Imagine yourself in an olive orchard nestled in the hills of Umbria, where "The Best" Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes from. The olives are ripened to the perfect balance of flavor and there you are, with the nets resting on the ground, ready to harvest the olives from the trees and take them to the mill for pressing.
This truly is an exclusive week as it only happens once a year from our Norcia-based location. Our friends at the olive mill only share this experience with our guests. It is an experience you will never forget! When we visit the olive mill the other weeks of the year, we can see the process of how olive oil is made. But this week, we do the whole process from harvesting to crushing to pressing and on to getting the oil straight from the centrifuge. It is an experience like no other!
This itinerary closely resembles our Norcia vacation week, during which we do many of the same things such as; the cooking, visiting a family winery in Montefalco, etc. However, this week when we visit the Frantoio (Italian for Olive Oil Mill), we will take to the trees and pick olives. It's not all fun and games as we have to take some wine breaks in-between! When we've picked enough, then we're on to the traditional, cold press where our olives will be processed the old-fashioned way...Ground with large stone wheels to make our very own Extra Virgin Umbrian Olive Oil!
This experience is so unique that time is set aside for us at the mill to allow us to make the olive oil from the olives that WE picked! You will be bringing home the Extra Virgin Olive Oil YOUi> made! We're confident in saying that this will be The Most Amazing Olive Oil you have ever had!
Take a look at the rest of what your 8-Day, 7-Night All-Inclusive, small group vacation in Central Italy will look like...
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.
This is a special time of year in this part of Italy. Leaves are changing as well as the weather. The magnificent beauty in Central Italy this time of year has you waking up to misty mornings, sunny afternoons and cooling evenings. Summertime gelato gives way to decadent Italian hot chocolate. The crisp fresh vegetables of summer give way to rich and warming soups such as the locally-grown lentil or comforting stews like spezzatino. Time slows down for a bit and a calmer routine begins. Even the crowds normally found in the popular destinations have all but disappeared.
Starting in late October, the main focus is on OLIO NUOVO, or NEW OIL. There is nothing quite like it, and if you have never had freshly-milled olive oil, you are in for quite a remarkable treat!
Our guests always say that this bucket-list, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was an amazing experience and one that they will never forget!
Here's what you'll be doing on this special day of making The BEST Extra Virgin Olive Oil will be like...
After our fabulous daily breakfast in the warm interior of the dining salon at the hotel, we'll be taken by our motor coach to the countryside of Umbria to our friend's olive oil mill and winery. Umbria has been known for centuries as having the best climate in all of Italy for growing the olives to make, arguably, THE BEST olive oil found anywhere!
We'll go to one of their selected orchards and begin to rake the olives right off the branches and into our shoulder bags. This is how the locals do it. And they've been doing it this way for millennia. While we're having the time of our lives, we'll have fresh-baked pizza-bread and award-winning wine brought to us as we'll need to sustain our energy-level! When we have cleared enough trees, we'll fill our crates with our olives and head to the press and mill.
It is an incredible operation to see. We'll watch Our olives begin the whole process of how our oil will be made. The olives are cleaned and sent to the large rotating stone wheel mill to be crushed, seed and all. The paste is ready to be spread on mats, which are stacked on spindles and wheeled over to the press which slowly squeezes the juice from the paste. The liquid is collected and sent through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the watery part of the olive, then, at the end of the line, the purest oil comes flowing from the pipe. And we will have helped in every facet of the process!
While our olives are slowly becoming oil, we'll sit down to a specially-prepared and wonderful lunch, enjoying the company and good wine, recalling the fun of what we've just experienced. But we're not done yet! Our olive oil is now ready and each one of us will walk up to the spout to collect our oil! Each of you will fill your own one liter can of olive oil that we just made from olives we just picked! Truly...One of the most fantastic days of our vacation season and one of the most incredible things we get to do. It's one of the special days of the year that our Culture Discovery family looks forward to each and every year. We know that you will love it!
During each of our Norcia-based weeks throughout the season, we visit this olive mill, but this is the only time of year that we actually see it in operation... and have the opportunity to experience it first hand. Furthermore, this is an exclusive experience that the olive mill ONLY does with us!
We'll have three classes at the Michelin-Star Vespasia Restaurant kitchen, featuring four courses taught by the restaurant chef 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.
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, a full sports center, swimming pool, spa, 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 are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible excursions and experiencing things most other travelers can only dream of. Along with our amazing time making olive oil 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 an absolutely incredible family-run winery, and make ricotta cheese with a local shepherd. 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!
Our day trips will take us to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis, Spoleto as well as the Umbrian countryside.
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
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 winery this week, it is selected because it has much more to offer than just the wine. This is truly a family experience, and unique in it's own way. The one we'll be visiting 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 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.
Umbria is much like Tuscany...Before Tuscany was Tuscany!
Unpretentious - Beautiful Cities and Towns - Uncrowded - Delicious Food and Wonderful People!
Your journey to 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 Spoleto, you will marvel at this picturesque town with a castle and Roman amphitheater is so symbolic of many towns in Umbria. The Cathedral of Spoleto houses an early 13th century letter written by St. Francis to one of his dear friends and fellow friar.
Other stops will be in the hills of Montefalco which is along the Sagrantino wine trail. 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.
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: