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. 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. 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. 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.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.
(10 Days and Nights in Italy plus 2 Travel Days)
Wednesday, September 27, 2023 Depart for Italy to arrive the next day (you may also arrive earlier or later)
Thursday, September 28, 2023 Group welcome dinner near the hotel
(For those arriving earlier in the day, I’ll take you on some optional, casual touring through the Centro Storico to adjust to time change with lunch along the way.)
Friday, September 28, 2023 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 classic Roman restaurant
Saturday, September 30, 2023 Afternoon train to Lecce with a light lunch on board; check into hotel; late group dinner upon arrival in Lecce
Sunday, October 1, 2023 Free morning in Lecce for resting, shopping, touring, photographing; late afternoon group tour of Lecce; group dinner in Lecce
Monday, October 2, 2023 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, October 7, 2023 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, October 8, 2023 Departure (for home or other travels)
Per Person Trip Cost*
$5,500 double occupancy / $6,000 single occupancy
- Hotel room for 10 nights – 2 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Lecce, 5 nights at the castle in Spongano, 1 night at the Rome airport Hilton
- All breakfasts
- Lunch in Rome at an historic restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto
- All dinners (including wine) in Rome and Lecce
- First class train from Rome to Lecce with lunch (including wine) on the train
- Economy flight from Brindisi to Rome (including 1 checked bag)
- Luggage transfer to and from the train/plane in Lecce
- Five days at The Awaiting Table at the Castle (including all food, wine, lessons, transfers, and excursions)
- Bike rental (with helmet) and bike guides – this is optional, reduce price by $200 if you are not biking, add $60 if you would like an e-bike
- Day trip to Otranto with lunch
- Day trip to Ostuni with farewell 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 guests participating in the tours and you will pay these directly to the tour guide.
- Hotel costs for early arrival or late departure will be added to your final invoice.
- Transfer from the airport upon arrival in Rome and any taxis in Rome are your own responsibility.
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, 2023. Any additional meals or costs incurred during the trip will be billed to you after the trip.