Cooking with Michele in Italy


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Have you always dreamed of a glorious trip spent in Italy, learning to cook like the locals do, while enjoying some of the greatest food, wine, and sights? Each year I take a group of guests on a special food and wine adventure to Rome and southern Italy and I would love for you to join us!
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. 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 a monthly newsletter 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 an espresso macchiato or shakerato, seeing the sights with a culinary slant, learning about wines from the region, dining in some fabulous restaurants, 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. Sign up for the trip add-on if you’d like to spend an extra night in Rome for a guided tour of the Vatican. 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. If you do, I’ll arrange your early arrival and help guide your activities before the rest of the group joins us.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. This part of Puglia is special – the Salento Penninsula – and I find it intoxicating. 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.On Monday, we’ll transfer to our home for the week, a 16th century castello in Spongano, just 40 minutes south of Lecce. Our cooking program at The Awaiting Table 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 make new friends.After breakfast each day at the castle, we will bike together (you may opt out if this isn’t your thing!), usually departing the castle around 10am. Cycling will be at a pace of about 10 mph for about 2 hours a day, on slightly undulating terrain. The only serious hills you’ll need to climb are the ones that take us back from the gorgeous seaside towns we will visit, but don’t worry, we’ll all take that hill out of town at our own pace and meet at the top to continue the ride home. We’ve switched to e-bikes for our cycling, making those hills much easier! Along the way, we’ll visit seaside towns on the Adriatic, stop to learn about some sights, and take a break for coffee.Because this is primarily a cooking and wine program, with a few days of biking thrown in, we’ll return to the castle each day to learn, cook, drink, laugh and sleep.At the castle, you’ll get a rare, first-hand glimpse into the life of former European aristocracy. We’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’ll cherish. I suspect Southern Italy will never be the same for you again.On Saturday morning, after saying your goodbyes at the castle, we will head to Ostuni for a little 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 Saturday night at an airport hotel and guests will return home on Sunday morning.

2024 Itinerary
(10 Days and Nights in Italy plus 2 Travel Days)

Wednesday, September 18, 2024 Depart for Italy to arrive the next day (you may also arrive earlier or later)

Wednesday, September 18, 2024 Optional early arrival for Vatican Tour add-on

Thursday, September 19, 2024 Optional Vatican tour add-on
Group welcome dinner near the hotel
(For those arriving earlier in the day, enjoy the day with some casual touring through the Centro Storico to adjust to time change with lunch along the way.)

Friday, September 20, 2024 Guided tour of the Jewish ghetto followed by lunch; afternoon free for touring or shopping; rooftop cocktail party near hotel with tapas-style dinner

Saturday, September 21, 2024 Morning train to Lecce; check into hotel; lunch and afternoon on your own; group dinner in Lecce

Sunday, September 22, 2024 Free morning in Lecce for resting, shopping, touring, photographing; late afternoon group tour of Lecce; rooftop cocktail party followed by group dinner

Monday, September 23, 2024 Meet up with Silvestro and transfer to the castle; lunch at the castle, followed by test driving our bikes; first cooking lesson and dinner that evening

Tuesday – Friday Biking and Cooking at The Awaiting Table Cookery School with day trip to Otranto

Saturday, September 28, 2024 Farewells at the castle; day trip to Ostuni for sightseeing, shopping and lunch; return flight from Brindisi to Rome in the evening; overnight at the Rome airport hotel

Sunday, September 29, 2024 Departure (for home or other travels)

Per Person Trip Cost
$5,900 double occupancy / $6,500 single occupancy


  • All hotel accommodations – 2 nights at Albergo Santa Chiara in Rome, 2 nights at the Risorgimento Resort in Lecce, and 5 nights at Palazzo Bacile di Castiglione in Spongano
  • Breakfast daily at hotels
  • Lunch at an historic restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome
  • All dinners in Rome and Lecce
  • Wine at all lunches and dinners
  • Two rooftop cocktail parties in Rome and Lecce
  • First class train with reserved seat from Rome to Lecce
  • Luggage transfer form train to hotel in Lecce
  • Five days at The Awaiting Table Cookery School (including all food, wine, lessons, transfers, and excursions)
  • Bike rental (e-bike with helmet) and bike guides*
  • Guided tours of the Jewish Ghetto in Rome and Lecce’s historic center
  • Day trip to Otranto with lunch
  • Day trip to Ostuni with big farewell lunch
  • Airport transfer to Brindisi
  • Economy flight from Brindisi to Rome (including 1 checked bag)
  • Hotel accommodations at the Rome airport Hilton before flying home

*Biking is optional, reduce price by $200 if you are not biking

Not included:

  • Airfare (I am happy to provide assistance booking flights with miles or money)
  • Incidentals billed to your hotel rooms
  • Hotel costs for early arrival in Rome
  • Lunches in Lecce
  • Transfer from the airport upon arrival in Rome
  • Taxi to the train in Rome

Optional Vatican Tour Add-On Per Person
$250 double occupancy / $400 single occupancy

  • Includes 1 extra night (arrival Wednesday September 18) at the hotel in Rome (breakfast included) and a guided tour of the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, and Basilica San Pietro on Thursday morning September 19.

Click here to reserve your spot today!

To hold your spot in the trip, a deposit of $2,000 must be paid.
The balance, including costs for any additional optional hotel nights in Rome, is due on August 1, 2024.