Enjoy an Italian cooking school tour…

Imagine yourself on a warm evening out on a deck in Italy, surrounded by vineyards spilling down slopes at all angles, covering green hills fading into the distance, drinking young, fruity Dolcetto and laughing away with friends. An imposing 11th century castle dominates the little town of Barolo in front of you.

You can hardly believe you’re here, sitting back, thinking only of enjoying life in the moment, on a cooking, wine and culture tour in the country in Piedmont, home to some of Italy’s top reds, Barolo and Barbaresco.

A tantalizing aroma wafts out on to the deck from the Brezza family’s restaurant kitchen ten steps away---Brasato al Barolo, a veal roll simmering slowly in robust, Barolo wine, onions, celery, yellow pepper, carrots, garlic, nutmeg, cloves, fresh rosemary and laurel.

Your dinner experience starts with a delicate spinach flan topped with fonduta cheese sauce. Signor Brezza pours you his Barolo that goes perfectly with your Brasato al Barolo, bathed in rich gravy. A glass of sweet Moscato accompanies your decadent dessert, a semi-freddo with torrone, the local hazelnut nougat.

Next morning from a hill town above Barolo, you walk down through vineyards, farm hamlets and a forest to the Ratti family's private wine museum in an abbey where monks began making wine in 1162. Full of fascinating facts and humorous anecdotes, one of the owners, Massimo, takes you around, starting with an overview of the area’s five main wines and three kinds of soil. Strolling through the barrique cellar, up to the monks’ original kitchen and through well laid out rooms of tool, glasses and label displays, you discuss the history of the wines and their labels, the short supply of corks and your tastes in wines.

Massimo shares glasses of three wines including their best Barolo with you. Someone asks very seriously, “How long should you age your wines?” He exclaims, “When in doubt, just drink it!” You’d never guess this down to earth wine producer is an author and a celebrity in the Barolo wine world.

Cook with a Family on Their Farm in Tuscany

In Tuscany among the rolling golden hills of fields, patches of olive groves and vineyards, for a short time you become part of a lively, enterprising farm family headed by Sandra and Ulisses. On their farm on a scenic ridge with a 180 degree panorama, they make pecorino cheese, grow herbs, raise pigs and sheep, run vacation bungalows, manage farm volunteers, make wine and preserves and have six children. Sandra sparkles with energy as you make delicious grilled eggplant and her special chestnut linguine with ricotta. More laid back Ulisses teaches you how to make Florentine arista, a savory pork roll with rosemary, garlic, sage leaves, a fennel flower and extra virgin olive oil, and a delicious tiramisu.

After your lesson, you tour the farm, chatting with Sandra about her life. Why did they choose the farming life? How does she find time to do all she does? Do they take holidays? Later you sit down at a long wooden table in their dining room and congratulate yourselves on your tasty creations. You experience a different way of life and learn a lot about Tuscan family life from two people passionate about what they do.

Experience the Real Italy

A cooking and wine tour opens doors to an amazing variety of traditional olive oil, cheese, balsamic vinegar and wine makers, chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, truffle hunters, artists and new local friends in their kitchens, wine cellars, homes, farms, restaurants, in the country and in towns. You relax, escape your cares, share stories, ideas and fun with people you’d never have met otherwise in places you’d never find. You feel immersed in the culture. You feel Italian!

These stimulating tours of discovery encompass much more than food and wine—they’re feasts for the mind, heart, senses and soul. In a six day tour you’ll cook beside three or four chefs or home cooks in the morning or late afternoon. Depending on the region you’re exploring, you can also shop for treasures in medieval hill towns, get pampered at the spa, walk magnificent country paths along the sea or through vineyards, admire Byzantine architecture in Ravenna, relax on a scenic boat ride along the Riviera coast or watch a live volcano in Sicily spew its fire into the night sky.

As Ron and Ruth Ruther of Santa Ana, California said, “Our trip to Piedmont exceeded our wildest expectations. We were interested in the trip because of the cooking lessons. As it turned out, the cooking lessons were incidental to the trip. We enjoyed the country, the food, the wine, the people, the restaurants and the hiking so much--the cooking lessons became less important to us.”

Feeling Overworked, Stressed Out and Need More Fun?

Cooking tours are the perfect antidote. On our cooking, wine and volcano tour in Sicily, we laughed every day. Our goofy, local guide, Maurizio hammed it up, and got everyone laughing, singing and dancing. Every chef or restaurant owner had a wacky side to him that had us in stitches.

Our third Sicilian cooking lesson was on the beautiful island of Stromboli, with brilliant, white washed, low, square houses, black, volcanic sand beaches, clear blue sea, all dominated by the mountain with green foothills and black top with an active volcano. In a B & B kitchen the serious, quiet, tense Chef Bartolo began our hands-on lesson with Penne Strombolana, pasta with a delicious sauce of black olives, capers, tomatoes and basil.

Soon the B & B owner, boisterous, loud Calogero entered the kitchen and started kidding Bartolo.

“Get him out of here! I can’t work with him here!” yelled Bartolo. The drama escalated into a side-splitting series of entries and exits in and out of the kitchen that felt like a theatre stage. Over dinner with Bartolo and Calogero we discovered they were friends and roared over the odd tale of how they’d met 20 years ago.

Looking for a Romantic Holiday?

Something mysterious happens when you’re cooking together in Italy that makes your bonds of love grow stronger. We’ve seen couples fall in love more, like Patricia and Mervyn in the Riviera in a restaurant kitchen, up in the hills on terraces of olive trees above Rapallo.

Making bread together at the kitchen counter at the window overlooking the garden, Pat exclaimed, “Here I am in a restaurant in Italy, on a sunny day, looking out at olive trees, lemon trees and roses and making bread with the man I love. What else could I want in life?”

How to Celebrate Life’s Milestones in “Dolce Vita” Style

Your 40th, 50th or 60th birthday or your 20th, 30th or 40th wedding anniversary happen once in a lifetime. Sharing a cooking, wine and culture tour in Italy gives you a truly special way to celebrate life, love and friendship with those you love and deepens your bonds.

Jan in Colorado and Janis in New York, friends since college, had their 50th birthdays coming soon. Janis was ending chemotherapy and needed a fun filled, pampering escape. With their sisters from California and Florida and two Colorado women friends, they indulged in a cooking, wine and spa tour at a lovely, 15th century villa in Tuscany. A dream came true—a carefree week with their guide looking after everything, of cooking, eating, drinking, shopping and laughing all week long.

Escape from your busy world of work and stress. Immerse yourself in a fun, sensual, stimulating cooking, wine and cultural adventure with a cast of warm, local people in Italy. Experience life’s simple joys in the present moment. Go back to being the person you forgot you were. Celebrate friendship and love with groups of friends or family…just because, or to mark your life milestones in a truly special way.

You only live once!

Author's Bio: 

Margaret Cowan of Vancouver, BC owns a tour company, Mama Margaret Italian Cooking Holidays at http://www.italycookingschools.com . They ran their first cooking, wine and walking tour in 1995 in Piedmont’s Barolo Wine Country. Margaret and her local Italian tour partners now offer tours all over Italy in Piedmont, Riviera, Tuscany, Sicily, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, and Le Marche.

Margaret has been traveling to Italy since 1972. She is a bonafide Italophile--she lived there three years, speaks Italian and continues her love affair with Italy in her semi annual trips.

Margaret is also the author of a wacky, little book, “How I Fell in Love with an Italian Corkscrew” and “Your Guide to 118 Decadent Cooking Holidays in Italy”.