Italy is home to fashion houses, fine wine, and ‘la dolce vita’. Not to mention abounding with opportunities to further your appreciation of the country’s cuisine by getting your hands dirty on a cookery course, celebrating famous produce like olive oil, local cheeses and baked goodies.
From single-day classes to week-long residentials, there’s a course to suit everybody. Whatever your skill level, whether you prefer your classes general or specialist, you can guarantee Italy offers a culinary holiday or workshop with your name on it… possibly even drizzled on in finest Balsamico di Modena!
Giuseppina opened her Tuscan cooking studio in Certaldo, a 12th century medieval village, in 2008. It’s the perfect setting for discovering the intricacies of Tuscan food in just a day. The chef-owner boasts over a decade of experience and has a deep-seated love for the local produce and cuisine. Giuseppina believes that “the best food is often the simplest. Our recipes and our cooking style reflect this fact.” There’s heavy emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local produce, which the area abounds with. Classes include a morning trip to the market, where students learn how to select the finest, ripest items on offer and get the chance to soak up the authentic atmosphere before a light lunch at the school.
Along with the excursion, participants cook a 4-course meal under Giuseppina’s expert tutelage, pausing after every dish to enjoy the food as soon as it hits the plate. Wine is included in the 95 euro price, and you’re promised to leave with skills to last a lifetime. The host’s warmth and passion is one of the many things praised by Tripadvisor reviews with testimonies like “What a delightful woman! She enjoys what she does and it shows” and “Giuseppina was so nice to arrange a Saturday class for us as that’s the only day we were available, so don’t just check the dates on her website but email to ask.”
The rural school boasts numerous Tripadvisor Certificates of Excellence and offers accommodation in a beautiful traditional stone farmhouse located within La Tavola’s own organic farm. Courses last from 3-5 days, with a broad range of themes often inspired by seasonal produce. The team wants to closely connect cooks with their produce, so foraging, farm-to-fork, and slaughtering and butchering courses are also available.
La Tavola Marche is a great choice for foodies who like to get hands-on and want to experience culture as well as cooking. Participants are introduced to local artisans, growers and vintners and encouraged to actively take part in digging, picking and much more. The school is a member of Slow Food and all operations are as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.
Wine and one-offs:
If you love Southern Italian food and wine, check out the courses at The Awaiting Table. Programmes are determinedly hands-on, from lessons on sourcing the best local produce at market to cooking up the finest regional cuisine.
A range of courses runs at the owner’s home in Lecce all year round, but for something a little more quirky, classes held at a wonderfully atmospheric local castle are predominantly focused around local foodie festivals or special events like The Awaiting Table’s anniversary. You don’t just cook at the castle – you get to stay there, too!
Both food and wine information is imparted by experts – the latter by a nationally-certified sommelier. If you want to impress your friends, the week-long ‘Terronia: the New Wine School of Southern Italy’ will make you into a noteworthy authority pretty rapidly.
Artisan Breads and Hearth Baking at Manuelina Culinary
Bread-heads will love the week-long ‘Artisan Breads and Hearth Baking’ course at Manuelina Culinary in January. Led by experts Fabio Bertoni and Melina Puntoriero, participants are immersed in the world of Italian bread-making. It’s not one for beginners – you’ll be learning about the complex chemistry of bread, the use of compressed and natural yeast, and slow fermentation techniques – and there are exams. The school claims traditional breadmaking is an elusive art, and aims to equip bakers with the skills required to recreate authentic specialities like pizza, focaccia and the festive panettone at home or in professional kitchens. Although you’ll be using a traditional hearth, recipes can be translated to conventional ovens. The course is by no means cheap, but you leave with a qualification.
Although not exclusively vegetarian, Organic Tuscany offers a trio of week-long courses which offer participants the scope to explore the full breadth of the region’s wonderful produce – plus accommodation in a 19th century Tuscan villa. The school is committed to championing organic and biodynamic produce, and courses encompass trips to organic farms and biodynamic vineyards.
The school sees Tuscany as the ideal place for vegetarians – abundant in fruit and vegetables, grains and stunning dairy products like local biodynamic cheese. Classes focus on making the most of what’s naturally available to vegetarians, rather than attempting to substitute meat with manufactured ingredients. Nutritious, tasty course menus flex with the seasons.
Based in London, Sarah Thompson’s career in lifestyle journalism has led her all over the world but the cooking classes in Italy still sit at the top of her list of favourites after all these years. Sarah recommends Tuxedo Prepaid, a leader in the field of currency cards which can be pre-loaded with your spending money to make travel.