Client Comments about A Food Lover's Paradise in Norcia
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Our accommodations at Palazzo Seneca were outstanding; the staff was attentive, professional, friendly. Having the opportunity to work with a one-star Michelin chef was exciting; he was very patient with his students, but you could see from the interaction of other kitchen staff that he was definitely in charge. The food we produced and the food prepared for us in the restaurants was all fresh and very tasty. We made fresh pasta, sauces, breads, lentil soup (one of my favorites there). One day we made pizza—so much pizza that we ate, the kitchen staff ate, some of the hotel staff ate, some of the owner’s family came by to eat.
The owner of the Palazzo was present and very gracious, checking with every patron at dinner every night to ask if they were enjoying themselves, if there was anything else he could do for them. One day the hotel kitchen was engaged, so we did our cooking lesson at the hotel owner’s home.
The truffle hunt was engaging. We fell in love with the truffle-hunting dogs, and enjoyed walking the hills in that area. The olive oil production was interesting and the taste of the olive oil was phenomenal. We also visited a farm that raises black pigs, and a modern winery in Montefalco.
There are two things that could be changed, and they are not attached to the Palazzo Seneca or the cooking school. One was the tour to Assisi. The roads in Assisi are quite steep, uphill and downhill, and our young tour guide was used to hosting students. She was on some kind of time schedule, and did not take into account that three of her four tourists were in their late 60’s. The guide felt obligated to follow her program, even though two of the travelers indicated they’d rather go shopping in town, and none of them were interested in visiting the church. If she could have been a little flexible for this small group, that would have been nice.
The trip to Spoleto was a free day, where we were drive to the town and let out to explore. Spoleto turned out to be a fairly large town, with steep twisting streets, and I was concerned about getting lost and not finding my way back to the car. (The other two ladies were going shopping, and my husband had stayed back at the hotel for his free afternoon). Our driver, who was supposed to be free in town during our visit, noticed my discomfort and offered to accompany me, for which I was grateful. The views of the Roman Aqueduct from the top of Spoleto were fabulous, and I’m glad I got to see them. Perhaps they can give people a little map highlighting routes through the town.
[Regarding the cooking vacation packet:] The cooking packet provided good information. I especially am still using the conversion chart for measurements.
[Regarding The International Kitchen staff:] Your staff in Chicago was most helpful. I appreciate your helping me find this tour.
James and Roberta K., CA
We loved the cooking program in Norcia. It was absolutely fabulous. Great location, great touring, great hotel, great food, great wine, great truffles, and a stellar cooking program for four half days!!
Ted and Pamela L., IL
We had a splendid time. The chefs were wonderful and our translator was fun as well. They taught us many regional recipes and then we would sit down to eat, sometimes the general manager would join us…the owners of the hotel would surprise us with a visit too during our cooking classes. Everyone wanted to make sure we were having a good time & learning as well. The school week happened to fall on my birthday, so they made me 2 special cakes… one in cooking school and one at dinner! We also went truffle hunting with a guide and his dogs, which turned out to be such an adventure. Almost each afternoon, our guide would take us to the surrounding cities to visit. Those days were fun as well with our wonderful driver & guide. We were more then satisfied with our experiences.
[Regarding the cooking vacation packet:] We received recipes for each dish and a chart to convert the measurements to ounces…etc. Now that I am home I wish we had a video of some of the dough skills, how to make special pastas & breads, the way they knead each dough differently. I am sure I will remember once I start making them.
[Regarding The International Kitchen staff:] Our only problem during the trip was the first pre-night at Hotel de Russe in Rome. We were given a substandard room, which I refused to stay in. After a bit I remembered to call the number you gave us in Italy. Surprise, Surprise. Within a half an hour, they found us a better room, then the next day moved us to a superior room. So they were able to help us in that matter.
Suellen and Alana T.
The Norcia cooking class with Chef Emanuelle was one of the most memorable weeks of our lives. The Vespasia hotel was gorgeous and the staff so attentive to our needs. We felt like they were all friends by the end of the week. The kitchen staff was absolutely delightful and it was a pleasure to spend the week with them. Chef Emanuelle is passionate about food, knowledgeable, and a great teacher. Oh, and fun, too. The dishes we prepared together were all amazing. Some nearly life-changing. Ditto for the evening dinners at the Vespasia. So delicious and such attentive service. Biggest challenge of the week was managing the volume of food consumption. Starting with the gourmet breakfast buffet, then the full lunch created during our cooking class, then the full 3 course dinner. But look, bring me that pain. . . . Titiano, our train station-Norcia driver and tour guide was engaging and delightful. He offered to let us ride in quiet if we preferred, but we loved engaging him about the area, geography, politics, life in Norcia, etc. We’re so grateful that Karen recommended the Umbria experience for us given the time of year (first week of April) and what we were looking for. She and her staff were responsive and the program was executed seamlessly. I would recommend the Norcia experience without hesitation and with great enthusiasm.
[Regarding the cooking vacation packet and The International Kitchen staff:] We felt confident in every aspect of our interaction with IK. We will recommend this experience to anyone we can think of! Karen, thank you so much for recommending this and for your responsiveness from our first interaction. We’ll be back!
Mark and Annie D., CO
First of all, the trip MORE than exceeded all of our expectations, the Palazzo Seneca was absolutely beautiful! The Bianconi Family could not do enough for us & they treated us like royalty. Federico, the son, stopped at our table every night to see how everything was for us. During our cooking classes, Mr. Bianconi himself would stop in during the class to see how we were doing. There were 10 of us in our group & I did not ever hear one person complain about a thing regarding the Palazzo Seneca. We all had lovely rooms & enjoyed our meal upgrade in the dining room. As for the excursions, the truffle hunting was by far everyone’s favorite. Nicolai, Lulu & Nina did a great job allowing us to follow them around. Tiziano was not only a great driver, but great translator & tour guide. However, I’m afraid the pig farm did not get high ratings from a few people, mostly because they couldn’t bring any of the meats back to the states with them. Also, the chocolate factory wasn’t that exciting. Everyone loved the wine tasting at the Arnaldo Caprai vineyards, their reds were amazing! The tour at the olive oil mill was well liked, mostly due to the high energy of one of the owners. She was adorable! And as for the cooking classes, outstanding! I have been to culinary school & found the Chef very patient, easy to work with & a great teacher. The four classes we had with him were a dream come true, cooking in Italy with a real chef! It was a lot of fun working with everyone to create our delicious lunches. Then sitting down at that beautiful table to feast on our creations was always the highlight of the class.
I seriously would not change a thing about this 7 day trip, it was fabulous! The Bianconi Family all work so hard & it really shows.
A friend and I planned 4 days in in August in Norcia, Umbria as the first part of two weeks in Europe. After a day in Rome and a good night’s sleep, we were picked up in a comfortable Mercedes by a cultured, delightful English-speaker and driven to our hotel-cooking school through lush countryside. The facility was very well appointed and our room was comfortable. The dining at all meals exceeded our expectations as it was gourmet cuisine. The restaurant where we both ate and had our (private) lessons had recently been evaluated for its first Michelin star and was awaiting word. Our teachers were the assistant chef for two classes and the top chef for one. They spoke good English, were charming, and had most recently chefed at a two star in another part of Italy. In addition to fine classes, we toured the region to visit olive oil, cheese and chocolate factories, a winery and to go truffle hunting. What could be better!?
Frankly, Norcia itself is not a very interesting town. I wonder if others have told you that. We loved our day in Assisi and other touring; for well-travelled people, time in Norcia should be kept to a minimum as one hour or so visiting the food shops is sufficient. The other comment of criticism is that unless you are a true gourmet, the high end dining gets old fast, as the menu is pretty limited. They give two dinners across the street at another family-owned restaurant, where the food is much less sophisticated but fine, and had more variety. Combining the two places was a good idea from our point of view.
Audrey S., DC
The highlight of the trip for me was the cooking classes themselves. The chefs and all the kitchen staff were amazing. The chefs were fun, personable, and knowledgeable. I would have liked if the classes were longer and covered more ground. We were surprised that in our 6 nights in Norcia we never met our contact from The International Kitchen. He never came to meet us or introduce himself. The Palazzo Seneca was fantastic and the Ristorante Vespasia was in a class of its own! The Granaro del Monte restaurant was not very good. The food the first night that we ate there was terrible. Our second experience was much better but it was still not somewhere I would choose to eat. The chefs at Vespasia took it upon themselves to ensure that we would eat at their restaurant for our remaining three dinners which was fantastic. All of our tours were great. Tiziano deserves much praise. He was a pleasure to be with. I preferred the food-related outings to the sight seeing/touring outings seeing as this was a culinary trip. Although Norcia and the whole region was absolutely beautiful, it is a very sleepy town. I would highly recommend this destination to others but I would forewarn them that there is nothing to do once dinner is done. In this respect a destination such as the Amalfi Coast would be preferable. There’s always a next time…
Adele R. & Kevin M., Ontario
Response from The International Kitchen:
We’re glad to hear that, overall, you had a great time! Based on your feedback, we’ve already spoken with the property and have adjusted the dinners out. One last note: your contact from The International Kitchen is based in our Chicago office! Again, thank you for your comments. We appreciate it.
I just wanted to send you a quick note to thank you and the International Kitchen for organizing such a fabulous trip for us.
Everyone in Norcia was fantastic! I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a more hospitable group of people. Our guide and driver, Tiziano, was superb. He is friendly and very knowledgable about the region. He really went above and beyond the call of duty to show us a great time. He really deserves a lot of praise.
All the hotel and restaurant/kitchen staff were amazing. Most notable of course were Emanuele and Filippo, the chefs. Their talent is bar none. They taught us well and were an absolute hoot to be with. As I said in my first email to you from Norcia, their creations made us realize that we can’t cook!
The only problem with our trip was that we had to leave!
Thanks again for a job well done. I look forward to booking another trip through you in the future.
For our cooking vacation, we decided to take “A Food Lover’s Paradise In Norcia.” I never heard of the little town of Norcia, located in Umbria and I must say I was skeptical, however, upon the recommendation of Karen Herbst, we decided to go with it and it was one of the most amazing vacations we have ever taken. We previously took another cooking vacation in Italy through The International Kitchen and we thought that was the most amazing, however, this proved to be far better and greatly exceeded our expectations. The staff of the Palazzo Seneca, the owners, the kitchen staff and Chef treated us like family and were all so warm, friendly and very accommodating. They went out of their way to make sure we were happy with everything. The Chef, Sous Chef, and all the kitchen help all went out of their way to give us good cooking tips and although we were in their way (trying to take pictures and talking with everyone) while they were trying to work, they never appeared harried or short with us. They were truly amazing. The accommodations were warm, lovely and elegant with the most beautiful views. What a wonderful, lovely little town. The tours were all entertaining and fun and a little different – I wasn’t sure if I would like the truffle hunting – but I loved it!! It was a great experience.
The food at the Hotel was absolutely five star and delicious. The presentation of each course they served was beautiful. The bread, their wine pairings and service were top quality. I could go on and on and on but I will sum this up by saying it was one of the most memorable vacations I (and my friends) have ever taken and we will truly never forget it. Each day my memories go back to the time we spent there and I am so glad we took this trip.
Barbara D., NY
This was a once in a life time vacation. Everything was first class. The accommodations were above expectations, the food was out of this world and the service exceptional. The owners of the hotel and restaurant were always available and spoke with us every evening to make certain everything was as expected. The chef and his staff who taught the cooking class was very personable. I was more than satisfied with this trip, it was a great value for the money.
Karen P., WA
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Norcia and at Palazzo Seneca. After a very long day of traveling from the west coast, we were very happy to be greeted at the airport by name. When we arrived at Norcia, it was just as the pictures portrayed, a beautiful old walled town. We had upgraded our room category and were happy we did, as we had a large corner room with two balconies that looked out over the walls to the beautiful countryside. The HUGE shower was amazing!! The Bianconi family did a fabulous job in the current restoration of the property, melding the original with the more current updates to give the Palazzo a wonderful, relaxing and comfortable ambiance. The many common spaces to sit, read and relax were most welcome. The dining room was simple, but very refined and felt elegant and very Italian. The kitchen was spectacular. All of the staff were gracious and accommodating of our every need and request.
Chefs Emanualle, Fillipo and Antonio were absolute delights to work with. I only wish I could have spent more time with them. Each of my three cooking days were very well organized and offered a variety of new things to learn about Umbrian cooking. We had a good amount of hands on and learned some new techniques each day The chefs are all very interested in answering all of our queries and adapting what we were doing if we requested. It was great to have such a small group of people participating, the one on one attention was fabulous. One day, I cooked with them alone and two other days I was with another The International Kitchen participant. Looking back on the schedule, I would have preferred to cook every day (one day was reserved for all sightseeing). The sightseeing excursions really enhanced the overall experience, but again more time in the kitchen would have been my preference. Have participating in a previous similar experience, I would love to participate in a full 4 or 5 day program — on just breads and pastries….do you offer that?
Favorite excursion for both my husband and I was the truffle hunt! Nicolai and his dogs Lulu and Nina uncovered 7 truffles! Wow, and it is not even truffle season. Both couples were given one of the truffles and at breakfast the next morning our freshly unearthed truffle was prepared for us in our scrambled eggs— fantastic! Assisi was beautiful. We wished we had a lot more time to explore there. Our guide, Daniella, was great and provided so much context for this very special place, as well as more history for Norcia. We would have enjoyed a full day there. After we left Assisi, we went to Montefalco and had a nice causal lunch in that small charming village. Then off to a winery, than off to see a small olive oil facility. The winery could have been in Sonoma valley and it is not olive oil season, so both my husband and I could have skipped these. Our other excursions included a visit to a local pig farmer and sausage maker— that was unique and very interesting. Then to see a chocolate maker, that was local, but really a large commercial facility. We would have preferred to see a local cheesemaker. We also would have really enjoyed a walking tour of Norcia.
Dining at Vespasia was incredible, Mauro did a wonderful job of pairing wines and guiding us in our nightly dining selections. We did not enjoy the food or service at the other restaurant included in our package, so had dinner there once and did not return. One suggestion, perhaps have an open night for your participants to have dinner at one of the other local restaurants in Norcia? Tiziano, our driver and tour guide did a great job and we learned a lot from him. He is an asset to the Palazzo. Serena always went beyond in any and every request. Overall, the very special memories would be the beautiful countryside (breakfast at the corner table with all the windows to view the countryside, while savoring freshly squeezed orange juice and wonderful baked treats) fresh local food, fun, fantastic chefs and recipes and techniques they shared, uniqueness of the Palazzo and savoring the calm ambiance of the countryside. Everyone there was focused on making the experience first class and it was totally appreciated.
[The program packet] The only slight confusion we had with our materials was where exactly to meet our driver. At the Roma airport, there were quite a few tour workers with signs greeting arriving passengers at baggage claim. We kept looking there for someone with our name. After gathering our bags, and not seeing our names, we decided to leave baggage claim and move to the overall arrival area. We immediately saw our greeter. Later, I did read in your materials that we needed to leave the baggage area to be greeted. Somehow, I had missed reading that previously.
[The International Kitchen staff] You were all great! Every question was thoroughly answered and quickly answered. I wish everyone I emailed would respond as quickly and courteously as the International Kitchen!
Diane and Miles A., WA
I attended the cooking school at Palazzo Seneca in Norcia recently with my mother, and we had a wonderful, almost magical week! The hotel is lovely, the town is perfect and the staff almost universally excellent. Chef Flavio and the entire kitchen and wait staff are a delight, and the service at all levels was superb. Bottled water was available at each lesson and our choice of coffee always offered to us. Mauro, the Maitre’ D at Vespasia, was of particular assistance, one day volunteering to re- set our lunch table in the garden so we could enjoy our meal there. We thoroughly enjoyed our well planned outings to Assisi, to the Olive oil and Cheese manufacturers, the pig farm, the visit to Castellucia, and the truffle hunt with Nicola and his dogs Lulu and Nina was a treat. All these places and experiences would be difficult to arrange on our own, and having Tiziano to capably drive us and shepherd our group of six to and from these outings was invaluable. We were also exceedingly pleased to meet 4 other International Kitchen travelers with whom we shared cooking lessons and meals, and really forged wonderful friendships. On the not as positive side, there was a lack of a single point person at Palazzo Seneca for our group. Prior to departure from the States, we were given an overview of each day’s itinerary but not specific times and locations, and often found the front desk staff had either no information or contradicting information about things like start times for the cooking lessons, whether they would be in the hotel kitchen or in another location and if/when various outings would occur. Rectifying this would go a long way towards making the trip even better. We also did not receive any printed recipes and after another member contacted International Kitchen about this, we were told they would be emailed to us. We’ve been home over a week and have not received them as yet, and wonder if we will. This is highly unorthodox, in any cooking class or demonstration we’ve attended, there have always been printed recipes, even going back years ago when we saw Jacques Pepin at a cooking demonstration in NYC.
Francs S. and Edie D., NY
Response from The International Kitchen:
Thank you for your feedback! There’s always a point person on site, and we’re not sure why there wasn’t while you were there. We will ensure there will always be one going forward. We’ll also be sure to get the recipes sent to you as soon as possible.
My expectations were exceeded in the accommodations. The hotel was beautiful and the $100 extra for a superior room was well worth it. The large veranda off my room gave a breathtaking view. The cooking class did not meet my expectations because written recipes were not distributed, making it impossible to replicate dishes upon arrival at home. However, The International Kitchen was immediately responsive when I e-mailed them about this situation. Staff at the hotel promised to e-mail the recipes. The truffle hunt was a highlight. Other excursions were interesting, except for the winery visit. The food at the hotel restaurant was very heavy and limited. The rest of the class and I enjoyed the food better at the other restaurant and would have preferred to not eat at the hotel except for once or twice. All in all, I very much enjoyed my vacation/class.
Sharon P., CA
What an exciting, yet charming trip to Norcia, Palazzo Seneca and The International Kitchen cooking school! Our group of 7 was welcomed warmly by the Palazzo Seneca staff and made to feel pampered all week. Wonderful room and balcony! Palazzo Seneca is a fascinating building with many areas for relaxing. The Bianconi family generously welcomed us into their home for our classes, even coming to personally greet each of us. Chef Flavio spoke English well and was really lots of fun-serious about his work yet relaxed so that I never felt nervous. He always patiently answered our questions, explaining things as we worked. Three special moments for me—the truffle hunt with dogs Nina and Lulu, the trip up to Castelluccio village to visit the cheese maker family and the stop at the pig farm with lovely Valentina. Delightful hostess who provided us with a beautiful tray of sliced sausages from the family pigs. Fun trip! Can’t say enough good things about our wonderful driver and guide, Tiziano, always at our disposal, explaining everything, thoughtful and kind. The best! Go to Norcia!
The staff was knowledgeable and answered my questions when I called. The International Kitchen did plan our transport to Florence after the class was over as well as a hotel in Rome. The hotel was very nice at a super rate and in a safe area close to the main train station. Transport to Florence was flawless. Great driver.
Laurel J., MO
I thought the trip was great but I didn’t like the cooking class structure. I wasn’t fond of the “lunch” class which wasn’t really lunch, and having to eat dinner every night at two restaurants. That didn’t work for me. I went one time to each and ate elsewhere the other days. I loved the cooking instructor, however there wasn’t enough hands on cooking. When I did the trip on the Amalfi coast, that was perfect.
I loved the location and our guide Tiziano. The hotel was also fantastic. I didn’t like the fact that we went to Assisi and the guide monopolized our time. I wanted to see Assisi and shop and have lunch and we weren’t allowed too. We ended up having to have lunch at some roadside place because it was the only thing open. We should have been given the option to follow her tour or meet someplace at a certain time.
April S., VA
From the get go, our little group was made to feel we were special guests of the Bianconi family. From the staff at Palazzo Seneca to our driver guide, Tiziano, to Senora Bianconi who welcomed us into her home for our cooking lessons, all showed us unending Italian hospitality. Flavio, executive chef, was serious about his craft, but not TOO serious. We had a lot of laughs The truffle hunt with Lulu and Nina, two lovely dogs, was a fabulous experience. The setting in the hills among the oak and juniper trees was beautiful. There was no scarcity of summer truffles! Then, the visit to the farm with it’s free range pigs was, surprisingly, a highlight. Charming Valentina, daughter of the owners of the small operation, whistled the pigs out of the forest so we could see the 3 different varieties. She had set up a table on the side of the road at the edge of the forest where we sampled various salamis and sausages her pigs provide along with a glass of homemade red wine. Learning that the chefs from the White House had recently visited there to learn more about Italian products was impressive. The small town of Norcia felt so very “authentic” as the tourists were almost exclusively Italian. Loved it all.
Carol B., KS
I was truly impressed with how well this trip was organized. Palazzo Seneca was beyond my expectations. The entire staff was professional and extremely accommodating. The family was constantly watching out for us. Norcia was a delightful town, a hidden gem. The side trips were expertly picked. I would have liked more time in Orvieto and Spoleto. The farm trips were fascinating, trips we could have never experienced on our own… I would not hesitate to recommend The International Kitchen.
Kristin P., NC
For the most part, we really enjoyed our cooking vacation. Kerry’s suggestion that Palazzo Seneca handle the transfers from our Rome hotel was great. The driver, Tiziano, was at our hotel at the scheduled time and we enjoyed his company on the drive through the beautiful Umbrian countryside. At the hotel the Bianconi’s were very nice and their staff friendly and accommodating. We were in a deluxe room which included a balcony which we enjoyed every day, and a very large bathroom in the room. Norcia itself is small but nice and very popular with Italian tourists. Activities on our cooking vacation couldn’t be beat. Our 4 cooking classes were with Flavio the restaurant’s chef, with his staff helping out. Cheryl and I enjoyed working in the restaurant’s professional kitchen and Flavio’s staff was a lot of fun. We have successfully prepared a number of dishes at home that we prepared in class. Flavio is an excellent teacher and although not a native of Umbria, has an excellent knowledge of the region’s food. We especially enjoyed the last class where we prepared desserts with Flavio and his pastry chef. Our “field trips” were also fun. With the highlight being the truffle hunt. We went out in the afternoon with our guide/translator, the hunter and his 2 cocker spaniel mixes. The dogs continuously found truffles. We also enjoyed our trips to Assisi, Spoleto and to the pig farm. On the negative side the hotel staff did not tell us what was and was not included with our meals. It also wasn’t explained that we could have dinner at Il Granaro with its regional specialties rather than at Vespasia. We did end up asking, but I think the Palazzo Senaca should have explained this. We couldn’t recommend Il Granaro as Cheryl became sick after eating vegetarian ravioli the last night.
James and Cheryl P., IL
Norcia is a charming little town in Umbria. I felt safe walking around any time of the day or night. The hotel Palazzo Seneca was fabulous, the staff was friendly, the cooking classes were great, and the driver/guide Tiziano was one of the best ever. I really enjoyed the truffle hunt. It was a most unusual experience. I have traveled to Italy 10 times. This hotel was the most handicapped accessible that I remember – nice elevators and large rooms. Vivian C., NC
The trip was amazing! It was the perfect balance between cooking and sight-seeing, group time and solo time, down time and activities. I felt incredibly well taken care of, and as I was traveling alone, I was even more grateful for this.
Randy H., CA
We loved the town of Norcia and the hotel Palazzo Seneca. The staff were very accommodating and had been well trained in the philosophy that the guest’s request is very important. Staff was particularly helpful when one of our party had a tooth abscess which needed medical care and medication. The Bianconi family, parents and especially the two sons, made a point of visiting with us, and were interested in our feedback. I love the open mindedness of the chef, Alberto, who took extra time with us in the hotel kitchen, also Sarah, his wife who made among other wonderful things, the most delicious focaccia! The truffle hunt evening and the visit to the pig farm were highlights. All in all, a very special experience.
Annalouise B., Canada
It’s taken me quite a while to write about our experience at Palazzo Seneca. Not because it wasn’t everything I dreamed of and more, but because it so exceeded all of my expectations that I wrote and re-wrote my experience trying to capture it all in the best way possible. My husband and I travel to Italy every year and have for years, we love the country, the people, and, of course the food and wine. I love to cook and it had been my dream to take a cooking class in Italy. I’ve imagined what it would be like so many times, that I was prepared to be a bit disappointed. How could it live up to my expectations I wondered. We’re very seasoned travelers, due to our work we travel all over the world and we’ve been lots of places, and we’ve come to expect certain things especially when we’re on vacation. This trip was the most fantastic experience of my life! Exceeded all my expectations and everything was absolutely perfect! We looked at every cooking class offered and we finally decided on Palazzo Seneca, because of its location, the hotel itself, and that it offered 4 days of cooking! From the moment we arrived and were met at the airport by Tizano – who we became instant friends with. He was our driver and our guide and we so valued his knowledge of the area – he made our excursions really wonderful, and I know our friendship will continue for years to come. It’s hard to describe the class – because it was so perfect. I was so excited I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Our first day began with meeting Chef Flavio and his team. He has a small but very dedicated and talented team, and they were great to work with and watch. It turned out that it would be just my husband and I for the class – which was fantastic, having it all to ourselves. Chef Flavio is an amazing person and chef. He’s extremely talented, very relaxed, and he’s definitely in his element; he’s a great teacher, a brilliant chef and just a super person. His philosophy on food and cooking really matched ours – organically grown, in season and not too many ingredients. Each day we learned something new – and I have to say that on day two we were joined by another couple and they were wonderful, newlyweds from London and we had THE BEST time together learning how to make pasta! Our classes began with breakfast and appetizers, then on to pasta, main courses and of course ended with desserts. We took copious notes and my husband drew pictures which really helped when we got back home and tried the recipes ourselves. We also had fantastic day trips, one day we went to a pig farm – the only one in Italy where the pigs are free range (there are only 3 in all of Europe), we went on a truffle hunt – so much fun!!! And we also went to visit a goat and sheep farm, and of course we went to a winery too! I also want to note that Palazzo Seneca is beautiful and just perfect for us, lots of places to sit and read or have a drink and relax. Our room was beautiful, and very comfortable (I’m still dreaming about the bed), we’ve stayed in places all over the world and Palazzo Seneca ranks up there at the top of the list. The staff are wonderful, and we felt so comfortable and right at home. It’s truly lovely. At the end of a trip what remains — those lasting impressions — is the people you meet and experiences you have. Ours was the best ever — I learned so much, not just about food but also about the people and the culture of Norcia and Umbria. The best advice I have is – GO!!! And one last thing, I’m sure that Chef Flavio will reach his goal of getting the Michelin Star he so deserves. My husband and I have decided that we’re going to go back next year, that’s for sure.
Susie D., CA
My daughter and I really enjoyed our time in Norcia. The hotel Palazzo Seneca was lovely. Our accommodations were perfect. The staff was very, very hospitable, competent and went out of their way to satisfy our every need. Our chef, Flavio Faedi was truly knowledgeable and shared his love of Italian food. We enjoyed every part of our trip to Umbria but the classes with Flavio were by far the best part of it all. I would have liked a bit more ‘hands on’ participation like we did when making fresh pasta but other than that, everything was perfect.
Deborah R., ON
Our driver, Tiziano, met us promptly for a 2 1/2 hour drive from Rome to the beautiful and quaint village Norcia. He spoke excellent English and gave us first-hand information about each destination and adventure he drove us to daily. His knowledge of the Umbrian Valley was very useful to us, and he became our tutor and friend. The Hotel Seneca is owned and operated by a lovely family who have been in the hotel business for many generations. We were warmly greeted daily by hotel staff as well as the family which include two sons who now oversee the daily operation of the business. The Hotel Seneca has been recently renovated with style and quality. We had a room, small but comfortable, with a window which opened to the hillside of the Umbrian Valley. Not all rooms have a view, but this was important to us, and they accommodated our last minute request. The hotel staff tries very hard to make sure their guests are happy and comfortable. Norcia is a small village with friendly families that have lived there for generations. We took nightly walks to the town square for a gelato while watching families gather for an evening chat and children playing. Norcia is also known for their truffles and lentils – we brought back as much as we could pack in our suitcases. Chef Flavio is a master chef with a gentle and kind style of teaching. We enjoyed daily lessons and looked forward to the meals which we prepared with him. The groceries are delivered fresh daily from local growers and farmers, and we picked fresh herbs from his garden. Chef Flavio’s staff is extremely professional and hard working. The meals we enjoyed at the many restaurants owned and operated by the family were all excellent. This was an adventure of a life time for us.
Steve and Julie F., CA
The hospitality of the family at the Palazzo Seneca was fantastic. We enjoyed everything about our program and would highly recommend it to anyone who was interested. The food was fantastic, the staff was very friendly and helpful and even our driver (Tiziano) was amazing!
Richard (at The International Kitchen) was very helpful and did an outstanding job accurately describing the program.
Kristina F., CA
Norcia was charming and the Palzzo Seneca was lovely – Beautiful 5 star boutique hotel with friendly staff. The details were well organized starting with our Mercedes car service and driver from the Rome airport. Each day was the perfect blend of personal time, cooking, and activity. The staff was very accommodating to our schedule and preferences. The cooking classes ranged from 1-3 hours and focused on technique and regional cooking. The classes tended to be a blend of demonstration and “hands-on.” We thoroughly enjoyed the planned activities – truffle hunting, visiting a pig farm, day trips to Assisi and Spoleto with a highly educated guide who spoke good English. We also appreciated not having to plan a thing once we landed in Rome! The food and meals were spectacular. I would recommend this to anyone with discerning tastes and an appetite for a peaceful, yet active, vacation. I would not classify this as a cook school, but cooking classes.
Linda M., CA
I loved everything about this experience. The hotel was amazing and the staff fantastic. They went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and worked hard at communicating with us in English, as our Italian was not very good! The chef was excellent, so nice, friendly and easy to talk with. He adjusted the cooking lessons to suit our needs and was very willing to answer our questions. He even made phone calls to others to find answers for us if he did not know them. The excursions included with this tour were great, they really allowed you to see what Umbria had to offer. The region is very diverse, but I felt that our tours allowed us to experience it all in 4 short days. Our driver was great, so friendly and informative. He even left a note for us on check-out to answer a question we had asked the day before! I felt very special and privileged to be on this tour. As there was only the two of us for this offering everything felt very personal and like it was done especially for us. This was truly a first-class vacation. The only negatives I have would be that I would have like some time on our own in Assisi to explore the town. Our tour guide was excellent, and brought us to and showed us around all of the main sites, but I would have enjoyed a couple hours to wander the streets of this amazing town.
Kelly B., Canada
I loved my week of cooking at Palazzo Seneca in Umbria and I will never forget it. Norcia was delightful, small and quaint, exactly what I wanted. Palazzo Seneca exceeded my expectations. It is so tastefully done and feels more like you are staying in a grand home rather than a hotel. There are many communal areas. Each room had been renovated with tasteful furniture, some new and some antique, maintaining an old world charm. It was great to be able to move into the fireplace room for drinks after dinner, or eat outside in the courtyard. However the thing that I found most outstanding was the staff. Everyone was so nice and helpful and the service was incredible, nothing was too hard or too much trouble. It was 5-star service but everyone was still friendly and approachable. Flavio, the chef was amazing, as well as our waiters Mauro and Laura and even our driver Tiziano was a gem of information and friendliness. The food at the hotel was outstanding and I can’t believe how much food was included every day. It wasn’t just quantity but quality — deconstructed tiramisu, rabbit, fish I had never seen before, egg with bread and parmesan crumb on pappa di pomodoro, a very exciting and sophisticated take an Italian food. While it was nice to go to some of the other places in town, for me Palazzo Seneca was by far the best place to eat. And the breakfast! A display of the freshest ingredients, legs of prosciutto crudo, salami, fresh bread, homemade jam, tarts, cakes, coffees, an egg station — loved it all! The classes themselves were great, I liked that there was some flexibility on what we learnt and all the recipes were things I had never done before, or at least not in that way, so that was great. I cook a lot of Italian food so I was worried it would be what my mum could teach me but this was so much more than that, it was learning from a very talented chef, and watching him work and think in a functioning restaurant kitchen was very insightful and a great opportunity. Overall I highly recommend the course and the place. What a great way to spend a week!
I needed advice about which course to choose, there were so many to choose from and they all sounded great for different reasons and it was hard to figure out which one would be a good fit for me and my group. Chatting to Karen at The International Kitchen was very helpful rather than just reading about it online. Karen was able to guide me given I have a 5 year old and the rest were not traveling with children.
Claudette S., Australia