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Italian Cooking Schools: Lessons from La Cucina
Looking to combine travel with a chance to enhance your skills in the kitchen? Look no further than Italy. What better place to explore the delights of the table than this mecca of food and wine. Italy abounds with opportunities for culinary education, from the rudimentary to advanced instruction for professionals. All around the country, you'll find everything from individually tailored classes to demonstrations, hands-on lessons, tours and excursions and visits to noted villas and wineries.
What these classes share in common is the chance to learn about Italian cuisine and culture (you just can't separate one from the other in this country), taste a variety of wines (an integral part of any Italian meal), and gain insight into the preparation of some of the world's most spectacular foods. Not surprisingly, the Tuscany region, popular with international travelers, has the largest concentration of schools, but you can find a program in almost any region.
I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy a few lessons in culinary craftsmanship from some of the best Italy has to offer. But there are many more than I could ever hope to visit in person. The ones listed are a sampling to get you started. Please be sure to contact the school you are interested in for current information as schedules and other information may change. With a little research, you’ll find just the right stop for your Italian culinary adventure.
Arte Culinaria offers three-day and week-long cooking classes in the cooking of the Veneto region at La Casa Gialla, a restored Italian farmhouse in the hills of the Prosecco wine region north of Venice.
The Cipriani Cooking School
30133 Venezia, Italy
Phone: (39) 41-5207744
Fax: (39) 41-5203930
This premier Venetian hotel offers a series of fall cooking programs featuring prominent guest chefs. Classes feature accommodations at the Cipriani, breakfasts, a welcome gala dinner, cooking classes and working lunches, tours of Venice's Rialto market, and a farewell banquet at which participants are awarded the Cipriani Cooking School Diploma and receive a Venetian recipe book. Photo Credit: Hotel Cipriani
Judy Witts Francini offers one-, two-, and three-day cooking classes in Florence for small groups, with larger classes available by private arrangement. Classes include a shopping excursion to the Central Market; samplings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheeses, and other Italian specialties; wines paired for the day’s menu; and a hands-on cooking class.
Giuliano Bugialli's Cooking in Florence
Giuliano Bugialli's FOODS OF ITALY, Inc.
252 7th Avenue, # 7R
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (646) 638-0883
Fax: (646) 638-0881
Giuliano Bugialli founded the first English-language cooking school in Italy in 1973. An acclaimed instructor, television personality, and award-winning cookbook author, Bugialli combines cooking instruction with an immersion in Italian life and culture. Students stay in Florence and travel to the school’s kitchen in the Chianti Classico region, known for its wine and olive oil. Classes might include demonstration, discussion, hands-on classes, leisurely meals with wine, evening excursions, and special events. Travel programs to other regions of Italy are sometimes offered, as well as additional classes in New York City.
Son of celebrated cookbook author Marcella Hazan, Giuliano began assisting at his mother’s School of Classic Italian Cooking at the age of 17. Now an author and teacher in his own right, he offers week-long classes at Villa Giona in Verona, as well as occasional classes in the U.S.
Località Pino, 50052
Certaldo (FI) Italy
Phone: (39) 347 328 9333
US Phone: (347) 417-5907
This cooking school tucked away in the Tuscan countryside is run by husband and wife team Riccardo and Shilpa. A British woman of Indian descent, Shilpa has worked in restaurants from England to Spain to Italy, and has a degree in French and Italian language, literature and culture. Courses are hands-on with vegetarian as well as omnivore programs available. Shilpa teaches the classes in English, with local chefs assisting in preparing dishes from Tuscany and beyond. Groups are small, with a maximum of eight per class. A typical day includes a cooking class, family-style lunch with local biodynamic wines, and visits to local organic farms and other sites. The price include seven nights accommodation in Tuscan villa or farmhouse apartments a short walk from where classes are held, access to a swimming pool, four hands-on cooking classes, lunches, a couple of dinner excursions to local farm restaurants, and other activities. Some afternoons and evenings are left free for relaxing and exploring the area. Shilpa stocks the apartments with baskets of biodynamic breads, organic wines, local honey, fruit, coffee, and other treats for breakfast and mid-day munching. With an eye toward the environment, the program uses hot water from a solar hot water panel and follows sustainable gardening and waste practices.
The Villa Table at Badia a Coltibuono
Badia a Coltibuono 53013
Gaiole in Chianti (SI) Italy
Phone: (39) 0577 744832
Fax: (39) 0577 744839
This longstanding school founded in 1985 by Lorenza de' Medici offers three types of courses. Participants in the five-day “Classico Cooking” course stay in the guest bedrooms (formerly monks’ cells) of the impressive Villa. The three-day “Traditional Tuscany” course is a shorter version. Day classes can be arranged for small groups, beginning with a lesson, cooking together, and concluding with lunch and a tour of the cellar and gardens. Classes are taught by de’Medici’s son, Guido Stucchi.
Badia a Coltibuono is translated "Abbey of the Good Harvest." The eleventh century villa was founded by Benedictine monks nearly a thousand years ago. It is located on a 2000-acre estate approximately 20 miles north of Siena and 40 miles south of Florence. The estate produces a variety of wines, olive oils, vinegars and honeys. The restaurant offers traditional Tuscan cuisine. Classes are often booked a year or two in advance.
Guides to Italian Cooking Schools
The foregoing is only a taste of the many ways to learn about food and wine in Italy. For more information on the vast opportunities for culinary education, you may want to consult these sources:
The Guide To Cooking Schools
Updated annually, this book offers a detailed directory of cooking schools and courses, culinary vacations, apprenticeships, and wine instruction all over the world.
You can explore Italian cooking, language, and art schools by region at:
Jennie Schacht is a freelance food writer and cookbook author. Her books include The Wine Lover's Dessert Cookbook (with Mary Cech) and Without Reservations (with Joey Altman). Her company, Schacht & Associates, consults to public health and food industry clients.