The Italians sure know how to live life – from grand gestures and a laidback work ethic to truly savouring the joy and passion of each moment. The finer things in life from art to fashion are what constitute the greatest parts of true Italian heritage. One thing that towers above all of these though, is Italian food – mouth-wateringly delicious, wholesome food that is filled with great flavours and fresh produce. To say that Italian cuisine is rich would be an understatement, but there is something about the lure of such sumptuous food that makes it extremely difficult to resist.
And when a chance to take a cooking vacation in Italy popped up, there was no question of me ever refusing. A lot of Italy tour packages include cooking tours in Italy, but an Italy food tour was something I had never experienced before and could not wait to try. Here is an account of my amazing adventure indulging in food travel in Italy.
On arrival at Florence, I was transferred to my charming hotel in FiglineValdarno, where I got a chance to settle in, unpack and take in the beautiful surroundings of the countryside inn where we were put up. In the evening I met my fellow travellers and we got to sample some marvellous local wine and were introduced to some local chefs.
The next day, we had a cooking lesson with the head chef who taught us to make pasta by hand. I’d only ever tried the ready-made variety, and this was quite a great learning experience. Rolling the dough through the pasta machine and seeing the silky pasta sheets flowing out the other end made for quite a fascinating sight. The chef’s assistants showed us how to pick produce from the kitchen garden and we ended up having a wonderful lunch of pasta and bread rolls, all made by our own hands.
Before dinner, we were treated to an excellent evening of wine sampling and cheese tasting, where experts showed us different wine and cheese pairings, how to taste wines correctly and for the first time in my life I worked up the courage to eat blue cheese – quite an acquired taste.
The following day, we visited the town of Arezzo, a truly picturesque place. Our guide said it was used as the set for the film ‘Life is Beautiful’, one of my absolute favourites, which made me like the town even more. The markets here had some of the freshest produce I have ever seen and I loved walking through it, seeing all the bright colours and smiling animated vendors. A cooking class was arranged for us, and we learnt to make risotto, a sticky rice dish and home-made gelato – which is much easier than you expect and I can’t wait to try it at home. Lunch was delicious, of course, and a nap after the heavy risotto seemed like the best idea. In the evening, we visited a local trattoria, where we got to taste some fabulous traditional wines (now that we knew exactly how) and had a lovely meal peppered with amazing conversation that made for my most cherished experience in Tuscany.
My last day in the country and my Italy food journey was drawing to an end. We visited the Chianti Classico region and tasted some wonderful local wine in Greve. The day was spent on a winery hopping spree. In the evening, we visited the castle village of Montefioralle and ate dinner in a traditional farmhouse restaurant. Quite a marvellous end to my Italy culinary tour.
I boarded my flight the next day brimming with memories and pictures and more than a few bottles of wine.
Nilofer Asrani loves to travel across countries in search of the perfect experience and considers herself quite a gastronome. She recently returned from a Italy food tour and in her article she shares information about some of the best cooking vacations in Italy you can take to try some amazing Italian dishes.