A Dream Vacation

This is a unique and very enjoyable way to spend a week in a beautiful place, with great people and have awesome food.

Written By: Carl H
Location: Colorado Springs - CO - USA
Review Source: Trip Advisor
Type of Traveler: Couple
Itinerary: Soriano - Cities Lost in Time

Full Review

Having lived in England, Greece and Germany and having visited Italy myself (my wife had never been to Italy) and travelled extensively in Europe, we had pretty high expectations of this trip. Our expectations were clearly exceeded.  

When I made a comment to our son that he would need to watch his sister on his summer break from college so that his mom and I could go to a cooking class in Italy, my wife jumped on the idea. At this point I had made no plans and had no idea where we would actually be going. I quickly used Google to find viable options. Culture Discovery Vacations looked different and alluring for its non-tour approach to visiting Italy and learning to cook great Italian food. The CDV web site is outstanding and provides a great deal of detail on the different itineraries, the great food and the facilities. The videos and pictures really get you pumped up prior to arriving. I felt like I knew what to expect before ever stepping foot off the bus in Soriano. Alas it would be so much nicer than even the web site could convey.

We were greeted by our fellow group members at the Rome airport and transported in the new CDV bus, replete with leather seats, drinks if desired and a really nice background of Italian adaptations of American music classics. Ok the Italians singing Sweet Home Alabama in English caught my wife and I off guard After a short ride we arrived at the beautiful little town of Soriano. Having visited many cities and towns around Europe, this has to be one of the most quaint and welcoming we had experienced. This was not another tourist trap. Most of the inhabitants don’t speak English but are only too happy to work with your attempts at their tongue combined with hand gestures to get the point across. Upon our arrival we were met by Michael and Paola, our hosts for the week. We were also met by Rocky and Rita and others from the CDV team. These folks quickly whisked us off to our private villas in the town. We would now be residents in the town and not just tourists visiting. To a person, all whom we met on our way to our villa and every day leaving it greeted us in Italian with a smile.

Much is made of the family feeling of this vacation. It is true. Michael and Paola feel strongly about making you part of a large extended family from the start. Our first night we met for drinks, gelato, etc and got introduced to how things would work. We then took a walking tour of the town. It was a great way to get to know our fellow travelers and the lay of the land. After our walk we headed over to our first group dinner. All I can say is wow. The food and wine just never stopped coming. The food was outstanding and set the tone for the week. Through the dinner we were really introduced to the concept of “family” style dining and broke the ice with many of the others in our group.

Over the week we were there we would travel to visit small family wineries, eat some awesome food prepared by them and taste some great wine, visit a larger winery and sample food and more great wine. We would travel to see an awesome old abbey and several incredible churches. We visited a crumbling city that was accessible only by a long bridge-walkway. The city was incredibly sedate and relaxing as well as beautiful. All along the trips we would have great meals for lunch and dinner as well as great gelato. The excursions were really nicely executed. These are not traditional tours following the guide with the sign. These are truly more like a friend showing you the neat parts about the places they like to visit themselves.

So what about the cooking? I will state up front that I was there to eat more than cook My wife however loved the cooking classes. They are held in a beautiful and spacious villa outside of the town. The setting is incredible and lends itself to just sitting on the gazebo and having a drink or two, or three while just taking it all in. The classes were just the right mix of how to create awesome dishes combined with socializing and maybe drinking a beer or two or perhaps a glass of wine. The results of the cooking classes were just incredible. We ate some of the best food we have tasted and came away with the knowledge to reproduce these tasty delights.

The bottom line is would you do this again? We are already looking forward to booking our trip for next year. The biggest question is whether we do the trip to Sicily or Norcia. This is a unique and very enjoyable way to spend a week in a beautiful place, with great people and have awesome food. I spoke to Michael about maybe looking at Greece as another place to expand into. I truly believe this intimate and off the beaten path approach could translate really well to Greece as well. If they add that we will be the first to sign up. Thanks to Michael, Paola and the rest of the great CDV team for making this an awesome vacation. We will see you again very soon.

Sample Photo from this Itinerary