as we share what makes Italy so special in a very personal way.

The Festival

Each year, the town of Soriano nel Cimino, where we base our cooking vacations, holds a huge festival. It is counted among the top festivals in Italy. For the first two weeks of October, during the Chestnut and Wine Harvest, the town transforms into a medieval wonderland. The town divides into four "Contradas" (Best described as "clans") - San Giorgio, Trinita, Papacqua, and Rocca. Each contrada is represented by a district of the town. During the festival they fiercely compete for a series of prizes, the most significant of which is called the "PALIO"; a coveted banner awarded to the contrada that wins the yearly jousting & archery competition.

On Saturday and Sunday, the entire village swells with Romans, Tuscans, and Umbrians (and us!) to watch all kinds of performances, eat in medieval taverns, and shop the fair. You may find an amazing flag throwing performance, sword fighting in the town square, elaborate reenactments of medieval life and events, parades of breathtaking costumes, trumpets, drummers, and so much more. It all happens for just two weekends in October.

The Cooking Classes

We'll have three half-day completely hands-on cooking classes this week. While most of our weeks feature 4 cooking classes, this week we make room for the wonderful festivities! Our cooking classes are not demonstrations. They are 100% hands-on. We structure them so that you can be as involved as you wish in every stage of every course we prepare. So, if you are up for it, we will get wrist-deep as we make pasta from scratch, Tuscan Roasted Chicken, homemade Pappardelle Pasta, Country Wood-fired Pizza, and much more. You will learn to make exciting desserts such as the best Tiramisu you will ever taste. We'll be treated to local seasonal favorites like Chestnut & Chick-Pea Soup, and sausage and cheese bruschetta, and much more.

For those would rather eat than cook, our classes take place at our beautiful 18th century country villa. Take control of our 90-bottle wine rack, relax, take a stroll, or just enjoy the wonderful Italian countryside. Whether you are cooking or not, the time we spend at the villa is always a highlight.

The Excursions

When we are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible excursions. We'll visit amazing wineries, including small family-run places where we will meet the owners and dine with them, and the most beautiful wine cellar in the world. We'll visit a small home-based olive mill that still uses the antique methods to produce some of the most incredible extra virgin olive oil. We'll visit a factory that produces Italy's exclusive Deruta Ceramics, and we'll spend an afternoon in St. Francis' hometown of Assisi.

The Food & Wine

We are all about food & wine, and if there is one comment we hear more than any other from our guests throughout the week, it is "I can't eat another bite".

You will never be hungry, and you will never want for more wine, period. All of the restaurant meals are in small, local restaurants that are considered the best of the best for their area. These are the places the locals rave about, not the touristy places. Furthermore, we don't do "tourist food". We insist on the highest quality at all times, and always pull out all of the stops.

The wine is always flowing at lunch and dinner. We always focus on local wines from the area we are in, and it is always fantastic!

Additionally, the meals at our cooking classes are not little 'learn to make pasta' classes like many others. Instead, the classes are traditional Italian 'Sunday Family Meals'... 5 courses, done to the max.

In a nutshell..

When the week is over, you will have experienced the real Italy that few tourists have ever experienced. You will have made new friends, and you will have learned why Italian culture is so amazing... because you will have lived it.

Cities we'll visit...

Tuscany:
Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Castelnuovo d'Abate

Umbria:
Assisi, Orvieto, Deruta

Alto Lazio:
Viterbo, Castiglione in Teverina

 

What we'll be cooking...

  1. Class 1: Pappardelle Pasta made from scratch with Bolognese Sauce, also made from scratch; Sausage-Stracchino Bruschetta; Brasato al Barolo Roast; Sauteed Seasonal Veggies; Panna Cotta.
  2. Class 2: Panzanella; Ravioli with Spinach and Fresh Ricotta Cheese; Tuscan Roasted Chicken; Tuscan Roasted Potatoes; Tiramisu
  3. Class 3: Pizzas! We'll be making pizzas such as the Margherita Pizza, Others will be made from the freshest seasonal ingredients such as Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Pizza, Caramelized Onion Pizza, Caramelized Sugar Pizza, Focaccia with Ricotta & Nutella!

Factories, Wineries & Mills we will visit...

  1. Madonna delle Macchie Winery & Olive Mill in Castiglione (Orvieto Wine & Umbrian Olive Oil)
  2. Cantina del Redi Winery in Montepulciano (Vino Nobile Wine)
  3. Croce di Mezzo Winery in Montalcino Tuscany (Brunello Wine)
  4. Ceramiche Bettini Deruta Ceramics

Dates & Prices

Map

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Accommodations

Private Village Homes

Our guests in Soriano stay in their own private village homes, rather than a hotel. All of our homes are beautiful places that date back to medieval times or the renaissance. Each one of them is unique, and has been completely restored with modern conveniences, while maintaining their original beauty.

Immersed in Local Tradition

Most of our village homes are not clustered together. They are peppered here and there in the village, such that your neighbors are not other travelers. Instead, they are locals. You will find yourself getting to know them with that daily 'good morning' wave, smile and Buon Giorno. You will see them here and there in town, and really get a sense of belonging as you weave yourself into the fabric of Italian village life.

Location

While our homes are not clustered together, they are all close. Soriano is a small town that is built around a central square, "The Piazza". It is in the piazza that we meet each morning for breakfast before our day starts, and end each evening after dinner. All of the homes are within several hundred feet of the Piazza, so getting to and from is very quick, and incredibly pleasant each day.

Amenities

All of our village homes are actual homes that were private residences at one time. As such, they all have private bathrooms, kitchens, refrigerators, etc. All of our homes are also air conditioned and heated. We also have television in each home with satellite service, allowing you English Language programming. Nearly all of our homes also offer free wireless Internet.

How Homes Are Assigned to Guests

Since each home is unique, so is the floor plan and the decor. Some are larger than others, some have valley views, some have castle views, and some have village views. Some offer balconies, while others do not. Some have two bedrooms, and some are one bedroom homes.

We don't charge different prices for different homes, so we do our best to assign homes based on what we know about guests that are booking. For example, if we know that you would rather not walk up a few flight of stairs or uphill, we will give you one of the lower-lying homes if available. If you are a married couple booking, we will give you a one bedroom home if available. In addition, we take requests. If you have seen photo of our village homes, and there is one in particular that you would like, we will try to make sure you get that one when we confirm your booking. In such cases, it is part first come, first served. But we also take other factors into consideration. For example, if a married couple requests a large 2 bedroom home that sleeps 4 people, we will happily give you a temporary assignment of that home, but if a group of three books later, and all we have left are one bedroom homes, we may need to move you.

See All Of Our Village Homes

Photographs of all of our village homes can be viewed by clicking here. Besides the photographs, you will also find a clickable map of Soriano that indicates the locations of all of our home.

Is This For You?

Is This For You?

Your Disposition

Our vacations are focused on having a good time with new friends. Everything we do revolves around that. People seeking a self-centered vacation might reconsider. Our groups tend to span all ages, men & women, singles & couples... everyone is welcome, and when our guests come ready to embrace a new culture, look forward to trying new things, and interact with other guests, it is always amazing. Even the way our guests see us is important. If you see us as "providers of a service", you may reconsider our trips. We bring you into our family and become part of the group with you... as though you are visiting friends and family. If you are able to be in this frame of mind, our trips will be like nothing you have ever experienced, but if you are looking for a more detached relationship with us, our trips may not be for you.

A Festival Itinerary

This week is very similar to most of our "Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun" weeks, however, there are a few big differences because of the festival we have in Soriano on these weeks. The key differences may or may not be something everyone desires. Here are a few of them:

1. Arrivals - We are unable to do an afternoon pick up on the start date, because we are unable to get our transportation into town. Because of this, we ONLY do morning shuttles this week.

2. Sunday is mostly On Your Own - The first full day of the week is Sunday, and all of the roads into town are closed today in order to host the festival booths, festivities, and influx of people here. Because of this, we have no activities scheduled this day, but rather allow you time on your own to enjoy the festival. We do, however, have lunch and dinner together, and on dates during which there is a performance with seating in the square, we all have tickets together.

3. The are 3 cooking classes this week - While we normally have 4 cooking classes, this week we only have 3. The class we would normally have on Sunday is cancelled in order to give you time at the festival.

4. Festival Food - For one lunch an dinner on Sunday, we will be eating in the local festival "taverns". These are volunteer-run temporary restaurants that hare here just for the festival. As festival-sytle taverns, the dishes and flatware are plastic, but the food is incredibly good!

5. Walking - There is more walking than normal this week. Since on the weekends, the town closes to vehicle traffic for most of the day, we cannot get our transportation in and out of town. So when we drop you off on a few days, we will need to drop you off rightly 500 feet from the town square. Additionally, as you browse the festival, it ill be all on foot.

6. Seating Issues - Some of the festival events have reserved seating, and some do not. When they do not, it is always on a first come, first served basis, and people often grab seats hours in advance. As such, when reserved seating is unavailable, our guests need to individually make do with what they can find. At times, we are able to secure a balcony in the stands so we can all see the festivities, but it is not always possible. When reserved seating IS available, we always buy a block of tickets for our guests in advance. The one item of caution when we do have seating, is that the stands are designed in such a way that the only exit from the stands in right into the main square, so spectators cannot leave the stands during a performance in the square. While this isn't an issue for most events, as they are rarely longer than 45 minutes, on the final Sunday of the festival, the main event can last up to 3 hours.

7. The Palio - The Palio competition during the festival happens in the afternoon of the 1st Sunday of the festival. It does not happen in the center of town, but rather just below town, about 1 mile (1.6 km) away. Everyone that attends gets there and back on foot, and the roads are closed to vehicle traffic. The walk TO the Palio event is downhill, making the return an uphill walk. The event consists of ring jousting an archery. Each of the 4 clans run their horsemen through the track once for each round, meaning that you will see 12 ring jousting runs. The archery has each clan's archer shooting at targets from 3 different distances. There is always a long pause between the rounds, such that the entire event usually runs about 3 hours. There is NO seating at the event, so all attendees stand or sit on the grass. Most of our guests usually choose to walk the fair, rather than attend the Palio, but when guests wish to attend, we will always have some of our team come with you. In such cases, we will usually leave an hour or so into the competition, such that we don't have 3 hours watching the same thing.

8. Timing and Logistics - As much as we like for everything to go according to schedule, during the festival weeks, we are at the mercy of things we cannot control. We never completely know how the schedule will work out, as last minute changes are frequent. As such, all of our plans are "so long as there are no surprises".

9. Crowds and Noise - This is one of the larger festivals in the country. Our little town of 8,000 people will swell beyond its limits for the two weekends. On one hand, there is a wonderful charge of energy that cannot be put into words, but on the other had, it will get crowded on the weekends. You will be hearing lots of trumpets and drums while you are here, and people will be out very late at night. On the weekends, do not expect quiet until at least after midnight.

Be Ready to Embrace the Culture

Our trips focus on bringing you into the true culture of the place, but some guests want to see it, but not live it. We embrace the culture and do things the way locals do, which may or may not be what you are looking for. This includes little things like not having cappuccino with our meals (Italians only have cappuccino as a breakfast beverage), not having bacon and eggs for breakfast (Italians have coffee or tea and pastries), or larger things, like the fact that we have our dinners after 8:00 PM, like the Italians do. Every step of the way we adapt to the local culture, rather than asking the local culture to adapt to us. This also tends to make us much more welcome guests than other groups!

Physical Limitations

Physical Intensity
You by no means need to be athletic for this vacation, but you must be able to handle some level of physical exertion. A good rule to follow would be to ask yourself if you can do three flights of stairs, then continue walking without needing to sit down for a while.

Age Concerns
We have had guests as old as 90 years old with no problems whatsoever. Age is not a limiting factor, so long as you are in good physical condition with no health problems that exertion would complicate.

Altitude
Soriano is at an altitude of 2,000 feet (600 meters).

Walking & Bus Time
In Italy, walking is always a larger concern than it probably is back home. This is because the towns are ancient, and much is closed to vehicle traffic. Some guests are also concerned about how much time they will spend in a bus. While we are in a very central area, we try to go to some of the most interesting places. Some days will have more travel time, and some very little.

Here is a general outline of the intensity and amount of walking and time in the bus during this week:

Total Walking All Week (Excluding walking between your home and the town piazza each day):
~5.5 miles (8.8 km) - Total for the week, NOT per day

Total Time in Bus All Week (Excluding transfers at beginning and end of week):
~10 hours - Total for the week, NOT per day

Detail Day By Day:

While in Soriano
Soriano is a castle-topped hill town. There are moderate inclines while walking in town. Furthermore, some of our homes are in the medieval quarter, which is up a hill in an area that only allows foot traffic. Some of the homes have stairs (none more than three flights). All of our days start and end in the town piazza. The homes are all close to the piazza, but in different locations. The most distant home is 580 feet (175 meters) from the piazza. 250 feet (80 meters) of that walk is up a moderate incline.

Saturday
Walking on Saturday:
On Saturday when you arrive, you will be walking from piazza to your home to check in. We will help with your bags if you desire. In the evening, we take a stroll around the village, then to dinner. Between the stroll and the restaurant where we have dinner, we will walk roughly 0.6 miles (1 km) today, not including the walking between your home and piazza. About 1,100 feet (470 meters) of this is on a slight to moderate incline.

Time in Bus on Saturday:
The only time you will be in the bus today is to get to Soriano. If you come from the Rome airport, it is roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you come from the Orte train station, it is roughly 20 minutes.

Sunday
Walking on Sunday:
Walking to Piazza from all homes is either flat, or downhill. The amount of walking will depend on how much you explore the fair, and if you go to the Palio.

Time in Bus on Sunday:
We will not be in the bus at all today.

Rest Time on Sunday:
There is a great deal of free time on Sunday to do as you please.

Monday
Walking on Monday:
This is our first full day out. There is no walking in Deruta, as we are just visiting a factory here. In Assisi there is about 0.8 miles (1.4 km) of walking, mostly flat and slight incline. If you decide to also go up to the top, add an addition 0.6 miles (1 km), half of which is uphill, but you can opt out of doing this in favor of shopping or relaxing.

Time in Bus on Monday:
The morning drive to Deruta is about an hour and fifteen minutes.The drive from Assisi to Deruta is about 30 minutes. The drive home from Assisi is about an hour an a half.

Rest Time on Monday:
Today is a full day out. We will not be back in town until dinner time. Most guests take time to close their eyes on the bus ride.

Tuesday
Walking on Tuesday:
During our evening excursion and dinner in Viterbo, we will walk roughly 1.1 miles (1.7 km) as we stroll through the city. The walk is mostly flat or very slight incline at times.

Time in Bus on Tuesday:
The drive to the villa in the morning is about 5 minutes. For the evening excursion, we will be in the bus for roughly 25 minutes each way.

Rest Time on Tuesday:
We usually have about 2 hours of down time between the cooking class and our excursion to Viterbo. This depends on how long lunch goes at the villa. Sometimes everyone just chooses to relax at the villa, causes less time back in town before Viterbo. If you wish to opt out of the excursion to Viterbo today, you will also be on your own for dinner, because we are having dinner while out.

Wednesday
Walking on Wednesday:
This is a long day out, but there is only about 0.9 miles (1.5 km) of walking all day. It is mostly flat and there are no uphill walks at all. There is, however, a 0.4 mile (0.6 km) walk after the last winery that is all downhill, which is factored into the total for the day.

Time in Bus on Wednesday:
Today is our longest driving day. We will spend a total of about four and a half hours in the bus today. The morning drive to Montalcino will be roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. After that, we will be backtracking toward home for the rest of the day. The drive from the abbey to the winery is ten minutes. The drive to Pienza is twenty minutes. The drive to Montalcino is twenty minutes. Finally the drive home will be about an hour and twenty minutes. Additionally, when we are in Monepulciano, the winery is at the top of the city hill, where we cannot drive. Rather than have you walk up the steep hill, we take a short (5 or 10 minute) city bus ride to get there

Rest Time on Wednesday:
Today is a full day out, and we are having lots of wine. It is very relaxing along the way, but our guests are always throughly exhausted by the end of the day. When we get back to Soriano, we have a light dinner before returning home.

Thursday
Walking on Thursday:
Today offers the most challenging day for anyone that is out of shape. When we get to the dying city, there is a 1,000 foot (320 meter) foot bridge to get up to the village. This bridge is high, fairly narrow, and half is on a moderate incline, and half is a steep incline. Once in the village, everything is mostly flat. Guests choosing to come with us, but not walk the bridge can wait for us at a cafe if they choose. But there is no legal way to get up to the village other than on foot. After the dying city, there is no significant walking for the rest of the day.

Time in Bus on Thursday:
As we get to the end of the week, we stay closer to home. The drive from Soriano to the dying city is about 45 minutes. The drive from the dying city to the winery & olive mill is about 20 minutes. The drive back to the villa in the afternoon is about 40 minutes.

Rest Time on Thursday:
Today is a quite relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.

Friday
Walking on Friday:
In Orvieto, you can estimate 0.75 miles (1.2 km) of walking today, mostly flat.

Time in Bus on Friday:
The drive to Orvieto is about 40 minutes each way. There will also be a short ride in a funicular, followed by a city bus while in Orvieto to get us from the parking area to the Cathedral, then a short funicular ride back down.

Rest Time on Friday:
Today is a quite relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.

How This Trip is Unique From Our Others

Many people ask us how our locations are different when trying to choose the trip that is best for them. Each of our locations is different not just in the places you see, but in the overall "feel" of the week. Here is some information about the Soriano weeks to help you choose:

Soriano is more down to earth
Our cooking classes in Soriano are "family style". They are structured like a group of friends cooking family recipes together. The town itself has few "tourist" services. It is off the beaten path, and most of the shops are there for the locals, not visitors. Additionally, you are not staying in a hotel, but rather in a self catering village home. What this means, is that you will not have hotel services here, but you will be living among the local residents.

The Soriano itinerary is very action-packed
Between cooking, excursions, cultural experiences, etc., we have something going on all day, every day. There is little "down time". That said, we structure our excursions and activities on most days in a way that it is easy top opt out of something so that you have whatever amount of down time you like. For example, you may want to opt out of a morning excursion, but be there for the afternoon cooking class. In that case, we would simply pick you up in the afternoon.

The Soriano weeks are very immersive
An immersive experience in Italy has upside and downside. You must be very ready to embrace things as they come. Things are not always on time, a restaurant may be unexpectedly closed, and things will not necessarily work as we want them to. For example, The fact that a home has internet dos not mean it will work on a given day. Getting a tech in a small village is not as easy as you may expect. Additionally, many services people look for may not be available in a small town that is not accustomed to tourism.

Special Needs we can (and cannot) cater to in Soriano

Physical Limitations
You must be able to walk up to a mile and do at least a couple flights of stairs in order to come on this trip in order to go on the excursions.

Food Limitations
We can cater to most food allergies, vegetarian diets, and to some extent kosher diets. We will substitute with other dishes if you let us know in advance. We can even cater to a gluten-free diet. Our cooking class menus will not change based on a guest's food limitations, but even in the classes, we can usually offer alternatives to eat. That said, if you do have limitations, it is important that you have a positive attitude about it. We are happy to substitute, but the variety of alternatives may be limited.