Overview - Cities Lost in Time on the Road Less Traveled

Discover Lost Italian Cities of the Etruscan Era. Sights the Tourists Never See, Unique Cooking Classes, and More.

Discover Cities Lost in Time, on roads Less traveled by tourism.

This vacation experience is not for the tourist. It is for the traveler.. The itinerary has been thoughtfully crafted for those of you that want an in-depth and rich experience of local life in Italy. We’re going off-the-beaten-path to areas that are still mostly undiscovered.

When we envisioned Culture Discovery Vacations back in 2006, our concept was based on having taken many of our friends and family to many places you never read about in the tour guides or history books. These hidden treasures, the places the Italians themselves visit, were places of wonder and amazement for so many of our friends. But we also know that many people want to visit the places they have always dreamed of, so most of our itineraries are a mixture of well-known and desirable places, as well as places that are off the beaten path

After several years, we created an "Alumni Only" week called "Cities Lost in Time," as well as one called "The Roads Less Traveled." These were those special weeks in which we simply told past guests to trust us, even though everything on the itinerary was unfamiliar. Naturally, these weeks filled up quickly, and everyone loved them! So we still add this itinerary on a few weeks each year, and even allow new first time guests that want to experience something even more off the beaten path than what we normally do! But we also mix some of our more popular "hotspots" in as well!

You’ll take a giant step back to places and times that are nearly forgotten. This is experiential travel in some of its purest form. We will hike through the woods and visit a 3,500+ year old ancient Etruscan village that remains hidden in the forest. We will visit some of the ancient Romain cities that are more often visited by archeologists than tourists. You will partake in local traditions and customs. You will cook and taste home-style Italy that even most locals never do anymore, and we will even do a dish straight out of the ancient Roman Apicus cookbook!

This is the road less traveled. These are the cities lost in time.

This is the REAL Italy that few travelers ever see.

What We're Doing...

Our outings, excursions and cooking classes this week are a mixture of new places our guests have never been to, along with some of the highlights from our Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun Vacation.

We're taking guests to some lesser-known places in and around Soriano as well as Tuscany and Umbria. We will visit places that only a few foreign travelers ever see, including many sites that even the locals aren't familiar with.

Local civilization dates back about 3,500 years when the area was inhabited by the Etruscans. The Etruscans pre-date the Romans, and much of what history has attributed to the Romans actually came from this all but lost vivilization. They were an amazing people that ruled from twelve city-states before the Romans ultimately conquered them. We're going to see some of the places where they lived, how they lived and also where they practiced customs and rituals.

Take a step back to the origins of life in Italy. We'll even have one of our class courses and recipe based on a long-forgotten Ancient Roman cookbook. Along with this and many other experiences we'll have this week, above all, it is a week of getting to know the locals, fun, family and laughter as we share what makes this part of Italy so special in a very personal way.

The Cooking Classes

We'll be making a diversity of recipes during our cooking classes this week. All our cooking classes are completely 100% hands-on, with a participate as much as you want or desire to structure. They are not demonstrations.

Two of the classes are complete full-course meals, during which you are completely involved in everything. Another class focuses on locally-sourced and regional recipes, including deserts of Biscotti and Gelato. Yet another is all about Italian Country Wood-Fired Pizza! One of our classes will be at a generations-old traditional water-wheel grain mill, where we will make a local-style Umbrian bread as well as a strudel-like dessert.

So, when you're ready, we will get wrist-deep in our kitchen as we make locally-sourced, farm-to-table recipes using ingredients such as flour from a family-run mill in Umbria to make, from scratch, home-made pasta. We'll also use it for our pizza class on Friday night! We use free-range chickens for our Tuscan Roasted Chicken made directly in our wood-burning oven. Our sauces are made with mostly with home-grown, seasonal vegetables including, zucchini, celery and onions and eggplant. We'll make ricotta and pecorino cheese with a local shepherd...And so much more!

For those would rather eat than cook, there is always something to entertain you. All of our classes take place at our beautiful 18th century country villa. Take control of our 90-bottle wine rack, relax, take a stroll, or just enjoy the wonderful Italian countryside. Whether you are cooking or not, the time we spend during the cooking classes is always a highlight.

Getting Out

When we are not cooking, we are heading out on some truly incredible outings and excursions.

Be prepared to be amazed and bewildered by the very special destinations we have planned this active week. While so much of Italy is steeped in its past, many times you can only view those places from afar. This week, you will literally be standing in the footsteps of centuries past.

One such place is the stunning and powerful Marmore Falls. View from below or hike down the trail of the tallest man-made waterfall in all of the world. This incredible engineering feat was commissioned by the emperor and built by the Romans over 2000 years ago.

We'll walk through history visiting two different Etruscan archeological sites. One is at the ruins in the village of Vulci, which was a thriving community set in a beautiful valley and mountain ridge with a river running adjacent to their settlement. The other is in a forest on the outskirts of Soriano, where the ruins and remnants of a small village with cave-dwelling and a necropolis shows evidence of what Etruscan farm life was all about.

We will visit "The Monster Park," or The Sacred Wood as it is also known. This park is populated by dozens of larger-than-life sculptures, commissioned by the Prince Orsini to cope with his grief after the death of his wife, Giulia (the granddaughter of the infamous Pope Alexander VI's mistress, Giulia Farnese). It was designed by Pirro Ligorio, who had been the chief architect of St. Peter's Bsilic after Michelangelo died, and many historians still argue over the significance. Some believe this was a statement against the Church, others believe it was an amusement park of its time, and still others believe it was a way to help the Prince convey his grief to visitors.

This fascinating place was lost to overgrowth until the 1930's when Salvador Dalí happened upon it and made a short film, and then overgrown again until restored in the 1970's.

We'll visit some amazing wineries, including small family-run places where we will meet the owners and dine with them. We'll have dinner where the wine cellar is widely-considered to be the most beautiful cellar in the world.

We'll have lunch at a small home-based olive mill that makes arguably, the best Extra-Virgin Umbrian Olive Oil you will ever have! We'll visit a generations old, operational Deruta ceramics factory where we try our hand at the potter's wheel.

We'll see many other beautiful-beyond-description Italian gems such as Assisi, Orvieto, Pienza and more!

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!

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'... Some are 5 courses, all done to the max. Other classes highlight Italian Desserts and Pizza!

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 in a way that few could ever dream about!

At Home with the Locals

Home cooking...Away from home. Welcome to the Real Italy. Several of our meals will be home-cooked, home-served. That is, we are dining with local residents in their homes, villas or "taverne", truly sharing in their lives, and being part of everyday family life in an Italian village.

It doesn't stop there. Each morning when you have breakfast at the cafe in the main piazza, you will be welcomed with friendly smiles and a Buongiorno from the baristas. Don't be surprised when they know your specialty drink or pastry by the next day!

Your daily encounters with locals will leave a lasting impression not only on yourselves, but also with the locals as they really love our guests and the interaction that takes place. They are as genuine as it comes and you will feel it from the moment you arrive until the time to say goodbye.

It's not just in town where you will have this opportunity. Down at the villa, we have visitors come often to join us for lunch or pizza night. When we go to the wineries and the olive mill, we are at their personal homes and not some touristy stop where mainstream companies go.

This will most-likely be unlike anything you have experienced when traveling. You are invited into people's homes and lives and will be welcomed in as if you have known them for years.

Cities & Villages we'll visit...

In Tuscany, we will visit the villages of Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, and Castelnuovo d'Abate. We will visit small family-run wineries and have an amazing home-made lunch in Montalcino at the home of our dear friend (and Brunello Winemaker),and dinner in what has been labeled as "The Most Beautiful Wine Cellar in the World" in Montepulciano.

Umbria...Figuratively and literally, sits in Tuscany's shadow, yet evokes emotions of what Tuscany was like before all of the tourists arrived.. In fact, many films that are set in Tuscany are actually filmed in Umbria to evoke what much of Tuscany once looked like

We will visit that ancient 2,000 year old waterfalls in Terni. These are the tallest waterfalls in the world, and the tallest man-made waterfalls in the world. Mad-Made by ancient Roman engineers! We will also visit an ancient 16th century flour mill, and have a cooking class, during which we make the classic Umbrian dish "Torta al Testo," and the breathtaking city of Foligno, that will leave you wondering why on earth it is not frequented by tourists in Italy!

Alto Lazio...Where Italian Traditions Still Prevail...

We find many of Central Italy's hidden treasures in the area of Alto Lazio - locally known as Tuscia. This is a mostly Roman area, yet borders parts of Umbria and Tuscany and has influences from all three regions. Our home base of Soriano nel Cimino which lies in the foothills above the Tiber Valley, was a strategic outpost beginning in Etruscan times and over the years has built a very storied history.

Here. we will visit The Monster Park, as well as the beautiful city of Rieti. Again, one of those places that will leave you wondering why it is not in the tourist guides.

We'll make our way to the Etruscan and Roman ruins of Vulci, as well as the well-hidden ruins of the ancient Etruscan village of Corviano.

Another amazing highlight of the week and true gem in the area is the time we spend at a winery and olive oil mill in the rolling hills of Castiglione in Teverina.

What we'll be cooking...

Four Completely Hands-On Cooking Classes - Family Style.

Our First Class at Villa Eddarella, We'll Be Cooking...

A traditional Sunday Family-Meal - On Monday!

As an addition to our scheduled classes, during this week we'll be visited by a local shepherd who will need our help to make fresh Ricotta and Pecorino cheese. We fire up the cauldron and stir the pot as we learn how to make these regional specialties. The Ricotta or Pecorino cheese we have been using this week was made like this with our guests. As we make it, you will have the chance to taste this fresher-than-fresh, just-made ricotta cheese with a locally-sourced honey made by friends of ours. It is truly sensational!

Appetizer First Course Second Course Side Dessert
Fabam Vitellianam: Fava Bean-Style Dip & Local Bread Based on Ancient Roman Apicius Recipe Pici Pasta w/ Fennel Ragu made from scratch Tuscan Roasted Chicken (Made in our Wood-Fired Oven Tuscan Roasted Potatoes (Made in our Wood-Fired Oven) Millefoglie: Chantilly Cream and Fresh Seasonal Fruit mixed with layers of Baked Puff Pastry

Our Second Cooking Class Features Regional Favorites

Today's class we'll be cooking the following menu:

First Course Second Course Side Dessert
Suppli - A regional version of Arancini Porchetta (Roasted Pork in our wood-fired oven) Something Green & Somewhat Healthy...From the Garden/td> Gelato and Sorbetto

Class 3 Is Our Traditional Pizza Night at the Villa!

We prepare the dough together, as well as all of the toppings as we fire up our 500 year old wood-fired brick oven! Each guests will have the chance to make their own individual pizza with toppings of your choice.

And that's not all...

It's a regional and Roman tradition to make pan-pizzas. We'll help Carla prepare several types of them. Such as...Margherita Pizza, Sausage & Porcini Mushroom Pizza, Caramelized Onion Pizza, Cherry Tomato Pizza, Zucchini Flower and Cream Pizza. Even a dessert pizza made with the fresh ricotta cheese we've made and also includes a home-made, Nutella-style, hazelnut and chocolate spread.

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

  • Medieval Chestnut Festival: Reserved Seating at Shows and Fair Meals.
  • Asssi - Birthplace of St. Francis
  • Madonna delle Macchie Winery & Olive Mill in Castiglione (Orvieto Wine & Umbrian Olive Oil)
  • Piombaia Winery in Montalcino (Brunello Wine)
  • Cantina de' Ricci Winery in Montepulciano (Vino Nobile & Vin Santo Wine)
  • Ceramics Factory in Deruta