Cooking Vacations in Italy: Tuscany & Sicily Culinary & Wine Tours
CDV is a Way of Life...
We say it all over our site... we are very different. So much, that our philosophy has not only changed the way thousands of people travel, but how and why they travel. We are truly blessed and honored to have made so many friends through the CDV way, Not only have we changed lives, but have had our own lives changed by our amazing and wonderful guests.
This page is more than just about testimonials. It is a collection of stories written by our guests that describe, in their words, from their view... how CDV has become a way of life for them.
Jan 1 2011. Making New Year’s resolutions. I wanted to go on a cooking vacation to Italy!! That day I found the Culture Discovery Vacations website. Everything on it spoke to me - exactly what I wanted, my perfect vacation - YES! I But I was facing doing this alone, going an incredible distance to a country where I didn’t speak the language. Pretty scary. 4 1/2 months later I was on my way to Italy. I arrived tired, terrified and incredibly shy. But from the minute I landed, I was welcomed and embraced with incredible warmth and kindness by Michael and Paola Kovnick and the CDV staff. And I wasn’t disappointed!! I loved that first trip to Soriano. The food, the visits to wineries, the excursions and most of all the cooking classes. And the wonderful fellow travelers I met and established immediate friendships with.
So the next year I booked back to back trips; the inaugural alumni trip to Sicily and then Norcia. Totally different parts of Italy and totally wonderful, each in their own way! I was hooked!
In the following years I went on alumni trips to Barolo, Amalfi, Bologna and back to Soriano. A total of 8 fabulous, diverse, cultural and memorable trips to date!
I have developed warm relationships with the CDV family. Indeed my second trip to Amalfi was with the sole purpose of seeing the CDV group there, my BFF ‘s Claudia Ruocco and Filomena Mansi and their families. On another note, sadly, in 2014 I was headed back for an alumni reunion in Soriano when suddenly and tragically my young nephew died just 2 weeks before. I called Michael and said I thought I couldn’t make it. He said “I understand. But come! We are here for you. We are family”. And so I did. This is why I care so much about Culture Discovery Vacations and the people who live it and run it.
For me, my experiences with CDV that have enabled me to be welcomed and valued as a single traveler, have been life changing. I have met wonderful people on these trips and indeed have travelled with some of them on other trips to other parts of Italy and even New Zealand! Some of us have visited back and forth between my home, Toronto, and Montana and Boston, for instance. Wonderful relationships! And of course, I have my beloved CDV family.
Looking forward to many more fabulous trips with Culture Discovery Vacations!
Note from Michael to Helen: Your hair looks great!
John and Jackie Konder
I don’t know if we thought of our time with CDV as a “Way of life”. I will say that what we consider a great vacation has changed since we started vacationing with CDV. We now judge vacation venues based on our experiences with CDV.
To explain; you should know that we mostly did all inclusive vacations. Many at resorts in Jamaica and Mexico. A few on our own in Alaska. Hawaii and France. We were looking for something different Soooooo GOOGLE!
After many searches I stumbled onto the CDV site in 2012. So much information about each week. Also, detailed descriptions about the weeks offered. All was very helpful since at that time there were limited reviews on Trip adviser. A source I use frequently and this was something completely different from our usual vacation.
We decided to give CDV a try. First trip was Soriano in May of 2013 with time in Rome before and Amalfi after; both on our own. We did receive help for tours in Rome from CDV. They recommended “When in Rome”. Excellent tour provider. Our week with CDV was lots of fun, wonderful excursions, good food and a bit exhausting because we did so much. It’s a full schedule. I guess I missed the part about taking a pass for an activity.
We enjoyed ourselves so much we did it again in 2015. We signed up for the Chianti and the Barolo weeks. We were concerned when we saw that there were only three people signed up for the week in Chianti. Their web site states that they will not cancel a week for a low number of participants. They did not and the three of us enjoyed ourselves. Jackie got to comb a goat (not me) a real goat. Side note: weekly group size is limited to 16 people. This is another big reason we chose CDV.
The following week in Barolo was a full group again great food marvelous scenery and a great group, all had a great time. One night at the winery after dinner some musicians came by and a party just happened. That same week we had a fellow who was an opera singer and very good. Ever been making lunch to opera and good wine? Another side note. I know there is a possibility of having problems within a group of people. We have not had that experience at all with the CDV groups.
So we are on a winning streak. For 2017 we had enough experience with Italian culture to add more on our own stuff. Four days in Florence. CDV week in Bologna and four days in Trastevere. The Bologna week includes a day in Venice, very nice side trip. We broke off one day to explore Bologna and relax. Found a neat artist and purchased some etchings. Added these to the water colors we purchased in Florence. Once again a fun group and, of course, good food.
I have not forgotten the group staff. They are all excellent and go out of their way to help. Speaking of the staff there are many we have spent time with Sophie. Spartaco, Daneile, Alyssa, Sam ,Carla and Valentina (remember me the “where’s Sophie Guy) and, of course, Rocky. We miss you all.
So whats next? We have signed up for Amalfi and the Cities Lost in time weeks for 2019. Amalfi was beautiful our first visit now we get to see Amalfi CDV style. We did not make it to Capri last time, looks like we will this time. The Cities Lost in Time week puts us back in Soriano and we will be there for Jackie’s Birthday. Spent my birthday in Florence on our 2015 trip. So whats fair is fair.
So after writing all this I can say CDV has us spoiled. As I said we now judge other travel companies against CDV. Have not found a better one as yet. Besides I see they are talking about Portugal. Never been to Portugal. Are they a way of life? They have become part of ours. Our neighbors have enjoyed Tuscan chicken and other goodies we have picked up on the trips. Several neighbors look forward to the Cream Limoncello I make and gift for Christmas. So does Jackie’s book club.
I may be a bit long winded but believe me when I say I would not take the time to write this unless we were very happy with CDV.
Miss you Guys. Ciao.
Brian & Sharon McManus
When people ask us why we keep going back to Italy, our answer is simple: “It feels like going home”.
We go back to visit people who have become our second family, to see friends who welcome us warmly. We go back to share in local festivals, family traditions and celebrate cultural events with people who value their history. Where else can you join the parade with the winners of the Palio, share a meal with a Brunello winemaker and his family, comb a cashmere goat or kiss a Chianina cow?
We don’t go to Italy to see the sights; we go to be part of the landscape, live with local people, eat local food (much of which we cook ourselves). “Culture Discovery” isn’t a simple catch phrase. It is a way of traveling that encourages you to immerse yourself in the “real” Italy. I have to warn you, though ... it’s addictive!
I went on my very first CDV trip almost two summers ago and will be going again this June. I can't wait!
All I can say about traveling to Italy without going on a CDV trip would just not be right. It's like you are traveling with family. I was traveling alone and before we even left the airport to Radda [Chianti, Tuscany] I felt like I was with a group of family! It was the most amazing week I have experienced and I had traveled a lot, even to Venice. Nothing compares to the experience you have on a CDV trip. Everything is perfect and amazingly planned! Sophie was our host and we still keep in touch, Brian and Sharon McManus made me feel like I was their family and we talk often. I could go on and on. It truly is a way of life!
I am so looking forward to this summer. It's been a long time coming! I have battled some serious health issues and this trip is what has kept me determined and focused on getting better. I look forward to meeting you someday! I have included one of my favorite pictures of my first trip. Looks like family to me!
As a single woman I travel a lot for business and pleasure around the world. I have never had a problem with this, as I can have a good time no matter what, but from the first time I went on a CDV trip I knew I had found something very different and very special. In fact, it was exactly what I was looking for, and so much more, the day I Google’d “cooking vacations in Italy”. From the time you step off the plane, you are completely taken care of and become part of a large extended family for the week, not a tour group. You experience things most tourists don’t even know exist and in a way that makes it unforgettable. I have been on 3 CDV trips and the 4th is already booked [Soriano Chestnut Festival, Bologna, Sicily, and Soriano - Cities Lost in Time]. Every location is so different you don’t ever feel like you are “just going back to Italy”. I have new friends now around the world thanks to CDV, including so many from the wonderfully gracious, generous, fun guys and gals from CDV who make the vacations the experience of a lifetime and always make you feel at home. That’s what I love the most, it’s not like going on vacation, it’s like going home!
BTW, the Favignana [Sicily] trip was off the charts!!! You had an incredible vision creating this company Michael, but by far the best thing you did was hire the most incredible people to run the tours. Sophie and Ivan are two of the most hard-working, gracious, generous people I’ve ever met. Stefano, even though new, fits the CDV mold perfectly. And the same can be said about all the others involved throughout the week – Adelina, Ida, Giovanna, Michele, Rosario, Pepe. I truly have never felt so at home and so a part of a very large island family! I have also never returned from a vacation so relaxed and de-stressed – they hardly recognized me at work!!!
Kim Schaeffer (aka Nocciola)
Culture Discovery Vacations have shown (spoiled?) me the best way to take a vacation to Italy, or anywhere. It is the right mix of culture, travel, leisure, cooking, and fun - and you get to decide how much of each part you want to include in your trip.
The friends I have made have become like family to me and we have traveled together both with CDV and on our own. This is something that no other group I have traveled with can offer - they are beyond comparison. No request is ever too small, no detail is ever overlooked, and every consideration is made to introduce you to what it is truly like to 'live like an Italian" and not just a casual tourist. It makes you want to keep coming back again and again.
So thank you CDV for the wonderful experiences we've shared, the life-long friendships you have created with your staff and other travelers, and for becoming a part of MY way of life.
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