Overview - Wine, Cooking, Truffles & Chocolate: A Foodie's Paradise in Umbria and Tuscany

Umbria & Tuscany Cooking Vacation with Wineries, Olive Oil Mill, Truffle Hunting & Chocolate Class at Perugina!

An All-Inclusive Dream Week of Luxury, Cooking and Stunning Beauty

at our Norcia-based 2017 Hotel of the Year - The Palazzo Seneca! Indulge Yourself in Delicious Food, Wine and Chocolate. Go Truffle Hunting and Visit Incredible Sites in Picturesque Umbria and Tuscany!

This vacation will consist of a very small and intimate group of about 16 or fewer people. It is an 8-day, 7-night all-inclusive experience in Umbria along with a venture into Tuscany.

It is all about having incredibly unique cultural experiences that you will never forget. You will live the Italian life as we cook authentic local recipes together, interact with and befriend the locals, get to know small-village artisans, and so much more. This trip will make you pinch yourself over and over in amazement that you are actually living it.

Most of all, it is a week of fun, family and laughter as we share what makes Central Italy so special in a very personal way.

Beautiful Norcia: Our Home for the Week

There's nothing like seeing the look on our guest's faces when we arrive in Norcia. It's a town that most people outside of Italy have not heard of. But ask any Italian from Milan to Sicily, or from Rome to Tuscany. The moment you mention the name "Norcia", they will get dreamy eyed. Their sentiment comes from several reasons:

For one, this tiny little town nestled in the Umbrian hills, has been a prized culinary hotspot for centuries. It provides us with the prestigious "Black Truffles". It produces some of the best prosciutto and salami in the world, and so much more. Italians from around the country come here specifically to load their cars and trucks full of the local, hand-made products. Norcia has had such an influence on the culinary scene, that the word for Italian-specialty butcher shops are called Norcineria, named after Norcia, of course.

You will hardly believe this place is real. Norcia is in the heart of the gorgeous Sibillini National Park, considered one of the most beautiful natural treasures of Italy. The raw beauty of this area with rolling hills, rivers and lush valleys meander to a backdrop of a stunning mountain range. Castle-topped hill towns sprout up throughout the countryside like something out of a fairy-tale. You will be immersed in the beauty of this mountain paradise and living like a local.

Our accommodations are at the Relais and Chateau Palazzo Seneca in the historical center of Norcia. This was the birthplace of St. Benedict, and there is loving pride among the townspeople about the historical significance behind it. Such that, everything is kept beautifully preserved as the piazza looks like you've walked into a movie-set. You will find the streets lined with adorable sidewalk cafes, gelato shops, wonderful shopping, and butcher shops that are reminiscent of something from a time gone by.

Our Cooking Classes This Week

We'll have five cooking experiences this week.

Three classes will be at Chef Valentino Palmisano's Michelin-Star Vespasia Restaurant kitchen. Chef Valentino was listed among the 10 best Italian chefs abroad by ‘Arbiter’ magazine. Each hands-on class features four courses taught by the Chef Valentino and staff. We'll also be making a local pizza-type bread, Torta al Testo, at a centuries-old flour mill. Truly a unique experience in the hills outside of Spello that will be an experience like no other.

Vespasia Restaurant in Norcia - 1 Michelin Star

Another highlight of the week is our Private and Exclusive Chocolate-Making class, taught by a master chocolatier at the world-famous Perugina Chocolate Factory. Baci kisses anyone???

Our cooking classes are not demonstrations. They are 100% hands-on. The classes and instruction gives you the freedom to be as involved as you want to be. Whether it's in every stage of every course we prepare, or if you want to sit out here and there and enjoy yourself just relaxing. There's always plenty of food being made!

Three of our classes are held in the Vespasia restaurant kitchen, at the hotel. We'll have exclusive use of a Michelin Star restaurant! Our chef instructor will be the chef from the restaurant, who will be teaching us his insider techniques while preserving the old-school traditions his nonna taught him! His impressive experience has had him at multiple Michelin Starred restaurants over the course of his career, and he now brings that experience to our guests. But while so many chefs have attitudes, not the Vespasia staff, everyone absolutely adores them!

The classes will feature local cuisine, but with a wonderfully refined nature. We'll make ricotta ravioli & tagliatelle from scratch, porchetta, pecorino tarts, and much more. Additionally, we'll have the class at the flour mill using the freshly-milled flour from the to make the bread along with a fresh local delicacy dessert.

For those that would rather eat than cook, they will find our location to be fantastic, with much to do. The three big classes happen right in town, where you are steps away from shops and cafes. The hotel has a wonderful spa that offers massage and other services. There are wonderful trails just outside the village walls, and much more. They can do whatever they like, then make it back in time to eat the meal the rest of us made.

When We're Out And About...

When we are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible excursions and experiencing things most other travelers can only dream of.

We'll have an amazing visit at a centuries old, Traditional Cold-Press Olive Mill. We'll go on a Truffle Hunt with a national champion truffle hunting dog. We will visit a lovely family-run winery in the beautiful hills of Montefalco, Umbria's Sagrantino wine region.

We'll make ricotta cheese with a local shepherd. Visit a free-range pig farm, where some of the area's best prosciutto and salami comes from. You will even experience a true Italian Grigliata, an Italian BBQ, during which we get together with some of the locals - Quite possibly some that you've met throughout the week!

On the day we go to the chocolate factory, we will also have a visit and lunch in the historical center of Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria and has one of the most beautiful piazza's and corso in the entire region.

Our day trips will take us to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis and one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy. We will spend some time in the historical center of Foligno, along with a private visit at a family-run winery nearby. We'll also drive up to the breath-taking Castellucio hills for a stunning look at this fertile, high-plains valley.

To sum it up, this week's excursions are all set in some of the most beautiful settings in Italy that will evoke the Italian dream at every moment

The Food & Wine

Italians love their food. And why wouldn't they? It's delicious! We love it too and so much of what we do revolves around meal planning! We're talking about lunch at breakfast and then talking about dinner during lunch! One thing you never hear during one of our vacation weeks is, "I'm hungry" - What we do hear is..."I can't eat another bite!" But they still find some room!

You will never be hungry, and you will never want for more wine, period. All of the restaurant meals are in small, local restaurants that are considered the best of the best for their area. These are the places the locals rave about, not the touristy places. Furthermore, we don't do "tourist food". We insist on the highest quality at all times, and always pull out all of the stops.

The wine is always flowing at lunch and dinner. We take a lot of pride in making sure that we're pairing the right dish with one of the fantastic local wines. Everyone has their preferences. Find out which ones you like best!

Additionally, the meals at our cooking classes are not little 'learn to make pasta' classes like many others. Instead, the classes are traditional Italian 'Sunday Family Meals'... 4 courses, all from scratch. Whenever possible, we will use the most locally-sourced and sustainable products and ingredients available.

For those that are not big wine enthusiasts, not to worry! While we are visiting the wineries this week, they are selected because they have much more to offer than just the wine. These are truly family experiences, and unique in their own way. For instance, one is in a gorgeous setting in the hills of Montefalco, one of the premier wine regions of Umbria. There are plenty of places to relax or take a nice walk around the grounds with it's olive orchards and gardens. All in a magnificent setting with an amazingly gracious family. There are always alternative beverage options and lots of gorgeous scenery to take in.

When the week is over, you will have experienced the real Italy that few tourists have ever experienced. You will have made new friends, and you will have learned why Italian culture is so amazing... because you will have lived it.

It's Always About The People

It's all about friends and family! Our groups are small and intimate. We attract people that are looking for an authentic experience, so our guests always become friends right away. We are not guides, we are hosts. We are part of the group... we see you as our guests, not our clients.

Along the way, you will meet many new people in the towns we visit, and before you know it you will find yourself greeting locals you have befriended while walking the streets of Norcia. The hotel staff is incredible and will make you feel welcome from your first meeting. The locals are very friendly and proud of their town and are so happy to share their experiences with us...their out-of-town guests! Don't be surprised to see the barista or other locals waving to you as you pass them on the street. A sense of belonging develops very quickly as you become part of the fabric of this amazing little town.

Cities & Villages we'll visit...

Umbria is much like Tuscany...Before Tuscany was Tuscany!

Unpretentious - Beautiful Cities and Towns - Uncrowded - Delicious Food and Wonderful People!

Besides our time in Norcia, your journey in Umbria will bring you to some incredible towns with unforgettable experiences. One of the true gems and remarkable places in all of Italy is the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. You will have plenty of time to stroll through the picturesque walkways in this beautiful, historical town and marvel in the magnificence of the basilica.

When we go to the Umbrian capital city of Perugia, you will marvel at this picturesque and vibrant town with it's beautiful cathedrals, piazza's, cafe's, and shopping area in the historical center.

Other stops will be in the hills of Montefalco which is along the Sagrantino wine trail. You will visit the relatively tourist-free historical center of Foligno. Here, you will find beautifully quaint streets and alleyways full of shops, cafe's and friendly townspeople.

The olive oil mill is in the little commune of Campello sul Clitunno. Our bread class is on the outskirts of Spello and we'll drive up to the plains of Casteluccio to take in the spectacular views.

What we'll be cooking...

Four Completely Hands-On Cooking Classes

Grab an apron! It's time to start cooking!

Our class today is in the kitchen of the Vespasia restaurant at the hotel.

Our Second Class Features A Local Specialty Bread: Torta al Testo

Today's Mini-Class takes us into the hills above Spello to a generations-old family-run grain mill that still uses a water-powered grinder to make their artisan flour. Torta al Testo is a type of pizza bread, but with a local twist. It just doesn't get any fresher than this!

We'll also make a dessert roll similar to a strudel that will be baked in their wood-burning oven.

As a side note - We're making the same type of bread that made famed restaurateur, Nancy Silverton, want to become a baker!

Bread Making Artisan Dessert
Torta al Testo with Local Toppings Rocciata - Umbrian Strudel

Our Third Cooking Class Features More Regional Favorites

For today's class we're back at the Vespasia kitchen where we'll be cooking:

Appetizer First Course Second Course Dessert
Farro Salad with Prawns & Ricotta Salata Cheese Tagliatelle Pasta from Scratch with Local Truffles & Mushroom Sauce Fruit & Nut Crusted Turkey Skewers Farro & Pear Cake with Sagrantino Wine Reduction

Our Fourth Cooking Class is All About Chocolate!

For today's class we have the exclusive use of the teaching kitchen at the Perugina Chocolate Factory - Home of the BaciKisses!

The master chocolatier will teach us how to make our own unique recipes for our very own chocolate truffles that we'll be taking home!

Classic Ganache-Filled Chocolate Truffles Chocolate Flavored Infusions Examples
Ganache Filling of Your Choice. White and Dark Chocolate Limoncello, Grappa, Mint, Pistachio Creme, Cayenne, Amaretto and much more!

Historical Sites, Factories, Wineries & Mills we will visit...

  • Norcia - Birthplace of St. Benedict
  • Assisi - Birthplace of St. Francis
  • Perugina Chocolate Factory
  • Historical Center of Perugia
  • Historical Center of Foligno
  • Carletti Winery & Olive Mill in Campello sul Clitunno
  • Truffle Hunting
  • Traditional Water-Drive Grain Mill
  • Montefalco Sagrantino Winery