Cooking Tours in Lombardia, Italy: Cooking in the Valtellina Valley
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Cooking in the Valtellina Valley
Sondrio (Valtellina), Lombardy

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About the location: The stunning Valtellina (Valtelline) valley lies in northernmost Lombardy, on the border with Switzerland. Known in the winter for its skiing and hot spring spas and in the summer for its hiking and golf, it is also famous for its food and wine. Cheeses such as Bitto and Casera, the well-known wines of Sassella and Grumello, and time-honored local pastas and desserts make it an ideal location for one of our most unique culinary vacations in Italy. This land is unlike the touristy parts of the country, instead rife with glorious landscapes, modest and friendly locals, Italian comfort food and plenty of fresh air. The Valtellina’s location not only makes it an ideal starting point for a foray into Switzerland (and its famous resort town St. Moritz), but also an intriguing mix of various cultures: Swiss, Austrian, Romansh, German and of course Italian.

Your home in the Valtellina will be the town of Sondrio, located in the heart of the valley. With over 22,000 inhabitants, the comune boasts plenty of sites (including its central piazza Garibaldi, the Palazzo Sassi art and history museum, and the Masegra Castle). Right in the heart of this charming town is the four-star Grand Hotel della Posta, which since 1862 has been welcoming guests to the region. Recently restored with great attention to detail and maintaining the building’s historical importance and unique charm, the hotel now offers all the modern comforts, including spacious rooms, an elegant restaurant and bar, an exercise room and a relaxing spa. The large rooms include flat screen TVs, telephones, wi-fi access, mini bar and safe in addition to modern bathrooms in marble. Wander through the halls and admire the vaulted ceilings, frescoed walls, and period furniture and you will feel like you are staying with a rich noble family in the heart of Lombardy’s mountains.

About the cooking lessons: Your cooking courses — a combination of hands-on and demonstration — will be held by the executive chef of the hotel’s renowned “1862 Ristorante dalla Posta,” Mattia Giacomelli. While a young chef, Chef Giacomelli is a globetrotting chef who has already earned himself a variety of prestigious awards and experiences; he also speaks five languages, including English. He began his studies at age 14 at the "Istituto Alberghiero" in Chiavenna and then set off to cook around the world. He began his career in the 5-star hotel Le Meridien in England, and he's worked in kitchens in New York, Germany, Tuscany, and now the Valtellina Valley. No matter where he's cooking, his goal is the same: to prepare impeccably-composed courses. During your 2-hour cookery lessons at the Grand Hotel della Posta, Chef Giacomelli will lead you in the preparation of complete menus based on fresh seasonal products, savory sauces, local specialties, and regional pastries. Come and enjoy the best that the Valtellina has to offer during this amazing and unique cooking vacation in northern Italy.

Cooking in the Valtellina Valley Itinerary

Day 1

Depending on season and theme, itinerary details and order of activities may vary.
The four-night itinerary includes days 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7.

  • Arrival on your own in Sondrio. (The hotel is a 5-minute walk or short taxi ride from the train station. Or, transfers from Milan can be arranged on request.)
  • Check in and time to relax, or to explore this charming town.
  • This evening enjoy an aperitif with a local sparkling wine during which the updated itinerary for the week will be presented.
  • Three-course dinner in the hotel restaurant, beverages not included.

Day 2

  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • This morning, a cooking lesson at the hotel. Learn to make such traditional dishes of the Valtellina as pizzoccheri and sciatt. Pizzoccheri are a long flat pasta, similar to tagliatelle, made with 80% buckwheat flour and traditionally prepared with greens such as Swiss Chard, cubed potatoes, and local cheeses (the Valtellina Casera cheese and Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano), and dressed with garlic and sage. Sciatt in the Valtellina dialect means “toad,” but here refers to crispy fritters stuffed with cheese and served on a bed of chicory.
  • Enjoy a lunch based on your efforts, wine included.
  • This afternoon, a visit to a producer of the famed Italian Bresaola (air-dried, salted beef originating in northern Lombardy).
  • Afterwards, enjoy a guided tour to an old family distillery with tasting of grappa and local products. (Please note this visit can also happen other days during the week, depending on availability.)
  • Evening and dinner on your own.

Day 3

  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • In the morning a visit to a local vineyard where you will tour the cellar and have a wine tasting.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • In the afternoon, a professional sommelier will give a course on wine parings and the right glass to use with different wines.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 4

  • Breakfast in the hotel.
  • Today enjoy an excursion on the Bernina “Red Train” to Swiss St. Moritz. (This excursion is organized on Sundays only, as the hotel restaurant is closed today). The train ride (which takes around 2 hours 20 minutes) is truly spectacular. The only railway line that goes through the Alps in the open (and not through tunnels), the train reaches an elevation of over 1800 meters and faces the sheer mountainsides of the Alps.
  • Having arrived in Swiss St. Moritz, you can explore this deluxe resort town and its many attractions before taking the train back to Sondrio.
  • Evening and dinner on your own.

Day 5

  • Breakfast at the hotel. (For those doing the 4-night itinerary, departure.)
  • This morning, your second cooking lesson, focusing on traditional Italian sauces (ragù, amatriciana, fresh tomato sauce, etc.). Lunch to follow based on your efforts.
  • This afternoon, travel the 12 miles to Morbegno to visit the renowned Ciapponi shop, where you will learn about typical Valtellina cheeses such as Bitto and Casera.
  • Dinner tonight at the restaurant of the hotel, beverages not included.

Day 6

  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • This morning, your final cooking lesson on Valtellina cookies and cakes. Taste your creations after the class.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • This afternoon, a professional sommelier will teach you about wine combinations.
  • Farewell dinner tonight in the hotel’s restaurant, beverages not included.

Day 7

  • Breakfast and departure on your own (or transfers can be arranged on request).