10 incredible Italian food holidays for 2019
Few countries are so renowned for their culinary delights as Italy CREDIT: GETTY
1. Pasta, parmesan and prosecco, Veneto
Serious cooks should check out Stirred, who run a really first class residential cookery school in Casagrande, a gorgeous 15th century classical villa in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites. Between hands-on sessions learning the secrets of perfect homemade tortellini, brasato all’amarone, and fig with ricotta cheesecake, there are day trips by boat to gather ingredients from the fabulous canal side Rialto fish and fresh food market in Venice, walks into the forest to gather truffles with local hunters and tours of local vineyards and cheesemakers to gather unforgetable tastes.
Stirredtravel.com have six-night cookery courses and food tour breaks from the May 27 to October 6 for £2,750 per person, including all tuition, tours, trips, tastings, food, wine and accommodation. (Chris Caldicott)
2. Gastronomic Piedmont by first class rail
This flight-free food and wine tour of Lyon and Piedmont starts and ends at St Pancras. After a direct Eurostar ride to Lyon and a food tour of the Renaissance-era old city there is an evening meal in a traditional ‘bouchon’ Lyonnaise restaurant. The tour continues by TGV to Turin and a transfer to Cuneo, the culinary capital of Italy’s Piedmont region, famous for its wild mushrooms, truffles, cheeses and wines. There are side trips for wine tastings and meals in local restaurants in the Langhe region, Barolo and Saluzzo and a visit to Hemingway’s old haunt the Cafe Arione in Cuneo to try their famous rum-filled chocolate treat of Cuneesi al Rhum.
The eight-day Gastronomic Piedmont 2018 tour leaves from St Pancras on June 8 and September 14, with prices from £1,645 including Eurostar (premier class) to Lyon, TGV (first class) to Turin, Eurostar (premier class) back to London, all road transport, food and market tours, all accommodation, wine tastings and meals. See www.greatrail.com. (Chris Caldicott)
3. Olive harvest, Liguria
What would Italian cuisine be without olive oil? Many Italian regions claim to be the place for extra virgin production: Liguria – with its distinctive taggiasca olive variety – ranks high on the scale of excellence. The newly pressed liquid gold is celebrated over a long weekend in November, in the OliOliva festival in Imperia-Oneglia, where Ligurian growers meet with counterparts from around the Mediterranean, chefs feed the crowds with local oil-laced specialities, and stands sell olive oil cosmetics, unguents, medicines and much else. Also here is the Museo dell’Olivo, which celebrates the tree and its fruit year-round; next to the museum, an olive press opens its doors to the public during the pressing season. To experience the beauty of the region’s olive groves, follow one of the walking routes detailed on the terrediriviera.it website. Follow this link for our guide to the on the best hotels in Liguria.
OliOliva is held in mid-late November; the Museo dell’Olivo (00 39 0183 295 762; museodellolivo.com) is open Mon-Sat. (Lee Marshall)
Olive oil is a serious business in Italy CREDIT: ALAMY
4. Two great trattorias in Puglia
Pressed for time? Then why not build a short weekend in Puglia around two really special lunches? Aim to arrive at Bari Airport on Saturday in time to pick up a hire car by midday. Then drive to Antichi Sapori, where almost everything comes from owner-chef Pietro Zito’s farm. The simplest dish – like pasta al pomodoro – is revelatory. After lunch, make the short drive to Castel del Monte – Emperor Federico II’s majestic but mysterious empty castle. Then head towards the coast, aiming for delightful Polignano a Mare (hometown of Domenico Modugno, who wrote Volare). Stay at cute centro storico b?&?b Dimora Santo Stefano, then head back to Bari the next day via Rutigliano, where the fixed lunch served up by agriturismo Lama San Giorgio – which includes a carafe of delicious Primitivo di Manduria wine – is one of Puglia’s best deals.
5. Pork and ale in the Marche
Cooking schools that reconnect you with real food through home-grown, farm-to-table, organic and zero-food-miles produce have mushroomed in Italy over recent years, but ones that extend the philosophy to butchery are rare. Slow Food-inspired New York chef Jason Bartner does just that at La Tavola Marche cooking school, in his pretty stone farmhouse in the central Marche region. There are half-day and day-long lessons (including one in whole-hog butchery) after which students consume what they have whipped up. Or you can make a holiday of it, taking one of the five guest apartments and following a more varied course which might include foraging for wild edibles, making sausages, exploring local markets or savouring ales at a local microbrewery.
From €125 for a half-day course, €200 for a whole day (00 39 331 525 2753; latavolamarche.com). (Lee Marshall)
A landscape in the Marche CREDIT: GETTY
6. Wine tasting in Campania
Take the mountain route inland from Maiori, on the bumper-to-bumper Amalfi coast road, and within a few minutes you’re away from the crowds in a rural landscape of olive groves, chestnut woods and vines. Some of the oldest of the latter can be seen at Tenuta San Francesco, a family-run winery in the village of Tramonti that recently took a qualitative leap. Don’t miss the wine-tasting lunch, which takes in a bevvy of excellent wines, including our favourite, delicate, fragrant white Per Eva.
Tenuta San Francesco, Via Fieccia, Tramonti (00 39 089 876434). You can sign up for a six-hour tour from Positano to the winery with Swirl the Glass (swirltheglass.com). For recommended hotels in Positano, see our guide (Lee Marshall)
7. The best of Emilia-Romagna FWT Parma
The historic cities of Reggio Emilia and Parma have enough cultural sights to fill a month of Sundays, but as often in Italy, culture is not confined to art and architecture. This is an area where food reaches Sistine Chapel levels of refinement – as anyone who has tasted the miracle that is real, traditional Modena balsamic vinegar will know. Operated out of Bologna by Angelo Fanzini of Food n Wine Tours of Parma organises day trips (9am-430pm) that take in a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, a family-run balsamic vinegar concern, and a fragrant Modena ham workshop. Extensive tastings are included.
Duo Tours (Mon-Sat) from c€150/£125 (firstname.lastname@example.org) For tips on what to see and do in Parma and Bologna, and where to stay, see our guide
8. Tuscany cooking with Xanthe Clay
On this four-day foodie extravaganza, you will sample fabulous Tuscan wines, savour some of the finest dishes the region has to offer, and learn how to create them for yourself. Staying in a private villa set amid spellbinding scenery, you will be taught techniques and skills by knowledgeable local chefs, while learning how to master classic Italian recipes using the best ingredients. You will also enjoy an exclusive talk and Q&A session over drinks with The Telegraph food and cookery writer Xanthe Clay. With time to explore nearby Florence, including its wonderful food markets and lunch at a local trattoria, this is the ultimate Italian cooking holiday for Telegraph Travel readers.
Taking bookings for departures in March 2018, from £999 per person. Click here for more information and to book.
Florence CREDIT: SCALIGER/SCALIGER
9. Wines of South Tyrol
It’s perhaps not surprising that the partly German-speaking region of Alto Adige, aka Südtirol, has the best-organised wine tourism initiatives in Italy. The Wine Road or Strada del Vino meanders through 16 wine towns in the upper and lower Adige valley, home to a myriad of small producers, many engaged in heroic winemaking on steep but scenic plots. For an overview, sign up for a Wine Safari at the Strada del Vino HQ in Appiano (Eppan): they take place on the first Thursday of each month (830am-630pm), or on other days by request for groups of 10 or more, and take in vineyard and cellar visits, wine tastings, and lunch. During the Vino in Festa festival (April 21-June 9), a month of wine-related events culminates in an open-cellar night, when the organisers thoughtfully lay on a free shuttle bus for tipsy revellers.
Vineyards in the South Tyrol CREDIT: ALAMY
10. The hill towns of Umbria
Tasting Places is one of the longest-established companies offering Italian cookery classes, and has responded to changes in demand from visitors by offering an increasing number of flexible tailor-made trips for small groups (minimum two people). Its courses in Umbria are especially tempting, partly because of the region’s cuisine – even by Italian standards it boasts a wealth of unusual specialities: truffles, spelt, crayfish, lentils, rare mountain hams and cheeses – and partly because lessons are from a native Umbrian and take place in a charming hotel (the Villa Pambuffetti) in one of the region’s loveliest little hill-towns, Montefalco.
A one-day class with lunch costs €150 per person. Prices for longer itineraries on request (tastingplaces.com) (Tim Jepson).