Real Food Adventure – Italy
Italians are the masters of creating simple dishes that sing with flavour. Regional, seasonal and as fresh as possible, Italy’s cuisine is hearty, satisfying and made with heart. Inspired by the kitchens of the nonna, Italy’s food is authentic and surprising – pizza and pasta are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the diverse array of unforgettable food you’ll find on this adventure that travels from Rome to Venice via San Gimignano and Bologna.
- DURATION 8 DAYS
- TYPE SMALL GROUP
- OPERATES MAY - OCTOMBER 2017; MAY - OCTOMBER 2018
- DEPARTS ROME
Day 1 Rome
Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Get a feel for this gastronomic gateway to Italian cuisine, with its multitude of restaurants and trattorias catering to all tastes and budgets. Perhaps pop into a Roman bar before dinner tonight. The aperitivo hour falls just before dinner and is the perfect way to unwind at the end of the day (prosecco is a local favourite). Enjoy your drink with stuzzichini (bite-size snacks).
Day 2 Rome
Start your first full day with a coffee, the most important drink in Rome. You may just pick up a tip or two from the coffee roaster himself. Next you’ll head to a bakery owned by Rome’s ‘Michelangelo of pizza’, Gabriela Bonci, for a degustation of focaccia and other specialty Italian breads. Then check out one of the city’s oldest food markets, where pasta-making and other traditional culinary crafts are regularly on display. Chat to local stall holders and sample seasonal produce. The rest of the day is free for your own exploration. Check out some of the city’s cultural icons, perhaps the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, The Vatican or the Pantheon. Or simply pull up a chair at a cafe and watch the world go by. (B)
Day 3 San Gimignano
Travel by train (approximately 2 hours) to the village of Pancole, located in the heart of Tuscany between Florence and Siena. You will stay in a traditional Tuscan farmhouse. Located in close proximity to the enchanting village of San Gimignano, the farmhouse is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees from which the family has been producing excellent wine and olive oil by organic methods for over fifty years. Enjoy a guided walk through the vineyards and cellars of the estate, followed by a tasting of some signature Tuscan wines. The wine tasting will be accompanied by some delicious cheeses, oilve oil and bruschetta. This is a beautiful part of Italy, filled with hill towns, grapevines, wild herbs and olive groves. The region is renowned for a cuisine that celebrates simplicity and the bounty of locally grown produce in hearty, rustic dishes. Pecorino cheese, farro (an ancient grain) and artisanal cured meats like lardo di Colonnata are just some of the many local ingredients you can expect to indulge in during your stay.
Day 4 San Gimignano
Take an guided walk (approximately 1.5 hours; 7 kilometres) along a portion of the Via Francigena, the major pilgrimage route to Rome during the Middle Ages, then explore the medieval walled town of San Gimignano. The walk is on easy terrain. San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often called the ‘Town of Fine Towers’ due to the preservation of a number of impressive ‘torre’ or tower houses within its walls. The town is also known for its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the surrounding sandstone hillsides. Spend the rest of your time exploring the walking paths around the farm or simply relaxing by the pool, enjoying beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside. (B)
Day 5 Bologna
Travel to Bologna by train (approximately 3.5 hours). Bologna’s culinary claim to fame is a significant one, thanks to the ragu alla bolognese. Home of tagliatelle, mortadella and a range of other cured meats and salamis, Bologna, along with the surrounding Emilia Romagna region, is a bonafide food mecca. Settle into your room and then perhaps get out and acquaint yourself with this city of beautiful old terracotta buildings and lively streets. Later in the day you’ll discover the ‘real food’ of Bologna, with a hands on-cooking class in ther fine art of pasta-making. Feast on your creations over dinner.
Day 6 Bologna
Enjoy a day trip to discover the flavours of the renowned Emilia Romagna region. Visit a factory dedicated to the production of one of Italy’s most coveted culinary exports – the mighty Parmigiano Reggiano. Get an insight into how this cheese is made, then enjoy a tasting. Continue to the town of Modena (approximately 1 hour) and visit an acetaia, a house where the family produce fine aged Modena balsamic vinegar in the attic. You’ll see how the vinegar is aged in barrels made from different woods, and is never less than 12 years old (often well over 25). Taste it and learn the difference between the real stuff and the mass-produced kind. Take some time strolling around this delightful town (which certainly doesn’t feel touristy) and admire the Palazzo Ducale. Perhaps sample some of the town’s other specialties: prosciutto, tortellini, or, for the adventurous, zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter). Lambrusco, the town’s famed sparkling red, makes for a fine accompaniment. Ask your leader about the great local specialty panini shop in the market. Your day concludes with a tour of a gelato museum, followed by a demonstration and tasting. (L)
Day 7 Venice
Take the train up to Venice (approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes). There are two ways to explore this famed canal city – by boat or on foot. You’ll wander the romantic streets on an orientation walking tour of some of the city’s artisanal food shops and providores. Take this chance to meet some of the local shop owners – a number have been part of the Venetian food scene for decades. Venice’s distinctive culinary heritage goes back to ancient times and features rich risottos, saline baccala (salted cod) and creamy polenta. You’ll explore the narrow cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas and cross the tiny bridges to find shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings. Stroll past St Mark’s Square, the Campanile and the Doges Palace. Cross the Rialto and admire the Bridge of Sighs before catching a vaporetto back to the hotel. (D)
Day 8 Venice
It’s an early start today. Walk down to the canals and watch farmers unload their produce from canal boats, ready to be sold at Venice’s famous Rialto markets. This tradition is more than 1,000 years old. Next, swing past the fish market, where the catch of the day might come direct from the Venetian lagoon, the enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea in which the city of Venice is situated. Finish with a market breakfast alongside the traders. Your adventure comes to an end by 11 am. (B)