Overview - Wine, Cooking and Castles in Barolo & Roero
Overview - Wine, Cooking and Castles in Barolo & Roero
A truly immersive week of the wine and culinary traditions in north-western Italy's Piedmont region.
Home to many of Italy's most prominent wines, including Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco, Roero, Arneis, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, and more.
Our 8-Day, 7-Night All Inclusive* Vacation consists of a small group of about 16 or fewer guests, all staying at at a private 19th century villa surrounded by vineyards that we have all to ourselves for the week. This historic villa was originally built by the Lavazza family (of coffee fame), and the vineyard here is where the area's famous white "Arneis" wine was first brought to market. This is, without dount, one of the most spectacular locations in the area.
This is a completely unique wine and cooking vacation experience, in which we experience many of the highlights of the area, but focus on more off the neaten path experiences, wineries that are still small, family-run operations, and people that truly welcome us into their lives. Our guests make memories with new friends will last a lifetime., They live like locals, and get to truly know the people that preserve the traditions and culture of this historic area. All of our guests have delicious meals that are unique to this area of Italy at your cooking classes, small local farm-to-table restaurants, and even in the private homes for our personal friends.
Our excursions to wineries are focused on small-production, local wine-makers that willingly share their knowledge and passion about their fantastic, regional wines, including, Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco, Roero and Arneis, to name a few. The cooking classes are with local friends who proudly share their Italian heritage and love for cooking with every bite!
We will have first-hand experiences with regional artisans that have been continuing the traditions that have been passed down through generations.
We shop where the locals shop, eat where the locals eat, cook in the local traditional way and experience Northern Italy as if you have been living there all your life. Our guests leave with a lifetime of memories, longing to return to visit their new-found family and friends they met throughout the week.
Most importantly, all of this is done with love and deep friendships. We buck the norms of tourism that are created with lots of marketing mumbo jumbo. Our small groups are about half the size of what other call small groups, not to sell a small group, but because we do things that are not part of the tourism machine that simply cannot be done with more people. We do not create the appearance of a family experience. It actually is, and that becomes evident as you see little things like that person that owns that little winery we visited joins us for dinner somewhere else, or joins us at a party at a friend's house. Our guests quickly see how we are all connected, and simply sharing the local culture with you, rather than simply showing it to you.
Location! Location! Location!
Our villa is not just any villa. It is, quite simply, our private paradise. Originally built by the Lavazza family, it is now the iconic villa that is surrounded by the vineyards of the Cornarea winery, known as the originator of Arneis wine, and also produce other fantastic wines, such as Roero, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Tarasco, and Spumante Brut.
The villa consists of 9 private rooms (with private entrances and baths), breathtaking views, and beautiful common areas. Throughout, we have stunning views of the surrounding rolling hills with vineyards as far as the eye can see. This puts us at a wonderful central location for everywhere we go for the week. We are just 12 miles from the Langhe Valley, where Barolo is made. 8 miles from Alba, 11 miles from Barbaresco, 15 miles from Asti, and just 30 miles from Turin.
Our guests quickly entirely at home here at the villa. Each room is beautiful, we do several of our cooking classes here, a dinner here, and we have a fully stocked kitchen area with water, wine, coffee, and snacks free to pick from at will throughout the week.
About Our Northern Italy Cooking Classes
We will be cooking with locals – just as the locals do it. All our cooking classes are all hands-on, made-from-scratch home cooking with farm-to-table ingredients. Guests are free to participate as much as they want, meaning those that want full involvement can dig right in, while those who have no interest in cooking can sip some wine, gaze at the views, and the rest of us do all the work for them!With our local chef, Fernanda, we’ll be having two, full-course lessons of local-regional fare, taught at the villa. We’ll be making dishes such as, Brasato al Barolo, Fiori di Zucca, Polenta and Risotto, just to name a few.
We’ll have another full-course class with a lovely family at their Roero Valley winery. Our chef instructor and owner of the Marsaglia winery, Marina, is not just an amazing cook, but a dear friend of ours that our guests have fallen in love with over the years. She is even close with many at our other locationa! Maria will share her recipe for what is arguably the best home-made lasagna that you will ever have! Marina and her family are so much fun to cook with! The fact that the winery is at her home makes it even better! Her Roero and Barbera wines are fantastic and will pair wonderfully with our lunch on the veranda of her home.
While with her, we will also make other dishes, and even share in the "Grolla Cup," a symbol of friendship from the Italian Alps just a couple hours to our north. The Grolla is a cup with lots of drinking holes traditionally used to drink Valdostana coffee mixed with grappa, sugar and spices. Nothing better after a wonderful lunch!
Another experience that we’ll have is when we are in Turin and visit an artisanal gelato maker, where we will... well... have a very "sweet" experience before we try the gelato made here :-).
Wine, Wine, Wine and Dine
Our cooking classes and the delicious meals we’ll be making and enjoying together are the foundations from which our vacation weeks evolve. Another very important aspect of our vacations is when and where we can enjoy a fabulous meal or aperitivo together while we are out and about. We found a wonderful mix of those special, locals-only places along with some classic, must-go-to establishments, where we can relax and recall the day’s events. These are the times when everyone gets to know one another, share photos of family, friends, pets, our hometowns and where we form the bonds that last a lifetime,
For us, finding the right hosts, locations, and settings are just as important as what we’re having while we are there. We don’t just grab a quick bite and we’re off to the next great excursion. We prefer to take time to soak it all in. Here in the north of Italy, we have been blessed with a combination of all the above... See below!
Just like all Italians, the people of Piemonte are no exception as they all love their local dishes and traditional foods. They are every bit as passionate about the sourcing of ingredients, preparation and detail to serving, as they are about being with family and friends to share the experience with.
Each meal brings its own unique and memorable experience as some of our meals out will be at wineries where we will be the exclusive guests of the wine-makers. We will eat with locals throughout the week, including their private homes.
Wine flows whenever you want and the meals are a wonderful mix of pasta dishes and other locally-sourced meat and poultry dishes. Not to mention the delicious cheeses, salamis, and other regional favorites, like Gnocchi, Polenta, Risotto, Truffles and Pizza, of course!
The backdrops for our most of our meals are just as remarkable as the dishes themselves. We’ll have lunch in a vineyard, with its breathtaking views of rolling hills high above the valley floor.
Another setting will be at the private estate of our friend in the Monferrato area. His property has gorgeous views of the valley and mountains nearby.
The historic streets of Torino during our foodie and café “crawl” will be another memorable experience that you will be talking about for years to come.
When the week is over, you will not want to leave your newly found Piemontese family without knowing when the next time you will be coming back! You will have made friends and memories that will last a lifetime as you will have spent the entire week living as locals, with locals, and you can’t help but be impressed by the generosity and hospitality that makes our time in this small part of Italy so genuine and authentic.
Experiences and Excursions
One of the most important aspects at any of our destinations is that we have as authentic an immersive experience into the local culture as you could have. We do as much with local families as we can. Spending time with them at their homes, wineries, and other destinations, oftentimes, we’re going to places that even many of the locals are unfamiliar with!
When we go to the Langhe Valley, most visitors go to the popular name-brand wineries that are so prevalent there. Instead, we’ll head to our friend, Giorgio’s home. He is a producer of Barolo and Barbaresco as well as some private, small-batch wines, that are only found here at the winery. His vineyard and his cellar are his life and his love which you will see first-hand right as soon as you meet him! Imagine going to the corporate wineries with all of the glitz and production value. That is not us. Now imagine going to someone's home, who is a Barolo winemaker, and at lunch he runs inside and grabs some bottles of Barolo with hand-written labels to share his latest labor of love with you in his garden, before it is officially bottled. Yeah, that is Giorgio!
During our cooking class at our friend, Marina’s home, just like everywhere we go, we are invited guests and not “clients”. She treats everyone like visiting family and friends, as she absolutely loves to entertain guests in her home. Marina and her family are such a highlight of the week and a huge part of why we do weeks in this area. Not only is her class fun and where we make one of the most fantastic Lasagnas you will ever have, but her home is also where her cantina and winery are! We are literally cooking one floor above barrels and cases of lots of some really fantastic wine!
We will go truffle-hunting with another Giorgio, that has made a life of truffle-hunting. We will have a private truffle-hunt with his dogs that he and his brother have raised and trained themselves. They will take us out into the woods near their home and we’ll set the dogs out to find the little treasures. Sometimes we find them, sometimes not, but that’s what makes it authentic. Sure, you can book a truffle hunting experience in the area and always be guaranteed to find truffles. After all, they are easy to bury before you get there. But we are all about real, and if we find truffles, we are actually finding them. If we don't, well, that is authenticity at work. When we get back to Giorgio’s, he’ll have some truffle-inspired appetizers and some local wine. Whatever happens, it’s always fun and rewarding!
When we go to the center of Torino, we’re not having, “A practical historical city tour”, where you have either a two-minute photo opportunity, or you spend an hour at some place you may not be interested. Instead, we will have a “Caffe Crawl”, where we’ll be visiting the café’s and bars that changed history. Each successive stop has some local history to it. We’ll begin with the traditional Piedmontese breakfast, and the Bicerin. This is the hot chocolate, coffee and cream creation of the mixology wizards of Torino in the 18th century. The likes of which, Picasso, Hemmingway, Dumas and the shapers of Italian culture all used to enjoy their Bicerin, almost daily.
We will visit one of the oldest café’s, the Caffe’ di Palazzo Reale. This was in the Royal palace of the King of Italy. Take yourself to another time when we sit in the same café where the framers of the Unification of Italy would meet and lay out their plans for the new Republic of Italy in the mid-1800’s. And, there will still be time to take in some of Torino’s popular sites, or just enjoy shopping, strolling or sitting at a famous café!
If you consider dining as an experience, there are several times this week that are going to be excursions in and of themselves. We will be having some wonderful meals with family and friends at their own homes and living as the locals do. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!
It goes on and on like this the entire week. You will have been exposed to a side of the Piemonte region that very few visitors would ever find. And you will have lived it from an insider’s view and will not wait to come back... Or stay!
Cities & Villages we'll visit...
The city of Alba is relatively unknown to most people outside of Italy, however it is quite famous all over the world. Alba is home to Ferrero, the makers of Nutella! They also make those delicious little gold-wrapped, Ferrero-Rocher chocolates. And Tic Tacs! Yes, Tic Tacs are actually from Italy! When you walk through the historic downtown, the faint scent of chocolate is in the air. Alba is also known for the best white truffles in the world!
The city itself is lively and vibrant. We’ll take some to explore the historical center, with its great shops, bars, cafes and street scene.
Many have come to believe that the town of Barolo is where Barolo wine is from. While it surely originated here, the entire area of the Langhe valley, and many of the areas we visit, produce Barolo wine. However, as the name sake of the "King of Wines," Barolo is a town everyone must visit. The town is built round the beautiful Castle of Barolo, which dates back to the 10th century, and the area surround the castle is full of charming little cafes, shops, and of course wine bars!
We will take a stroll around town together, and give you some time to enjoy the shops, or go to the wine museum in the castle. All the while, our host will be in a small cafe, and if anyone would like to join for drinks or some coffee, it is on us.
Another of the Barolo-producing towns, La Morra sits perched on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding Langhe Valley, full of vineyards and fields like a scene from an Italian movie. Home to many shops, café’s, trattoria and enotecas, we will stroll the narrow winding cobblestone streets of this iconic and quintessential northern Italian town.
Another stop will be in the foothills of La Morra, where we will spend an afternoon at a boutique, family-run winery of the highly-prized Barolo and Barbera wines of the area. We’ll have a tasting and lunch, prepared exclusively for us with the wine-maker.
On our final evening, we will be in the hometown of our friend Alessandro and have a home-style casual afternoon and evening with his family and friends at their breathtaking villa with some of the best views you will have all week. First, we will visit his neighbor, Fabrizio, to try his wonderful Barbera wines and see his passion and craft for making his artisanal wines. Afterwards, we spend the evening making pizza and panini in their wood-fired oven as we take in one of the most breathtaking sunsets in the world.
Today we make our way to the western Italian Alps, just a few miles from the border with France. The scenery is gorgeous amid the mountains and rivers that forge their way through the lush hills and dramatic landscapes. We’ll be stopping in Castelmagno, where some would argue has the best cheese found just about anywhere. It’s used in many recipes from this area, some of which we will be having throughout the week. Naturally, we will spend time with a producer of this delightful cheese, and have lunch with them s well.
We will then make our way to a to nearby hamlet in the area, where the locals have turned the entire village into a museum of its own history by creating fascinating life-sized straw figures that depict important people of their history, as well as important memories of times gone by. This brief stop is something that is truly unique and fascinating.
Once home to many of the Piemontese nobility, this beautiful and thriving city makes for a fabulous stop as we will visit a unique “sensory” museum as well as having our Perfume-Making class. We’ll be guided every step of the way as each of us creates their own special fragrance mixing essential oils of various herbs, flowers and plants. At the end of this incredible and fun experience, everyone will take home her or his own blend! We’ll take some time after to stroll the streets of town and take in the local culture for some shopping and aperitivi.
After Rome, Torino can arguably be considered the second most interesting city in all of Italy. During the 1500’s, it was certainly one of the most powerful cities in all of Europe, as it was ruled by the House of Savoy, the royal dynasty that had political influence over its many rivals.
Torino was the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy after the unification in 1860. It happens to be the birthplace of many notable statesmen that were instrumental in Italy becoming a unified country and free of Vatican rule.
Today, Torino is a thriving hub of Italian commerce. The historical center has many influences on its architecture, ranging from Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classical. There are numerous galleries, museums, theaters, restaurants and the famous café’s that we will be visiting on our Caffe Crawl. We’ll have a chance to explore the many sides of this wonderful city.
Aside from the main places we will be going, we will be spending time in many other towns in the area for various reasons. The town of Canale is where our villa is. We will have a lovely dinner in Monteau Roero, the Pradleves Cheese producer is in San Pietro Monterosso. Our cooking with Marina will be at her home in Castellinaldo. Our truffle hunting will be in Costigliole d’Asti. We will have another dinner in the village of Castagnito.
Our Cooking Classes This Week...
As always, our classes are full, hands-on cooking experiences where you can participate as much as you want. We’ll have the exclusive use of the kitchen at our villa for two of our full-course classes with Fernanda. She is an accomplished chef that creates wonderful local fare for her discerning guests at the numerous events she hosts throughout the area. She will bring her personal style and humor as she teaches us to bring these classic local dishes to life! It’s not only her knowledge of cooking, but also her friendly personality and demeanor that makes these classes both fun and informative!
Our other cooking class will be a double treat of fun and cooking when we go to the private home of a friend of ours, Marina, who is also a wonderful wine-maker. We usually end up spending more time singing and dancing, but the meal always gets prepared and is wonderful!
She will have us making everything from scratch for her family-recipe lasagna, that might be some of the best you’ve ever had. We’ll enjoy the morning and lunch at her home, dining out on her lovely and accommodating terrace.
Our farewell dinner will be at our friend, Alessandro’s house, nestled in the hills of Montaldo di Cerrina. While not technically a scheduled cooking class, we all can jump in to help the family do the cooking and making the pizzas in the comfort of their charming home in this beautiful and pristine setting.
What we'll be cooking...
Three Full-Course Meals, based on local recipes.
Grab an apron! It’s time to start cooking… Italian-Style!
Everyone gets into the act during our first cooking class. This is where the guests really start to get to know each other, having so much fun, singing, dancing, drinking wine, cooking and enjoying some great food for our lunch!
|Appetizer||1st Course||2nd Course||Side||Dessert|
|Zucchini and Cheese Soufflé||Potato Gnocchi with Castelmagno Cheese||Brasato al Barolo||Seasonal fresh vegetables||Bunet – Chocolate and Amaretto Cake|
This morning we will take a short drive to Marina’s house and cantina, where we will prepare our fabulous lunch today!
|Bruschetta or Charcuterie Board||Traditional Ragu Lasagna||Seasonal Vegetables||Piemontese Meliga cookies with Zabaione cream|
Today we are cooking at the villa again for more regional cooking with Fernanda.
|Appetizer||1st Course||2nd Course||Dessert|
|Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Blossoms- Or Seasonal Appetizer||Tajarin Pasta with Piemontese Ragu||Polenta with Locally-Sourced Sausage||Baci di Dama – Hazelnut Cream filled cookies|
We’ll also have a unique, creative class experiences at which each of us will make our own perfume or cologne!
Our perfume-making class takes place in Savigliano. This is where Giovanni Farina, started experimenting with making perfume, before moving to Cologne, Germany and starting his factory there. Hence the name! With the help of our instructor, each guest will learn how to combine essences made from herbs, spices and plants to make their own unique and personal fragrance! Of course, you will be taking home your own bottle of your new favorite blend!