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.