Cooking Vacations in Italy: Tuscany, Sicily, Amalfi and Northern Italy. All-Inclusive & Small Groups.
Imagine Visiting Family in Italy...
Our guests are guests, not clients. They discover the true Italy that so few fully experience. They live the passion for Italian country cooking and wine that is at the heart of life in Tuscany, Umbria, The Amalfi Coast, Bologna and Sicily, Italy.
Our small group All-Inclusive Italian Cooking, Wine & Cultural Vacations offer the magical experience of Italian culture like no other vacation. They are personal and intimate, with very small group sizes that so we all become close friends. We live among the locals, shop with the villagers, explore like the Italians.
Experience Italy Like a Local...
We experience a truly real Italian experience that other "tourists" completely miss out on. Our vacations are about living the Italian life. While others come to Italy to see the sights, our guests live the lifestyle of those sights. Each Italian Cooking Vacation is a once in a lifetime experience with a wonderful balance of cooking classes, culinary and wine excursions, sightseeing, and unique cultural experiences.
Hands-On Cooking Classes, Farm to Table Food
Most cooking classes you find are "demonstration" classes, or perhaps you prepare one dish of the meal. We do it the way we do with family! We all get together in the kitchen and have a cooking party of sorts. Everyone is as involved as they wish to be in every aspect, and we make full four and five course meals at every class. Our instructors are usually locals, teaching recipes they learned from their grandmother, the same way they would pass those recipes on to their own family. In some cases, we have professional Michelin-starred chefs teaching classes to provide a contrast, but don't be surprised if one of those star chefs is at one of our home-cooking classes, learning from one of the local women. It happens frequently! To take it a step further, we are all about farm-to-table cooking. That means that we may go outside with you to our garden to pick the veggies we need for a recipe. It may mean that the cheese we are using in a dish was actually made by you yesterday! Or the meat in one of our dishes is from animals raised by the man you met at breakfast this morning. We have a strict policy that every possible ingredient that can come from our own gardens, or be locally sourced, is... no matter what. Learn more about our Tuscany cooking vacations here, and our other Italy cooking vacations here.
All-Inclusive Without Cutting Corners...
Unlike most other Cooking Vacations in Italy, ours are truly all inclusive. When you are with us, you become part of our family... visiting friends. After all, no good host would ever ask visiting friends and family to pick up a tab, so
What we mean by everything will shock you. We always have something going on, and it is always included in the price. If we are not cooking, we are out on sightseeing excursions, Tuscany winery tours, Umbria olive oil mills, Sicilian fishing excursions, etc. All with a balance between off the beaten path hidden treasures, and more popular destinations. We include all cooking classes, excursions, food & wine, transportation, transfers... everything from the moment we meet until the moment we hug our goodbyes. There is nothing else quite like it, because the main ingredients in everything we do are fun, friends, and family. So come and recharge with us as you make some of the most enduring and fantastic memories of your lifetime.
We Are Not Resellers
As you browse the Internet, almost every company offering cooking vacations in Italy is reselling vacations offered by 3rd parties. We are the only international organization that operates directly. Furthermore, we were the first to offer all-inclusive cooking vacations, and the only to operate directly nationwide in Italy. All of this since 2006, born out of a simple concept that we could change the way people travel if we simply treat them the same way we have always treated our own visiting family.
Don't Just Take Our Word For It...
A lot of this can just sound like marketing hype. We get it, but we really are the real deal. We truly operate like a big family and bring you right in, as though we have known you for years. Have a look at all of our reviews on Tripadvisor, Google, Yelp, as well as countless actual letters guests have written us. We are honored to have received thousands written testimonials, and more than 925 unbiased reviews on review websites with an average of 5 out of 5 () stars. In fact, on TripAdvisor alone, we are one of the highest rated companies in Italy, and one of a very select few in their "Hall of Fame", having consistently achieved their certificate of excellence every year they have offered it. Better yet, if you are on Facebook, join our fan page and talk with us, plus thousands of our past guests!
What You Can Expect...
Each of our locations is chosen and developed to give our guests that most authentic experience possible. For example, on our Amalfi Coast Cooking Vacations, we chose to base ourselves out of the town of Minori. We could have easily chosen a place like Positano, and that would have made our week easier to sell, since it is a headliner name. But there is almost no authenticity left in Positano because of the masses of tourists there. Instead, we chose a base location where real people still live and shop so that our guests can get a real feeling of life here and what makes it so special. This is true of each and every one of our locations.
As you look at each of our locations, you will find the accommodations to be very unique. Private village homes in Soriano, small boutique hotels, and even private villas in some locations. We choose our accommodations very carefully, because it is important that our guests get a real sense of home during their vacation with us. The sense of family we pride ourselves on would get lost in big and anonymous hotels.
The cooking classes in each of our locations are always based on the regional cuisine of that location. Some locations are more about home cooking taught by a local "home cook"or "Nonna," and a few are more upscale, taught by Michelin-starred chefs. But in all cases, our classes are 100% hands-on, full participation. We don't do the "sit and watch a chef cook" thing. We roll up our sleeves and cook the meal we will be eating that day. Our classes are also structured more like cooking events than "academic" classes. They are like a group of friends getting together to cook, with one person being the expert of the group.
One of our main goals is to get our guests into the local lifestyle as much as possible in each location. We believe in doing, rather than just seeing. So we make cheese with shepherds at some locations, we get insider's wine experience at wineries, and even harvest and make wine when it is harvest time. When olives are being harvested, we not only harvest olives, but make our own olive oil. We participate in local festivals as locals, and learn artisan crafts with the artisans themselves.
Both in our cooking classes, and the restaurants we frequent, we are all about local, organic, and fresh. In our cooking classes, if we are able to grow. it on site, we do, and pick it right there... together. If we can't, we always favor small, local growers, ranchers and producers that we know by name. Even the flour we use for our pasta, if we can source it from a local flour mill, we do it. With regard to restaurants, we will pass by chains and mass-market eateries every time, and sit down with the small mom and pop restaurant that has the grandmother cooking in the kitchen, and the kids serving tables. We insist on the best of the best. That means that if we are having dinner in a town that is known for a particular dish, and that tiny little Trattoria down the road is the best in town, that is what we are having!
On our vacations, you are unlikely to have any wine you have heard of. This is because wherever we go, we seek out the small, family-run winemakers where we get to know the growers, and know exactly how they make their wine. This always means they don't have a giant factory and world-wide shipping to your local big box stores. Their customers are usually the locals who care about quality far more than "how many points this wine has achieved in a magazine." The same goes for wines when we are in restaurants. Each of our vacations is planned down to every detail, including which wines we will be having with out meals. In every case, it is something sourced locally and organically. One of the more notable side-effects of this is that many guests often marvel when they don't get wine headaches from the red wine. Simply put, it is natural and not full of fillers meant to help the wine keep for months during shipping and extreme weather conditions.
This is without a doubt the single most important thing of all. It is what we are all about. We are constantly laughing together & having nothing but fun. Our groups are small, causing everyone to become friends right away, and by the time you leave, you will have become extended family... not just with us, but with the other guests. Have a look what past guests have written us, or better yet, if you are on FaceReserve, join our fan page and talk with us, plus dozens of past guests! People often wonder how we are able to grow the way we do and make sure we never lose that real sense of family with our guests. It is actually quite simple. We stick to the mission statement we started with no matter what. That is, what would we do if dear friends and relatives were visiting, and do that.
As you look at all of our itineraries, you will see that we always have a mixture of "headliners", as well as places you have never heard of. This is because the traditional tourist guides only mention the well-known places, but Italy is full of hidden treasures. We balance the known and the off the beaten path on our trips so you not only see what you have always wanted to see, but you also discover what you didn't know you didn't know.
Our excursions are also very different than other tour companies. We are all about that sense of friends and family, so we do our excursions like a group of friends... as it would be if you were visiting a friend abroad. So we don't do classic "follow the umbrella" history tours, but rather take a stroll together while we stop and smell the roses.
Have you ever been on a tour, and found yourself getting some "demonstration," immediately followed by time to shop in the store your are essentially stuck in? That is called "Shop-Steering," and it is a major source of income for most tour companies. After you pay inflated prices for sub-par product that was likely misrepresented, your guide goes in the back and collects the 25% commission owed to the tour company for bringing people there. It is everywhere, and done by even the highest end luxury tour companies, but we think it is dishonest, especially given that our goal is to develop a sense of friends and family with our guests. So we will never do it. Similarly, most tour companies spring sudden "optional" activities once you are there as a captive customer. Again, we simply cannot develop a sense of family with you if we are putting our hands out for money to do extras. It just would never work, so it will never happen with us. We mean it when we say that once you are with us, you are a guest, not a customer.
All of our cooking and wine vacations are truly all-inclusive in nature. From the moment we meet, all meals, transportation, tours, all expenses... everything is on us. The only thing you will pay for is airfare, personal expenses and any gifts you may wish to bring home. There are no surprises, and no hidden costs.