Friday, June 18, 2010
Coming to Italy to eat is a no-brainer, and I’m always happy to help friends find the perfect place. Everything from three-course, eat-till-you bust meals to the perfect gelato. But if you love food, chances are you also love to cook. So combining a vacation in Italy with a cooking class or two, and maybe a market tour, makes perfect sense.
Ten years ago finding a reliable culinary adventure - in English - to recommend wasn’t so easy. Thankfully many of my ex-pat friends have jumped in and started businesses based here in Italy that introduce the adventurous traveler to the Italian kitchen. Here follows some of my favorites.
Sienna Reid (disclosure: she is one of my best friends!) is the owner of Italy Hotline and organizes extremely intimate day-long culinary tours for small groups of guests. The mornings start out over a cappucino in the Piazza Madonna dei Monti, and then an hour shopping at local stores. Then it’s up to her rooftop apartment for a cooking class and lunch on her terrace.
Diane Seed is the grand doyen of cookery classes in Rome. After publishing her three extremely popular series of cookbooks, she was constantly being asked to organize classes. About ten years ago she set up shop in Rome’s historic Palazzo Doria Pamphilli. Located in a rooftop garret, Diane holds regular classes and market tours.
Context focusses on custom made tours lead by expert teachers. Though most of their tours tend towards the Academic, they also offer an ever-changing array of culinary and wine adventures, in Rome, Florence and Venice.
The Rest of Italy
Any foodie heading to Florence shouldn’t miss Judy Witts one day market tour, followed by lunch. While Judy used to hold cooking classes in town, the hands on portion of her business has moved just outside to Certaldo, where she teaches day long and week long courses. Renting a villa in Tuscany? Judy will also come to you for a private lesson.
Pamela Sheldon Johns is a well-known cookbook author who had the grand idea of buying a slice of Italian life ten years ago. From her b&b (where you can also stay) Pamela runs Food Artisans: culinary workshops and cooking classes throughout the year. Although based in Tuscany, Pamela takes things on the road to Sicily, Cinque Terre and Piemonte.
Ecco La Cucina
Chef Gina Stipo organizes both week-long and one day cooking classes in a villa just outside of Siena, as well as culinary and winery tours.
Peggy Markel’s Culinary Adventures
Peggy Markel has been leading culinary adventures for 17 years. Living in Florence half of the year, her Italian itineraries take in Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Elba. Her tours are incredibly seductive and unique. For instance the Amalfi tour takes place aboard a sail boat which floats along the coast and out to the island of Capri.
Badia di Coltibuono
Lorenza de Medici was one of the very first to hold cooking classes in Italy. She did so here, at her home and vineyard Badia di Coltibuono. Although Lorenza no longer teaches, her son Guido Stucchi Prinetti carries on the tradition. The added bonus is that you get to stay in their truly fabulous restored monastery.
Christine Hickman is located in Perugia and teaches small private classes in her home in town, but will also come to your villa. She has come to my villa, Pergolaccio, when it is rented, and taught classes that were a huge hit.
Judith Klinger and her husband Jeff run Aroma Cucina, based in Montone in Umbria. They will come to your villa for cooking lessons, but also do guided tastings of cheese, olive oils and other Italian goodies. A great way to get to know local delicacies.
Elizabeth Wholey runs Amore Sapore with her husband Kurt. They are located in Umbria and will come to your villa to teach or simply to prepare a wonderful meal.
The Awaiting Table
This small, idiosyncratic, cooking school is located in the gorgeous Baroque town of Lecce, in Puglia. I have to admit not knowing much about it, but I heard about it from Nancy Harmon Jenkens who is Ms. Puglia when it comes to food, as well as Fred Plotkin whose Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is the bible when it comes to this stuff.
The sisters Cinzia and Marika run this culinary tour company in Puglia. They organize private cooking classes, winery tours and will come to your villa. Again, I don’t know them, but Nancy does.
As always, this list is not exhaustive, so please write and let me know what I've left out. I'm always happy to hear from you.