Although it’s now been over a year since my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we still think about it quite a bit… and that includes looking over our photos and dreaming of the day we can go back to Norcia, Italy together. From the beautiful vistas right outside our hotel window, to the welcoming locals, and the amazing array of sausages and fresh food, this trip was the perfect getaway.
While there were plenty of trips to choose from, my husband zeroed in on the cooking vacation A Food Lover’s Paradise in Norcia pretty quickly. I’d been working at The International Kitchen for a little over a year at this point, and after hearing so many rave reviews, both from my fellow co-workers and our clients, I knew we’d love this trip, which would be my husband’s first trip to Italy. But why did he choose this particular one? He loved the fact that we’d have some time in the kitchen, but also some time discovering the food culture of the area. I think the idea of doing a truffle hunt as well as the visit to the pig farm particularly sold him on the trip.
Sure enough, from the moment our driver picked us up at Rome airport and regaled us with tales of the Umbrian hills and taught us a few Italian phrases, we knew we were in the right spot. Once our trip really began, we savored every bite we had at Ristorante Vespasia — I particularly loved their house made ricotta, not to mention their chianina beef specialty — as well as every meal at the more casual restaurant Granaro del Monte. In the cooking classes, the chefs taught us how to make various kinds of gnocchi, and happily answered all our questions about why truffles in the winter were different than those harvested in the spring.
As for the excursions, the pig farm was exactly how my colleague Richard described before I left; the farmer/butcher whistled to his pigs and they came running down from the hills to freely graze. One of my favorite moments was actually seeing my husband become friends with the pig farmer, who, mind you, spoke no English. Our guide Tiziano translated for my husband and the farmer at first, but the next day we ran into the farmer in town and despite the language barrier, they were trading laughs as my husband picked out a few slices of meat to try.
They were moments like these, interacting with the locals, that really made our trip special. And I haven’t even written yet about how welcoming the family at Palazzo Seneca was. For one, every night, one of the brothers walked around to all the tables in the restaurant to check in with all the guests.
But still, even these words don’t do this cooking vacation justice, nor do the photos — although the pictures of food do make me crave those wonderful dishes all over again!
By Liz Hall
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