Itinerary - Medieval Chestnut Festival & Wine Harvest Season

Places Rome FCO Airport, Soriano nel Cimino
Classes & Experiences n/a

Dinner: Welcome Dinner at Tre Scalini (Included)

We offer a shuttle to Soriano nel Cimino from Rome Fiumicino airport at 10:30 AM. Note: Unlike our other Soriano based vacations, during the festival weeks we do not have an afternoon shuttle, and everyone must arrive in town before 1:00 PM. This is due to the fact that the main streets in town are closed to vehicle traffic in the afternoon and evening. For those arriving at times that do not coincide with our shuttle schedule, we can arrange for a private driver to bring you to Soriano for an extra charge.

Once in Soriano we will help you to your accommodations for the week and give you some time to get settled in, unpack and rest up. As you get settled in, you will find some snacks and drinks waiting for you when you get to your home.

At around 5:30PM, we will meet in a local Gelato shop for one of our signature daily activities: Gelato! We believe it is your duty to have at least one gelato per day when you are here, so we will get right to it. While having our gelato, we'll talk about the week ahead and get to know one another a little more. We'll also tell you all about the history of the festival and how the town divides itself into four competing contradas (clans).

A "Contrada" can be best described as a "Neighborhood Clan". Soriano divides into four contradas for the festival, and people generally belong to the Contrada that represents the part of town they live in. Those who live in the medieval Quarter belong to the "Rocca Contrada" (or "The Rock"). Those that live in the north-east part of town belong to the "Papacqua Contrada" (or "The Papal Waters"). Those in the north-west belong to the "Trinita Contrada" (or "The Trinity"), while those living on the south side of town are in the "San Giorgio Contrada" (or "The St. George"). During the festival they are in fierce competition with one another for various awards, the biggest of which is the coveted "Palio", which goes to the winner of Sunday's Jousting & Archery competition.

For dinner tonight we will dine in an ancient monastery in Soriano that has been converted to a wonderful restaurant. Here we will sample many local specialties in the first of many multi-course meals as we dive head first in Italian culinary culture. The menu for tonight's dinner is:

A sampling of Local Salame, Prosciutto, Porcini Bruschetta, Olive Bruschetta, Ascoline Olives (fried sausage-stuffed olives), and Sutrini (a local crepe with Romano cheese)

First Course
For our first course tonight, we will have samplings of two local pasta dishes: Gnocchi col Ferro (a local specialty eggless pasta that is hand rolled in an Arrabiata sauce) and Ciuffetti Sorianesi (hand made pasta purses, stuffed with radicchio and speck in a Parmesan cream sauce).

Second Course
After our pasta dishes we will sample local grilled sausages and Tagliata al aceto balsamico (A grilled steak, marinated in balsamic vinegar atop a bed of rucola salad)

Finally we will be brought a lemon sorbet dessert and end our evening with a glass of Limoncello

As always, wine is provided with all dinners, and we favor small local wineries wherever we dine. Tonight's wine will be a local red Umbrian wine.

During Week #1 of the Festival:
After dinner we will head down to the piazza to enjoy the "Legends and History of Soriano" performance, during which townspeople dressed in medieval costume, sword fighters and more reenact key events from Soriano's history, such as the battle with Vignanello and the Papal recognition of St. Francis of Assisi.

During Week #2 of the Festival:
After dinner, there will be a performance in Piazza. This evening features the musicians of the Four Contradas. The musicians tonight are in competition with one another for the best group performance. Tonight is something similar to a marching band competition, in that it is all about original music and choreography. However, this is in medieval form. The music is limited to trumpets and drummers, and the groups are in beautiful medieval costumes.

*Note: Because of the festival, most roads in town will be closed today. Our transportation must run on a very tight schedule today. We will not be able to wait for anyone that is late, and we will not be able to provide any transportation that would get you into town after 5:00 PM.

Places Soriano nel Cimino
Classes & Experiences

Festivities of the Chestnut Festival (included)


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: One of the Festival Taverns (included)
Dinner: One of the Festival Taverns (included)

Today is a day full of festivities in Soriano, so we will stay in town all day. The activities of the day will vary between week 1 and week 2 of the festival.

During Week #1 of the Festival:
In the morning hours:
Soriano will be full of street vendors all day, and nearly all stores in town will be open. Thousands of people will fill the streets shopping the small artisan stands that sell just about everything including salames, cheeses, honey, gift items, wine, clothing, etc. In addition, you will find all sorts of performances happening in the town piazza today!

We'll leave you free to explore all morning, and at around noon, we will all meet up in the town piazza and head to the festival tavern of the Papacqua Contrada. Each Contrada (Clan) in town sets up a temporary restaurant during the festival, which is run by volunteers to raise money for next year's festival. It is the Italian version of Fair dining... and since this is Italy, the food is always fantastic! We'll have Local Pasta, Bruschetta & Veal-Chestnut stew.

In the afternoon:
For those that would like, we will leave town on foot at about 4:00 with hundreds of other locals to a field about a mile from town. We will watch the festival's main event: The Palio delle Contrade". Cavaliers run a course in turn for a ring jousting competition, and archers compete for distance and accuracy. The event lasts about three hours, and when it is over a huge celebration follows as we walk back into town (uphill all the way!) with the victors, and enter the piazza, where the thousands will be waiting for our arrival.

For those not coming to the event with us, spend the afternoon at your leisure, and at around 6PM, you will be there as the contradas parade back into town after the palio and the winners are announced.

Tonight for dinner, we will be eating in the Trinita Contrada's tavern. This is as casual as it gets! Festival Fare, Italian style. Paper place mats, plastic dishes & cups, but great homemade food in an ancient grotto. We'll have Polenta, Fire-Grilled Sausages & Chicken.

After dinner, there will be a performance in Piazza. This usually features a performance by the medieval swordsmen of the Rocca Contrada. We take seats in the stands in Piazza. The lights go out and torches light up. After a few moments, we hear deafening drumming as the drawbridge leading up to the medieval quarter & castle lowers, revealing a line of trumpeters. The trumpets begin to sound in sync with the drumming as they march into Piazza.

Suddenly, the swordsmen run into the middle of Piazza and begin a complete performance of acrobatics, sword fighting, and more.

Soriano's swordsmen train all year and perform on a regular schedule. They have been invited to perform all over Italy, eight other countries, including the United States. More info about them here.

During Week #2 of the Festival:
Today is the final day of the festival, and by far the biggest. Spend the morning today exploring the town on your own. The entire town is closed to traffic as thousands of people fill the streets for the big event.

Browse among the countless vendors here for the festival, selling local art, salames, cheeses, wine, honey, and much more. Hundreds and hundreds of people will be walking the streets in full medieval costume as the town builds up to the big event: The Corteo Storico.

At around noon, we will all meet up in the town piazza and head down to the festival tavern of the Papacqua Contrada. Each Contrada (Clan) in town sets up a temporary restaurant during the festival, which is run by volunteers to raise money for next year's festival. It is the Italian version of Fair dining... and since this is Italy, the food is always fantastic!

After lunch, we will have prime seats waiting for us in piazza for the "Corteo Storico" (Historic Medieval Court), a massive parade full of fanfare, amazing medieval costumes, performances of flag throwers & swordsmen, plus much more.

This is truly a magnificent event that you will never forget!

Finally, in the evening we will have dinner in the Trinita Tavern.

Places Soriano nel Cimino, Orvieto
Classes & Experiences

Cooking class resulting in dinner (included)
App: Panzanella
1st: Risotto with Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese & Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
2nd: Tuscan Roasted Chicken
Side: Tuscan Roasted Potatoes
Dessert: Tiramisu


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: in Orvieto (included)
Dinner: The results of our Cooking Class (included)

This morning we will all meet in a local coffee bar and pastry shop in Soriano’s main Piazza. Here we will have our traditional Italian breakfast of freshly baked pastries and cappuccino.

After breakfast we will drive to the Umbrian city of Orvieto which is the home to one of Italy’s most magnificent cathedrals, as well as the world-renowned white Orvieto Classico wine and beautiful ceramics shops.. Here we will give you the morning free to explore the Duomo & shop in this wonderful cliff-top town.

We'll have lunch in a local restaurant in Orvieto, then head back to Soriano for our first cooking class class:

Our Italian cooking classes are held at Villa Eddarella, which is just 5 minutes from town. The villa is an 18th century farmhouse that was built by Paola's own ancestors. We have completely restored into a beautiful country villa, with a breathtaking 700 sq.ft. teaching kitchen on the ground floor and views of the rolling hills that are to die for.

As we arrive, we'll give everyone a quick familiarization tour of the villa, and you will immediately learn one of the most important themes of the week: "Casa mia e' casa tua" (My house is your house). In other words, when we show you how we divide wine bottles in our 90-bottle wine rack, we'll also show you where the openers are, and where the glasses are. When you want some wine, have at it :-). We are all a big family this week.

After you have been given your aprons and recipe books (yours to take home at the end of the week), we will get down to business. We have a huge meal to make for dinner, so we'll not waste much time, especially since our cooking classes are extremely 'hands-on'.

Together, we will prepare Panzanella, which is a Tuscan bread salad made with fresh tomatoes from our local gardens, onion, olive oil, vinegar, and other various fresh veggies growing outside. For our first course, we will prepare a delicate white Risotto with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a balsamic vinegar reduction, followed by our family recipe for Tuscan roasted chicken & potatoes that we promise will leave you in absolute awe. Finally for dessert we will be preparing our family recipe for Tiramisu, which is guaranteed to be the best you have ever tasted.

During all of our cooking classes, we work, but we laugh and play. We break out the wine (and sometimes the Grappa). We may sing along to the background music as we are prepping, and everyone takes little breaks along the way. We even have a computer and WIFI Internet right in the kitchen for those of you that can't get away from your e-mail.

We may find that we need some herbs, and send a few guests out to the garden to pick them. In other words, don't think of it as 'school'. Above all, it is a delightful social experience in a breathtaking setting, while you make a mouth-watering meal together... and learn how it is done along the way. In fact, when we get the occasional person that doesn't cook with us, they have just as much fun!

Dinner tonight will be the results of all of your hard work, and we promise you won't be wanting for more! We have yet to have a guest tell us they have ever had better Panzanella, or better roasted chicken, or better risotto, or better tiramisu. Most important of all, you will know how to make all of this back home.

Places Montalcino, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Montepulciano, and Pienza, Tuscany
Classes & Experiences

Possible Truffle Hunting or Wine Grape Harvest depending on time of year. (included)


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: With the owners of a Brunello Winery in Montalcino (included)
Dinner: Cantina de' Ricci (included)

After our morning breakfast we will head out for a day full of wine, cheese & more in beautiful Southern Tuscany.

We'll start by driving to our furthest point, the town of Castelnuovo d'Abate. To get there, we will be driving the famous Orcia Valley Wine Trail through this picturesque wine region which evokes the classic image of Tuscan rolling hills. This is the area of Tuscany that most of us think of, seen in many well-known movies, such as Under the Tuscan Sun, Life is Beautiful, Letters to Juliet, and many more.

As we arrive, we will visit the St. Antimo Abbey, a beautiful Romanesque church that dates back to the 9th century. It sits in a valley just outside of Montalcino, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The monks now pray privately outside of the abbey, however we are still able to listen to the Gregorian chants of the monks that reside here.

After the service, we will go to nearby Montalcino, home of what is arguably the best of all Italian wines: Brunello. Instead of going to the big wineries for impersonal tastings like the tourists, we have something truly exclusive in store for you today. We will visit the small, private Piombaia winery in Montalcino.

Piombaia is a true artisan "microwinery". They are one of very few growers that still make wine manually with ancient basket presses, completely by hand. Their wine is completely organic & their vineyards biodynamic. They produce only around 600 cases of their Brunello per year!

The owners are extremely close friends of ours, and they will host us to a wonderful lunch as we sample their Brunello wine with our meal, as well as some of their other special wines. As we have lunch together, they will share their family history with you and answer any question you can imagine. You are sure to fall in love with this gracious family. It is always one of the major highlights on our weeks, and provides for a truly exclusive and unique Brunello experience. After lunch, they will treat us to a private tour of their vineyards before we move on. If time and weather permit, we may go on a Truffle Hunt while we are here.

Next, we'll take the short drive to beautiful Pienza, known for its incredible Pecorino cheese. You will have a some time to walk around this charming village, do some Pecorino cheese tastings and some shopping before we leave for the town of Montepulciano, where we will do our final wine tasting and tour of the day.

Montepulciano is known for its Vino Nobile wine, a primary competitor for the Brunellos. Here we will

tour the Cantina de'Ricci. This ancient 14th century cellar was built underneath the Palace of Cardinal Ricci and is widely considered to be the most beautiful wine cellar in the world. Like Piombaia, the owners here are very close personal friends. In fact, you will be treated to a visit to the ancient 3,000 year old private cellar where "EMIRO" wine is aged. EMIRO is a project between Piombaia, Cantina de'Ricci and Culture Discovery... a special wine to seal our mutual friendship. One in which these three friends have produced a first-ever exclusive blend of Brunello & Vino Nobile, and only 1,000 bottles (83 cases) per year are produced. While in the cellar, be sure to ask about "The Grappa Bottles" and you will quickly come to understand the deep bond between these winemakers and the founders of Culture Discovery.

After the cellar tour, we will participate in a complete tasting of Montepulciano's fantastic wines. Those that have seen the 2009 film 'New Moon' (The sequel to 'Twilight') will recognize this wine cellar and other areas of town from the movie.

For dinner tonight, we will be the guests of Enrico (The owner of the winery) and his family and dine at a specially prepared meal only for our group.

Places Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo
Classes & Experiences

Cooking class resulting in lunch (included)
App: Sausage & Stracchino Bruschetta
1st: Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce
2nd: Sautéed Spinach
Side: Tuscan Roasted Potatoes
Dessert: Panna Cotta with Chocolate-Hazelnet sauce


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: The meal we prepare in our cooking class (included)
Dinner: Katia's Taverna (included)

After our morning breakfast, we'll take the short drive to Villa Eddarella for our second cooking class.

Today our appetizer will be a unique Bruschetta with stracchino cheese and either Pancetta & rosemary or local sausage. For our first course, we will be making pasta from scratch again, either Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce, or Gnocchi with Sorrentina sauce. Our second course will either be Brasato al Barolo (Beef roast braised in Barolo wine, Brandy and local spices), Chicken Cacciatore, or our local specialty Porchetta. Finally, for dessert we will either make Panna Cotta with a chocolate-hazelnut & strawberry topping, or Crostata with preserves made by us from fruit grown at Villa Eddarella.

Lunch, of course, will be the meal we prepare in class.

After some espresso, grappa, limoncello, etc., there is usually some time to relax back in town before our afternoon and

evening excursion. Today's excursion is an evening outing to the capital of our province, Viterbo. Just nine miles from Soriano, Viterbo is the largest Italian city between Rome and Florence, and, while not frequented by tourists, it has remarkable beauty and a riveting history that very few are aware of. It has been the backdrop of many movies, including La Dolce Vita, and is truly one of Italy's hidden treasures.

We'll make our way into the ancient walled city, and take a walk through the main shopping district. If you're in the mood for some gelato, we'll stop in the Gran Caffè Schenardi, a beautiful coffee bar that dates back to 1818 as one of the very first coffee bars in Italy, that went on to serve Popes, Kings, Queens, etc. through its history. It was even a favorite place of Orson Welles, who would take time to think and write poetry here during the filming of Othello in 1958.

Next we will take a walk to the ancient Papal Palace, the official seat for six Popes between 1257 and 1281 when the Vatican was having trouble asserting authority in Rome.

This was the location of the first Papal Conclave before it was moved to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, after a controversial Papal Election happened here. It was the longest Papal election in history, that lasted nearly 3 years. After it had been going on for almost 2 years, the people of Viterbo became very upset and locked the cardinals inside, then began to ration food to nothing more than bread and water. To make matters worse, they tore the roof off the building to expose the Cardinals inside to the elements! The effects of this reached as far as Marco Polo in China at the time, and when it was all said and done, the people of Viterbo forced the election of a Pope that wasn't even so much as a priest! The result of this disaster created the rules that are, for the most part, the same rules used in electing popes today: The Papal Conclave.

After visiting the Palace, we will make our way on foot to the San Pellegrino district of Viterbo, which is known to be the best preserved medieval quarter in all of Europe.

Before returning to Soriano, we will take a nighttime walk through the San Pellegrino district and enjoy the amazing medieval buildings bathing in amber light... truly breathtaking.

For dinner tonight, we will be hosted in Katia's private family tavern. Katia is like your long-lost Italian sister. Everyone loves her while she helps Carla teach our cooking classes. Her tavern, built by her husband, Lucca, is a place where their family gets together for special occasions. Her family will be cooking and hosting a wonderful dinner for us tonight.

Places Assisi, Deruta
Classes & Experiences

Try your hand at the potter's wheel in Deruta (included)


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: Osteria degli Orti in Assisi (included)
Dinner: Maria Grazia's Villa (included)

After our morning breakfast we head to the Umbrian city of Deruta, which is known for its world-famous 'majolica' ceramics. Deruta is home to a centuries old ceramics tradition that is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and is among the most valued Italian ceramics internationally. We will have a factory tour, and those that are up to it can try their hand at the pottery wheel. If you are interested in purchasing any pottery or ceramics this week, this is the place with extremely deep discounts compared to what you will find elsewhere... a fraction of the costs back home.

As we leave Deruta, we will make our way to Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis. Still surrounded by its ancient walls, is sits on the slopes of Mount Subasio with beautiful rose stone buildings, winding narrow streets, noble palaces and balconies full of flowers.

We'll stop for lunch together in a local restaurant in Assisi, then you will have the afternoon on your own to visit the Basilica of St. Francis, browse the many beautiful shops, and do some sightseeing.

After this long day, we will drive back to Soriano. Tonight we are hosted in the Mountain Villa of Maria Grazia, the sister of a member of our team. She has a tiny B&B in the mountains above Soriano, and we will dine with her and her husband Cesare, who happens to be our contractor! Maria Grazia will have prepared a wonderful home meal for us tonight. This is always a major highlight of the trip.

Places Soriano nel Cimino, Civita di Bagnoregio, Castiglione in Teverina
Classes & Experiences

Pizza (included)
Pecorino & Ricotta Cheesemaking (included)
Grappa Making* (included)


Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)
Lunch: At Madonna delle Macchie Winery & Olive Mill (included)
Dinner: The Pizza we make at the Villa! (included)

This morning we will all meet in a local coffee bar and pastry shop in Soriano's main Piazza. Here we will have our traditional Italian breakfast of freshly baked pastries and cappuccino.

After breakfast, we will head out for the nearby dying city of Civita di Bagnoregio, a nearly deserted town that was originally built by the Etruscans in the 6th century BC. It is called the dying city because it is literally crumbling away thanks to thousands of years of erosion, to the point that it is now accessible only by a foot bridge. Civita resembles a ghost town, but is extremely well kept as a place where time is frozen. Our guests often tell us that this is their favorite of the 'destinations'. This town has a striking beauty like nothing else.

In the early afternoon, we will take a short drive to a small family-run winery and antique olive mill in the village of Castiglione in Teverina. Here, one of the owners will give us a private tour of their wine cellar and olive mill, followed by a tasting of their line of wines and their olive oil. As we are tasting, we will have a wonderful buffet lunch in their garden made by the owners with many local delicacies, and of course… their wine! This is likely to be one of the highlights not only of the vacation, but your life. In fact, when we do Alumni trips, our past guests always tell us that coming back here is at the top of their list.

In Italy, making Pizza is a social event, similar to the way many of us think of having a Barbecue. It is a time of fun and laughter where bonds are forged. It is a truly special experience while the group shares the homemade pizza one tray at a time as it is pulled from the wood-fired brick oven and carried piping hot to the garden table under the vines and stars.

We will prepare several kinds of dough, and prepare the fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and many other ingredients for this wonderful evening together. Each person will help while they learn every stage of this event. You will make the dough, drink some wine, prepare the ingredients, drink some wine, help fire up the oven, drink some wine, and even handle the peel as the pizza cooks.... and then we will drink some wine!

It will be true Italian country pizza, like nothing you have ever experienced.

Each guest will have the opportunity to make their own pizza, plus we will make all sorts of additional pizzas, such as Focaccia, Pizza Margherita, Sweet Onion pizza, Sausage & Porcini Pizza, and for dessert we will have Sugar Pizza and finally Nutella Pizza.

While all of this is going on, we will be visited by a local shepherd, who will bring some fresh milk. We will make fresh Ricotta and Pecorino cheese together! Naturally this fresh cheese is used in our classes!

If the Grappa-Master is in town, we will head down to the wine cellar for a hands-on participation in making this Italian liquor in our own copper still.

For our farewell dinner, we will hang out in the cabana or the villa dining room for a wonderful and casual pizza dinner to end our week!

Places Rome FCO Airport
Classes & Experiences n/a

Breakfast: Cappuccino & Pastries at Bar Roma (included)

Sadly, our week comes to a close this morning. The shuttle leaves town at 6:15 AM as most outbound flights require early morning airport arrivals. We will be at the Orte train station for a drop off by 6:40 AM, and at the Rome Fiumicino airport by 8:00 AM. This will be sufficient time for outbound flights leaving after 9:45 AM.

The Not So Fine Print:

Festival Schedule Unpredictble

We base our planned itinerary based on past years experience, but Italian festival schedules are usually only finalized weeks before the festival, and are subject to change. Additionally, events may be moved around or cancelled based on weather conditions. For example, the Palio event and the outdoor shows in the main piazza cannot be held if it is raining. In these cases, we do our best to find alternatives. Ifthe festival events are re-scheduled, we make every effort to rearrange our own schedule to accommodate, but those changes cannot be guaranteed.

Itinerary Subject to Change

This is a base itinerary, which is subject to minor changes before the vacation begins. Changes may be reorganization of days due to closure and festivals, changes due to weather, or seasonal changes. Additionally, these itineraries are prepared well in advance, and at times there are unexpected closures for various reasons that require us to alter the plans. In the end, our goal is always to make it better for our guests, and when substitutions happen, they are always wonderful.

Menu Variations

The menus listed on the itineraries are subject to change depending on season. We use only fresh ingredients wherever possible, so if we are unable to prepare a certain dish, it will be substituted. Occasionally we make changes to some items as certain dishes prove to be very popular.


Some places on our itineraries don't work well with cold weather or rain. We may have to have some of our meals indoors that we're scheduled to be outside. When we do expect rain, we try to rearrange the schedule to make the best of it, but substitutions may be made.