Cooking Vacation in Italy: Tuscany's Treasures
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Tuscany's Treasures

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The small medieval town of Montefollonico — situated halfway between Rome and Florence — is the perfect place to discover an authentic slice of Tuscan life. The name of the town comes from the church Pieve di S. Leonardo, where the monks dedicated themselves to making wool, and "fullones" roughly translates to people that work with cloths. The town was also once a Sienese fortress, with its strategic position between Val d'Orcia and Valdichiana, and today the town is still surrounded by 13th century walls, and boasts stunning views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

About the accommodations: While the property today is a charming relais, it was once an ancient farm village that dated back to the 1300s; the farm was run by "share croppers" who harvested and preserved the products. Today the converted property has been restored to offer comfortable, spacious rooms decorated in an authentic Tuscan style. But what truly makes this property memorable are its views, both from the bedrooms as well as the 400 square meter terrace that features a stunning panoramic. The view showcases everything from Lake Trasimeno in Umbria to the Marches.

About your hosts: Originally from New Orleans, George and Linda spent summers traveling for years before taking the leap and living out their dreams in Tuscany. When they visited and fell in love with the village and people of Montefollonico, they knew they wanted to call this beautiful place home. With their carefully crafted cooking vacation itinerary, which changes each year, the husband and wife team share their passion for all things Italian, with a nice big dose of Southern hospitality to boot. George also loves to share his experiences of cooking and eating in both obscure and off-the-beaten path kitchens around the world, as well as his experiences in restaurants helmed by famous Michelin-starred chefs.

George with one of the local cooksAbout the cooking classes: Discover how to make authentic Tuscan cuisine from an array of local women. In fact, some of your classes are held in the same kitchens where their grandmothers — or Nonnas — taught them how to cook, as well as mix, stir, and roll. You’ll learn how to make everything — from gnocchi to herb chicken — by hand, without the aid of electric appliances. You'll also discover the art of pici, thick ribbons of eggless pasta, which are considered a Montefollonico original. Following your time in the kitchen, head out to the patios or garden, weather permitting, to enjoy the fruits of your labor around the table together. With all of your classes, the hosts make sure that they're about more than just cooking — it's about getting to know the locals and having fun in the kitchen, whether through a pasta rolling competition or simply getting to know your new friends!

Tuscany's Treasures Itinerary

Day 1: Sunday

  • Arrive on your own and settle in.
  • Enjoy a welcome drink out on your hotel’s terrace, which offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding valley, Cortona, Lake Trasimeno, and, on particularly clear days, the snowy mountains peaks of Gran Sasso in Abruzzo.
  • Dinner, featuring regional specialties, in the hotel restaurant.
  • Overnight.

Day 2: Monday

  • Breakfast.
  • Hands-on cooking class in Cortona.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts.
  • Next, visit Le Celle, a Franciscan Monastery built by Saint Francis in 1211, still inhabited by Franciscan friars.
  • At 8 p.m., dinner at a traditional restaurant in Montefollonico
  • Overnight.

Day 3: Tuesday

  • Breakfast followed by your second cooking class.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, visit three UNESCO world heritage sites, ending in Pienza, with time to shop.
  • Dinner in Pienza.
  • Return to Montefollonico and overnight.

Day 4: Wednesday

  • Breakfast.
  • Cooking class, followed by lunch.
  • Next, experience a vineyard tour and wine tasting in the valley underneath Montepulciano.
  • Time in Montepulciano for shopping, an underground tour, and dinner.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Day 5: Thursday

  • Breakfast.
  • Cheese and bread-making class at a local farm, with a tasting lunch.
  • In the afternoon, go on a special truffle hunt in the countryside.
  • Pizza dinner tonight in Montefollonico.
  • Overnight.

Day 6: Friday

  • Breakfast.
  • In the morning, your last cooking class, focusing on ravioli. Lunch to follow.
  • In the afternoon, visit a Tuscan wine estate with over 32 hectares of vineyards and an old Tuscan cellar. Enjoy a tasting at this family-run estate.
  • At 7:30 p.m., your farewell dinner!
  • Overnight.

Day 7: Saturday

  • Breakfast, followed by check out.