Cooking with Michele in Italy
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Traveling to Italy to attend a cooking school is an incredible experience. I take groups on culinary adventures each year because I love Rome and the region and people of Puglia so much. The 2018 trip will combine biking the countryside around Puglia with the cooking school at the castle for the best of both worlds!
I do all the planning and preparation for these trips, and help you organize everything from how to pack and what to wear to how to book your flights and how to manage jet lag. Every month leading up to our trip you’ll receive monthly newsletters from me full of information to help you learn about the trip and to whet your appetite, both literally and figuratively!
We will begin our adventures with two days in Rome, my very favorite city in the world, adjusting to the time change, sipping our espresso macchiato, seeing the sights with a culinary slant, dining in the local home of a friend of mine in Rome, and practicing our Italian. I will lead the group to all of the centro storico highlights in Rome, including the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and Il Vittoriano. We will share a guided tour through historic Jewish ghetto, essential to understanding much of the culinary history of Rome, followed by lunch in the Ghetto. Optional guided tours will be available for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, the Borghese Art Gallery, and Ancient Rome. Rome is a big, bustling city, and each year many of my guests prefer to arrive earlier than the planned itinerary to take advantage of all Rome has to offer.Our hotel will be the Albergo Santa Chiara, perfectly located smack in the middle of the historic center of Rome, within walking distance to everything you’d want to visit.
After Rome, we will travel south by first class train to the region of Puglia, located in the very southernmost heel of Italy, to the beautifully preserved Baroque town of Lecce. We’ll spend two nights right in the center of the historic city and will learn about the history of the region through a short guided tour of the town. You will have some free time for relaxing and shopping in Lecce before we head to the cooking school at the Castle.
The Awaiting Table Cookery School at the Castle
On Monday, we’ll transfer to our home for the week, a 16th century castello in Spongano, just 40 minutes south of Lecce. Our cookery course at the castle will feel like a larger than life celebration – imagine yourself at a long table enjoying extravagant country lunches, overflowing with Southern Italian familial tradition. Each meal, you’ll learn the history and culture of the region and how that drives the cuisine, then we’ll move into the kitchen and cook together. Whether it’s making fresh pasta from scratch nearly every meal, grilling sea bass over olive wood embers or covering impossibly ripe fruit with impossibly fresh ricotta, it’s always hands on learning. The castle kitchen is enormous, the tables long, and the week at the castle includes a larger group, giving you the opportunity to meet others from around the world and make new friends.Every day we will bike together, usually departing the castle around 10am. Cycling will be about 3 hours a day, on mostly flat terrain. This course was designed for ‘Sunday cyclists’ and anyone wishing for more vigorous rides can depart earlier in the morning. Because this is still a cooking school, we’ll return to the castle each day to learn, cook, drink, laugh and sleep. During your stay at the castle, the staff just might head out ahead of the group to set up tables and chairs amongst olive trees for a special lunch in the countryside.Because we’ll be staying in a working castle, you will get a rare, first-hand glimpse into the life of former European aristocracy. You’ll cook in the baron’s impressive stone kitchen, dine on his Bougainvillea covered loggia and drink plenty of local, world-class wine from oversized goblets in his underground olive mill – each lunch going well into the afternoon, each dinner late into the evening. The time around the chalkboard learning about wine, in the kitchen putting your knowledge to work, and at the table on the baron’s stone loggia will leave you with memories you cherish, and Southern Italy will never be the same for you again.
On Saturday morning, after saying your goodbyes to everyone, we will head to Ostuni for a few hours of sightseeing in the beautiful “White City”. We’ll sit down for a big lunch, visit the cathedral, and then fly from Brindisi to the airport in Rome. To make departures easier, we will spend Sunday night at a hotel at the airport and guests will return home on Sunday morning.
(11 Days and Nights in Italy plus 2 Travel Days)
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 Depart for Italy to arrive the next day (you may also arrive earlier or later)
Thursday, September 13, 2018 Arrive in Rome; optional, casual touring through the Centro Storico to adjust to time change with lunch along the way; group welcome dinner
Friday, September 14, 2018 Guided tour of the Jewish ghetto followed by lunch; optional guided tours of the Borghese Art Gallery, Ancient Rome, or Vatican in the afternoon if desired; group dinner in a private home in Rome
Saturday, September 15, 2018 Afternoon train to Lecce with lunch on board; check into hotel; late pizza dinner in Lecce
Sunday, September 16, 2018 Free morning in Lecce for resting, shopping, touring, photographing; late afternoon group tour of Lecce; group dinner
Monday, September 17, 2018 Meet up with Silvestro; welcome dinner at The Awaiting Table
Monday – Friday Biking and Cooking at The Awaiting Table Cookery School with day trip to Otranto
Saturday, September 22, 2018 Farewells at the school; day trip to Ostuni for sightseeing, shopping and lunch; return flight from Brindisi to Rome in the evening; hotel at the Rome airport
Estimated Trip Cost*
$5,500 double occupancy, $6,000 single occupancy
- Hotel room for 11 nights – 2 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Lecce, 6 nights at the castle in Spongano, 1 night at the Rome airport Hilton
- All breakfasts and dinners (including wine), including one dinner in a private home in Rome
- Lunches in Rome, including one at an historic restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto
- Lunch on arrival day in Lecce
- First class train from Rome to Lecce
- Economy flight from Brindisi to Rome
- Luggage transfer to and from the train/plane in Lecce
- Six days at The Awaiting Table at the Castle (including all food, wine, lessons, transfers, and excursions)
- Day trip and tour in Otranto
- Day trip to Ostuni with lunch
- Airport transfer to Brindisi
- Guided tours: Jewish Ghetto in Rome, Lecce’s centro storico, and Otranto
- Airfare is not included, but I am happy to provide assistance booking flights or advising how to use miles.
- You are responsible for any incidentals billed to your hotel room.
- Optional tours will be offered in Rome for the Ancient City, the Borghese Art Gallery, and the Vatican – the cost for these tours will be shared by the guest participating in the tour and you will pay these directly to the tour guide.
- Transfer from the airport upon arrival in Rome and taxis in Rome are your own responsibility.
*To hold your spot in the trip, a deposit of $2,000 must be paid. The second payment of $2,000 is due on March 1, 2018, and the balance on July 1, 2018. It is highly advised that you obtain private travel insurance if you have any concerns about canceling as all fees are nonrefundable. According to the terms and conditions of The Awaiting Table, you may reschedule your week at the school one time only with no penalty.