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Gianni’s Italy: Food Adventure in Emilia Romagna

Every year, Gianni takes a food pilgrimage to Italy. In the past, he’s met up with groups of friends and led them on culinary adventures through various regions, opening  up local worlds of Italian culture that are often unavailable to the common tourist.

This year, he’s inviting you to join him. In partnership with Vanessa DellaPasqua, an Italian native living in California, he’s designed an 8-day trip to the culinary heart of Italy that includes all lodging and in-country transportation, plus hands-on cooking instruction, and cultural exploration to activate all your senses.

It’s limited to 20 people to keep it intimate. Some of the things you’ll experience during your voyage:

  • Learn pasta-making from a real Sfoglina, a dying breed of dedicated pasta wizards.
  • Hunt wild mushrooms in the Apennine mountains.
  • Witness the creation of oils, cheeses, and balsamic vinegars at their sources.
  • Explore medieval villages and lesser-known food markets for vegetables, meats, and fish.

Day-by-Day Itinerary, 2011 Tour

Sunday, September 25 – Arrival

Gianni and Vanessa will pick you up at Bologna International Airport at 5 p.m. Our luxury bus will take us to our first stop, Cesenatico, on the Adriatic Coast of Emilia-Romagna.

Cesenatico is a quaint but prosperous town frequented primarily by Italians, Europeans, and lovers of gastronomic delights. It was born as a harbor, with a centrally located canal designed by Leonardo Da Vinci in 1502.

You’ll stay at Hotel Sirena, a family-run 4-star hotel where you’ll be welcomed as family. Enjoy a traditional Italian fish dinner and meet your fellow tour members.

Monday, September 26 – Pasta Making

After breakfast we will head to Villa Delle Rose, the renovated traditional farmhouse where we will be taking our first cooking class, making homemade pasta from scratch the traditional Romagna way.

We’ll learn about Tortellini, Lasagne, and Strozzapreti from the family’s Sfoglina, the pasta dough maker. This is a traditional Romagna job role, and the Sfoglina does nothing but make pasta for the family. (It is said the person needs the arm of a bodybuilder in order to handle the rolling pin properly.) The fact that in Romagna there is a special word to describe the person carrying out this activity indicates that this job is crucial. But, sadly, it is also disappearing, so this is a true treat.

Lunch will be served during the class and consist of the pasta we prepare together.

Later, we head to Forlimpopoli to explore a culinary compass of Italy’s epicurean traditions – Casa Artusi, home of the museum of Italian home cooking.

In 1891, Pellegrino Artusi, a native of Romagna, wrote the very first comprehensive Italian cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.  Artusi’s book dignified home cooking and promoted the importance of local food resources. The museum has a restaurant where we will enjoy a typical Romagna dinner.

Tuesday September 27 – Fish and Cheese

Morning starts in Cesenatico’s fish market, along the Leonardo Da Vinci-designed harbor. We’ll explore the fish selection, the fish auction, and the Conserve – the ice pits used for fish preservation before the advent of modern refrigeration. Afterwards, Chef Roberto shares his secrets and we’ll lunch on the fish he prepares.

Later in the afternoon we visit Sogliano al Rubicone, the homeland of formaggio di fossa, a local sheep cheese left to season in pits dug out of the soil. We’ll tour Santarcangelo di Romagna, a beautiful medieval town.

We dine at the renowned La Sangiovesa restaurant, a true Romagna Osteria housed in the stables of an ancient noble palace. Fellini designed their logo. We start with piadina, a local flatbread served with salumi, and move on to more Romagna specialties.

Wednesday September 28 – Mushroom Hunting and the Apennines

We’re up early, and head to Portico di Romagna for a mushroom excursion in the Apennines. We’ll hunt for porcini mushrooms, the prized Italian varietal – hiking will be involved. Enjoy your picnic lunch al fresco before heading back to Portico for a leisurely afternoon exploring this small medieval town and its charming stoned pathways and ancient bridge. Later we will enjoy the expertise of the family of Signora Marisa and prepare a mushroom-based dinner that we will enjoy together in the beautiful arched dining room of Il Vecchio Convento.

Thursday September 29 – Olive Oil

After breakfast we head to Brisighella, just a few miles North of Portico at the Apennine foothills. Brisighella is a medieval town famous in Italy for its high quality extra virgin olive oil production.  We experience an olive oil tasting (and shopping), and then we’ll have lunch in the town center. After lunch we will make our way toward Bologna, Italy’s good food capital.

Friday September 30 – Parmigiano and Balsamic Vinegar

We take off bright and early and head to Parma for a tour of an artisanal Parmesan cheese producer and see a wheel of Parmigiano cheese being made. We lunch in the center of Parma.

On our way back to Bologna we stop in Modena and tour Acetaia Malpighi, a traditional balsamic vinegar producer. We learn all the rules for making a great traditional balsamic vinegar.

Saturday October 1 – Market and Bologna

For our final full day of activities we explore Bologna: From the markets in the heart of old downtown, to lunch at Tamburini with Mortadella and crescente, we will experience food in ways that you might have thought had disappeared! You’ll get some time to shop around town before our cooking class in the afternoon preparing traditional dishes and enjoying dinner with a typical Bologna feast!

Sunday October 2 – Departures

After breakfast, the shuttle will take you to the Bologna International Airport for your return flight.

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Artisans of Leisure: Gourmet Northern Italy

(10 Days – Departs Daily on a Private Basis)
Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, TuscanyThis tour focuses on the superb food and wine of northern Italy, uncovering how geography and history have influenced regional variation. Begin in Piedmont, birthplace of the Slow Food Movement and famous for its truffles, French-influenced cuisine and the world-renowned red wines Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto. Spend three nights at a former monastery converted into a charming hotel located in the midst of a picturesque vineyard. During a private tour, visit the beautiful market towns of Asti, known for its sparkling white wine, and Alba, home of the prized white truffle. Drive through the rolling hillside to tour villages such as Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and La Morra and sample the area’s finest wineries. During truffle season, perhaps join a trifulau and his dog on a truffle hunt. One day, enjoy a cooking class at a villa located amidst vineyards and fruit orchards. During leisure time, try some of the regional specialties such as vitello tonnato (veal with anchovy and caper sauce), agnolotti del plin (a delicate, filled pasta), and gianduja(chocolate with hazelnuts) in a variety of forms.Continue with your private driver-guide to Emilia-Romagna, arguably the best-known center of gourmet fare in Italy, and famous for its rich cuisine. Stay in Parma and enjoy a cooking class at the acclaimed Academia Barilla Culinary Center. On a private excursion, visit producers of the region’s celebrated Parmesan cheese, Parma prosciutto, and the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. Also enjoy a tour of old-town Parma, including the Piazza del Duomo, site of a magnificent 12 th-century cathedral—featuring Correggio’s exuberant fresco in the dome— and adjacent baptistery. Perhaps stop for a tour of Bolognaen route to Tuscany.Continue to Tuscany, where the enchanting landscapes, superlative art and fine wine combine with the simple yet delicious cuisine to create a harmonious experience. Using a luxury hotel on the River Arno in Florence as your base, one day enjoy a full-day tour that includes favorite “insider” spots in the city, and savor the local products available at the Mercato Centrale. Also take a cooking class at a villa outside of Florence. There will be ample free time to enjoy Florence and its restaurants, shops, museums and other highlights independently. Another day, take a full-day wine, olive oil and cheese-tasting excursion through Tuscany, visiting wine estates in Montalcino and Montepulciano or in the Chianti region, and stopping in historic towns such as Pienza or San Gimignano.

Conclude with a night at a beautiful luxury hotel nestled in the Tuscan countryside.

Itinerary Overview
Day 1 Arrive Milan or Turin
Arrival transfer from airport to hotel for 3 nights
Day 2 Le Langhe
Private half-day tour of Asti. Afternoon cooking class
Day 3 Le Langhe
Full-day private wine and attractions excursion to Alba and surrounding towns
Day 4 Le Langhe – Parma
Private transfer to hotel for 2 nights. Afternoon cooking class
Day 5 Parma and Modena
Full-day culinary excursion
Day 6 Parma – Florence
Private transfer to hotel for 3 nights, with optional tour of Bologna en route
Day 7 Florence
Private, full-day tour of Florence
Day 8 Florence
Half-day cooking class in villa outside of Florence
Day 9 Florence – Tuscany
Private, full-day food and wine tour of Tuscany. Overnight at countryside retreat
Day 10 Depart Italy
Private transfer to Rome or Florence airport
Le Langhe: Relais San Maurizio
Parma: Sofitel Parma Grand Hotel de la Ville
Florence: Hotel Lungarno or Four Seasons Florence
Tuscany: Locanda dell’Amorosa
$12,375 Per person (double occupancy)

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Villa San Michele: ‘Italian Intermezzo’ by Sharon O’Connor

Stay: 6 days and 5 nights

Cookery lessons: 2

The renowned creator of “Italian Intermezzo” — a collection of recipes accompanied by music — presents a week devoted to the table, to taste, to beauty and to Florence. Expect an extraordinary cultural and gastronomic experience.

Day 1: Upon arrival, enjoy a welcome cocktail to meet the other participants on the course, followed by dinner together at the hotel restaurant.

Day 2: Meet the chef of Villa San Michele, Attilio Di Fabrizio, then begin the first lesson in the kitchen to the sound of music, followed by a delicious lunch with the class, based on the specialities cooked that morning. The afternoon is a time for leisure, when you can laze by the pool or head into Florence on the free hotel shuttle. Dinner à la carte in the hotel’s restaurant.

Day 3: Enjoy the day in Florence, and have lunch in a typical trattoria (not included in the programme). In the evening, travel to the theatre for a Maggio Musicale performance. Dinner is at leisure (not included in the programme).

Day 4: Second lesson on traditional Tuscan cuisine at Villa San Michele with Chef Attilio, followed by lunch—with your classmates—based on the specialities prepared earlier. In the evening, sample a cocktail in the Villa’s sumptuous bar followed by an unforgettable Renaissance-style dinner, featuring decor and dishes inspired by Caterina de’ Medici, and served by waiters and musicians in costume.

Day 5:  In the morning, transfer by private minibus to Florence for a guided tour of Palazzo Pitti and Museo dell’Accademia, where you will see Michelangelo’s David. After a morning devoted to art, be treated to a gourmet lunch at Trattoria Cibreo. In the evening, enjoy an à la carte dinner in the Villa San Michele restaurant.

Day 6:  Breakfast at leisure, followed by departure. Check-out is by noon. The Front Desk takes care of luggage. Supplement for late check-out on request.

During your entire stay it is easy to visit central Florence, thanks to the hotel’s free shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes. You also have at your disposal the pool and gardens of Villa San Michele, as well as the magnificent cuisine of the hotel’s Loggia Restaurant. It’s a dream week: give yourself a treat!

22-27 May 2011

Rates per person*
€ 3.240 in a superior double room
€ 4.065 in a double room for single use
€ 3.050 for a non-participating companion

*price subject to 10% VAT

Package Includes:
Five nights’ accommodation, transfers, all activities in the programme, lessons and all materials and necessary ingredients.

Please note:

  • The courses are reserved for guests staying at Villa San Michele.
  • The lessons are held in English and Italian; other languages are available upon request.
  • The courses are for a maximum of 10 participants and the approach is highly personalized.
  • The lessons are held in the morning (from 10.00 to 12.30)
  • Hours not taken up by lessons and all the evenings are free.
  • At the end of every lesson, the dishes prepared will be served for a lunch to be enjoyed in the company of the Chef.
  • The complete list of the dishes taught during the lessons with recipes will be handed over upon arrival.

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Italian Connection: Savoring Sicily

This unique Cooking and Exploring Tour of Sicily reveals Sicily’s complex past through visits of amazing historical sites, while savoring a wonderfully varied cuisine influenced by the many cultures that have dominated the island. In keeping with Sicily’s diversity, we enjoy the delights of staying in three distinctive lodgings – an intimate historic inn, a seaside hotel and a stylish city hotel – and also participate in two hands-on Sicilian cooking lessons featuring different styles of Sicilian cooking.


  • Feast on Sicilian couscous made with pistachios grown on the lava-rich slopes of Mt Etna, and pair it with a glass of sweet Marsala
  • Visit the cutting edge cellars of the Donnafugata winery, and taste wines inspired by The Leopard
  • Plunge into the wild food market in Catania, resisting the temptation to buy a whole octopus, and cook in the home of cookbook author Eleanora Consoli
  • Trace Sicily’s turbulent history through its delectable sweets, from ancient ricotta to Moorish cassata, regal Norman marzipan to spicy Spanish chocolate
  • Pick olives and watch them being pressed, breathe in the fruity fragrance of new green oil, then pour it over rustic pane nero for a lunch of the gods

Tour length: 7 days

Meet: Palermo airport

End: Catania airport

Meals: Daily breakfast; all lunches with wine; 4 dinners with wine

2010 Price: €3095 Euro / $3960 USD

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