La Cucina Sabina: Cooking School Vacation near Rome, Italy

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    My Dream: Cooking School in Italy. My Dream Come True: La Cucina Sabina

    La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Rome
    ••• Welcome to La Cucina Sabina. Come hungry!. ©Mai Pham

    My Foodie Fantasy Was Cooking School in Italy

    I love Italy. I love its food, its culture, its history, its beauty. To learn the secrets of Italian gastronomy hands-on — to go to a cooking school in Italy — has always been a dream of mine.

    My Dream Came True at La Cucina Sabina

    I finally had a chance to live the dream at La Cucina Sabina. Here, I spent a memorable, fun-filled week learning the art of Italian cooking. 
    • La Cucina Sabina’s Italian cooking course takes place over a six-day itinerary, Sunday t0 Saturday
    • On these pages: what my week as an Italian chef was like

    What, Exactly, Is La Cucina Sabina?

    Set on the estate of La Tartaruga Sabina, La Cucina Sabina means “The Sabina Kitchen.” It is a private cooking school and luxury retreat.

    Out of a Storybook

    La Cucina Sabina is a postcard Italian scene. Its villa was originally built as a country summer home and has been cherished by the owner's family for generations.
    • The villa is surrounded by ancient olive groves, and the view from...MORE nearly every window is lush green panoramas of the countryside   
    • Creature comforts include a massive saltwater pool, very kind to your skin

    Where Is La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Italy?

    The estate is in the Sabina region of the Italian district of Lazio in Central Italy, about a half hour north of Rome.
    • This location cuts down on travel time and makes it easy to add a few days in Rome to a stay at La Cucina Sabina
    • Watch Hipmunk come up with a great airfare to Rome

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    Will You, Personally, Like La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Italy?

    Pool at La Cucina Sabina Cooking School near Rome
    ••• Guests at La Cucina Sabin spend time in the kitchen...and here. ©Mai Pham

    Will La Cucina Sabina Prove Your Dream Italian Vacation?

    The answer is probably yes, you will love it, if:
    • You're a sophisticated traveler who seeks one-of-a-kind experiences
    • You want to "live like a local"
    • You'd love a vacation in the Italian countryside
    • You want vacation that's an excellent value
    • You're busy and want someone to manage the vacation-planning details for you
    • You've done them both and you like the way villa vacations compare to hotel stays
    • You're passionate about Italian food
    • You want hands-on experience making traditional Italian dishes
    • You're prepared to spend some, but not all, of your time in the kitchen
    • You're not a loner and enjoy doing things with like-minded group
    • You want to practice your Italian or learn enough to get by
    • And you always love a great swimming pool

    The answer is probably no, La Cucina Sabina may not be your style, if:
    • You're a self-planner and wants to be in control of your vacation's...MORE schedule and activities
    • You don’t want to be a half hour from Rome; you want to be in Rome
    • The cooking school you have in mind is businesslike, aimed at professionals, with many hours devoted to lessons and kitchen work
    • You want to work so hard, you hope to be an expert in the kitchen by the end of the week
    • You like traveling your own way, and group experiences are not your thing 
    • You have either seen enough Italian sights or are just not interested in touring
    • You love hotel vacations and are not looking for a residential villa experience

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    The Italian Dishes You'll Learn to Cook at La Cucina Sabina (Including Pizza!)

    Making pizza in Italy
    ••• we made this pizza. I made this pizza. In Italy. I still can't believe it. ©Mai Pham

    La Cucina Sabina Teaches Italian Cooking Styles from All Over the Boot

    La Cucina Sabina offers six days of hands-on cooking classes led by Italian cooking instructors and/or professional chefs.
    • You'll learn to cook a variety of Italian food styles, from red-sauce Neapolitan to grilled Tuscan fare to seafood dishes from Venice and the coast

    Some Dishes You'll Learn to Make at La Cucina Sabina Cooking School

    La Cucina Sabina's cooking classes are more than technique. You also learn about the Italian approach to food (more of a religion) and how to make food from scratch.

    Some dishes you'll finesse:
    • Pizza-making in a traditional wood-fired oven (possibly the best pizza of your life)
    • Pasta-making using a hand-held pasta machine (very hands-on and interactive)
    • Classic risotto (they make it look easy, so you can do it! Just stir, stir, stir)
    • Roasting, grilling, and pan-cooking meat, fish, and poultry
    • Garden-fresh vegetables and salads (hint: there's always a tomato...MORE lurking)
    • Your own gelato, made with just-picked fruits and herbs

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    La Cucina Sabina Is a Serious (but Fun) Cooking School

    Welcome drinks at La Cucina Sabina cooking school near Rome
    ••• A handsome butler served Prosecco during our gala welcome dinner at La Cucina Sabina. ©Mai Pham

    What You're Here for: La Cucina Sabina's Cooking Classes

    La Sabina Cucina's classes take place in the state-of-the-art kitchen.
    • This is the focal point of the villa, and of your vacation here

    First, You Listen... 

    Classes are both informative and enjoyable.
    • They typically begin with a brief talk about the dish, its traditions, and its recipe

    ...Then You Cook

    Next comes hands-on cooking, with the instructor showing and helping you.
    • Every guest has a cooking station with a cutting board, utensils, recipe sheets, cooking instructions
    • As a class, you go through all the steps: the basics of prepping a dish, and then cooking it, its sauce, and its side dishes
    • Here, cooking is a team effort: people help one another out
    • Everyone has a chance to do everything: frying, stirring sauce or risotto, garnishing a plate

    And Your Reward for Each Class at La Cucina Sabina...

    Once the class is complete and your dishes are cooked, you get to dig into your meal and enjoy the fruits of your labor
    ...MORE You eat at a big table in the main dining room or on the veranda

    Meals Are Feel-Good Events at La Cucina Sabina

    I loved this part of the program. 
    • It warmed every heart to see the care that went into setting every meal's table beautifully with flowers, china, and silverware 
    • Weather permitting, my favorite place to dine was on the veranda
    • Here, we’d often catch the spectacularly colorful Italian sunset 

    And the Service Is Incredible

    Once we had taken our seats and tasted our first glass of Italian wine, dinner would be served.
    • We didn’t have to lift a finger because professional staff served, poured, and cleared everything so we could focus on the food and the conversation
    • Meals were served in courses or family-style, as the dish required 
    • Meals would end with dessert and/or an after-dinner liqueur
    • I loved the house-made Limoncello: strong, sweet, and quintessentially Italian

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    You Don't Have to Be a Great Cook (Yet) to Go to La Cucina Sabina Cooking School

    Cooking school in Italy, La Cucina Sabina
    ••• At La Cucina Sabina, you learn the right way to handle your ingredients. (Here, with guest chef Josh Henderson of Seattle). ©Mai Pham

    Will You & Your Kitchen Chops Fit in at Cucina Sabina Cooking School?

    La Cucina Sabina hosts around 10 kitchen pilgrims at a time.  
    • Guests are typically Americans and Europeans of all ages, both twosomes and solo travelers
    • Everyone is excited about cooking Italian food
    • Classes are conducted in English; sometimes a translator tells you in English what the chef just said in Italian 

    Do You Have to Be an Accomplished Cook?

    No! You only need a love for Italian food and a desire to prepare it yourself.
    • Guests' cooking skills range from just getting comfortable in a kitchen to very experienced home chefs

    Is La Cucina Sabina a Romantic Experience?

    Yes! Lots of couples come here, as an adventure for two (that will result in more delicious food at home).
    • My group included a pair who came as boyfriend and girlfriend and left as an engaged couple; they joked that other couples have "our song," but they have "our dish" (later in this story, you'll hear about the proposal)

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  • 06 of 11

    How You Spend Your Hours at La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Italy

    Cooking class at La Cucina Sabina school near Rome
    ••• La Cucina Sabina cooking class with Barbara. She tells you the history and customs of the dish. Preparing it is more than a cooking exercise. It's a cultural discovery. ©Mai Pham

    Your Experience at La Cucina Sabina is What You Make It 

    At La Cucina Sabina, you feel like you’re on vacation in a friend’s home, rather than a hotel. 
    • The vibe is relaxed, casual, and comfortable 
    • Everyone speaks English
    • You can be as extroverted or introverted as you like; people are friendly but will respect your space
    • You can participate in all the planned activities, or attend only those you want to

    What Makes La Cucina Sabina Special?

    When you book a week at La Cucina Sabina, you’re booking a hosted, luxury vacation in the Italian countryside that includes instruction in the kitchen.
    • You get to make pasta and pizza in Italy, the Italian way
    • You get personal tutorials on how to say Italian phrases, such as charming “Non c'e trippa per gatti,” or “No tripe for the cats,” a local saying that means times are tough financially
    • You get one-of-a-kind experiences, things that will never happen t you on an individual vacation
    • One example: my group's private tour of the...MORE castle in Palombara Sabina, a 1,000-year-old marvel that opened just for us. The visit was wholly unforgettable and something you could never organize, or know about, on your own

    Special-Event Weeks at La Cucina Sabina

    Also, the hosts have specially themed weeks planned throughout the year. Highlights include the Cherry Harvest, Wine Harvest, Olive Harvest, Visiting Chef’s Week, and Truffle Week.
    • Check out La Cucina Sabina's special-events schedule

    La Cucina Sabina Is an Excellent Value for an Italian Vacation

    As of 2016, the fee for the full, six-day La Cucina Sabina experience, begins at $3,200 per person, based on double occupancy.
    • Promotional discounts, frequently available, lower the rates around 25%, starting at approximately $2,400 per person
    • If you can’t join for the entire week, where you can join by the day on some weekends 

    The Rate Is All-Inclusive (with Field Trips!)

    The price is on an all-inclusive pricing plan. But this rate covers even more than you get in an all-inclusive resort.
    • The fee includes your room, classes, meals and wine, airport transfers, excursions, guides, tickets, and transportation
    • When you consider just the price of a hotel in Rome, La Cucina Sabina is an excellent value

    The Best Time to Visit La Cucina Sabina

    The ideal months to visit are late April through May, and again during September and October.
    • At these times of year, it's sunny and pleasant, with temperatures in the mid-70’s
    • August is very hot, so if that’s the only month you can get away, be prepared to sweat

    Your Days at La Cucina Sabina

    Morning: each day begins with continental breakfast on the terrace or private dining room
    • The spread includes strong coffee, fresh local fruit and fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cereal, pastry, and the omelette of the day

    Afternoon: There's usually a midday cooking class followed by lunch, and then a local excursion

    Evening: Dinner! (If the excursion takes place in the afternoon, then the cooking class is in early evening, followed by dinner

    You Have Free Time at La Cucina Sabina

    You don't feel rushed or "managed" here.
    • Typically, there's personal time at several points daily: early morning, mid-afternoon, and evening
    • The villa’s gorgeous saltwater pool was tempting whenever time allowed

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    Guest Rooms at La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Italy

    Comfy, sunny guest room at La Cucina Sabina cooking school near Rome
    ••• Comfort, quiet, sunshine and free wifi: guests rooms give you what you need. ©La Cucina Sabina

    Guest Rooms at La Cucina Sabina

    When you experience La Cucina Sabina, you stay in a room in a private, two-story villa. 
    • Designed by Italian-Argentinean architect Gustavo Polimeni, the estate is uncluttered and contemporary
    • It has handsome wooden floors and well-appointed furnishings

    La Cucina Sabina's Beautiful Living Room

    The villa's common areas are  the living room, kitchen, verandas, surrounding gardens, and the pool.
    • The living room is just lovely, with a baby grand piano, comfortable sectional sofa, elegant sculptures and paintings

    Guest Rooms at La Cucina Sabina

    The eight guest rooms come in three room types: First Floor Room, Second Floor Room, and Second Floor Suites. 
    • Each room has its own ensuite bathroom with shower
    • Two of the rooms have a bathtub
    • I liked the locally made bath potions, enriched with olive oil
    • Rooms feature free wifi, a flatscreen television, standard European outlets, and hairdryer.

    Why the Second (Top) Floor Is Better

    I stayed in a second-floor...MORE room.
    • It was a pleasure to wake up every morning to the songs of birds chirping happily and the most picturesque view of the countryside.

    I also got to peek inside one of the second-floor suites, which had even better views and was huge.
    • These are definitely the best rooms in the house, and worth the minor cost of the upgrade

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    Meet Your Hosts (and Kitchen Gods) at La Cucina Sabina

    Seattle Chef Josh Henderson
    ••• Superster Seattle chef Josh Henderson was the guest instructor my week at La Cucina Sabina. Our cooking technique blossomed. ©Mai Pham

    La Cucina Sabina's State-of-the-Art Kitchen

    If you were expecting a rustic, moody country-Italian kitchen, this isn't it.
    The cucina (kitchen) here is cutting-edge. It has three glass walls and feels like it's outdoors. • There's so much nature to look at (but do try to keep your eyes on your cooking!)
    • More about La Cucina Sabina's one-of-a-kind kitchen

    Meet La Cucina Sabina's Top Chefs

    The primary chef is Barbara Borasio, from the Piemonte region in the Italian Alps.
    • She who has worked in the three-Michelin-star kitchen of master chef Heinz Beck, Pergola Restaurant in the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria
    • Barbara is also a culinary instructor at Il Gambero Rosso cooking school
    • At La Cucina Sabina, she leads the guests in pasta and risotto classes and more
    • Barbara was young, sharp, very professional, and a total sweetheart.

    Valeria Vocaturo is the second instructor. She owns and operates a cooking school in Rome called Cuoche Per Caso (the name means "a...MORE drinking nook")
    • She is a published cookbook author and has been teaching cooking for since 2005

    La Cucina Sabina's Visiting Star Chefs, Like Josh Henderson of Seattle

    La Cucina Sabina's guest-chef program spotlights visiting chefs from the world over. The week I spent there the visiting chef was Josh Henderson of Seattle-based Huxley Wallace Group, a growing collection of trend-setting restaurants.

    Chef Josh conducted several classes. He has great ideas and amazing technique
    • He taught us tricks that make you feel like a pro, and save time
    • For the first time, we learned how to hold a knife the right way, how to chop an onion, how to dice a vegetable (It's so fast, you feel empowered)
    • Chef Josh showed us how to treat main ingredients to really unleash their flavor 
    • He showed how to debone a chicken (hard till you get the hang of it)
    • And he tutored us on how to grill fish so the skin crisps but the flesh stays tender

    Chef Josh Henderson's Magic Show

    For our dinner, Chef Josh made the most delectable crispy-skinned porchetta (roast piglet).
    • I'm a fan of roast pork and this was one of the best porchetta I've ever had
    • Chef Josh and his restaurants on Twitter and on Pinterest, and on Facebook

    The Hosts of La Cucina Sabina

    Your hosts at La Cucina Sabina are Giuseppe Michelatta, Mike Di Girolamo, and Nanci Buttiglione.
    • Giuseppe’s family built the villa that houses La Cucina Sabina
    • Nanci, Giuseppe’s sister-in-law, is a native Roman who also speaks English, Russian, and French. And she used to work in the film festival business. Here's Nanci's cool bio
    • Giuseppe was a lawyer in New York for a few years, where he met his American wife, Molly. Fun reading: Giuseppe's favorite things
    • Mike di Girolamo, an Italian banker who also spent years working in New York, visited Giuseppe's family home in 2010, and the idea for La Cucina Sabina was born 
    • Lucky Mike splits his time between Rome and St. Petersburg, Florida. See his top Italian dishes
    • Together, these three partners have transformed Giuseppe's family villa into the loveable cooking school that is La Cucina Sabina
    • See how it all began

    La Cucina Sabina Has a Warm, Proud Italian Heart

    All three hosts are intensely proud of their Roman heritage and the Lazio region's history and charm.
    • They take joy in sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with guests
    • They will make you feel there's no better place in the world -- and happy you chose La Cucina Sabina for your Italian cooking vacation

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    Incredible Sightseeing for Guests of La Cucina Sabina near Rome

    Villa d'Este and Tivoli near Rome in Italy
    ••• The fairytale town of Tivoli, seen from Villa d'Este. ©Mail Pham

    Excursions Are Included at La Cucina Sabina Cooking School

    La Cucina Sabina is unique in that it combines its modern Italian cooking experience with carefully curated excursions to local points of interest and attractions.
    • These excursions led to some of the most memorable moments of the week
    • See a typical week's itinerary at La Cucina Sabina

    Princess for a Few Hours: Our Private Castle Tour

    One evening, we drove to the nearby medieval town called Palombara Sabina. Here, our host Giuseppe had connections (he and his wife were married there, and his family is well known in the town) 
    • After parking and walking up narrow cobblestone lanes, we came to Savelli-Torlonia Castle, bBuilt in the 11th century (it's 1,000 years old!)
    • We were treated to a private tour that took us all the way up top to the castle's lookout tower
    • Back down on a lawn, we were treated to ample aperitivi (appetizers) and bubbly Prosecco as we watched the sunset

    This Is Where the Story Gets "You...MORE Can't Make this Up"

    If it sounds romantic, it’s because it was.
    • One of the guys on my trip chose this moment, wth the castle as his backdrop, to get on bended knee to propose to his girlfriend
    • She said yes!

    Villa d'Este: How the "Billionaire Class" Lived in the 1500s and 1600s

    An afternoon excursion to the nearby town of Tivoli led us to the spectacular Villa D’Este. This palatial estate reminded me of Versailles.

    So outstanding it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Villa d'Este as built by a powerful cardinal in the mid-1500s through early 1600s.
    • In the late 1800s, it was restored by a Hapsburg prince and became the most coveted invitation of the era's high society
    • Villa d'Este was damaged by bombs in World War II and is in a perpetual state of renovation and preservation

    • Villa d'Este is a feast for the eyes, with an imposing mansion, intricate gardens, grand fountains, and breathtaking vistas
    • From About's Europe Expert, more on Villa d'Este

    The Villa d'Este's Town, Tivoli, Is Magical, Too

    The town beyond Villa d'Este fulfilled all my romantic notions of what Italy is supposed to be like: arched alleyways, bell towers, cobblestoned streets, outdoor market, tiny shops filled with artisan food and pretty things. I was as much in love as the newly engaged couple.

    Rome Wasn't Built In a Day...But We Saw a Lot in One Day!

    We had a full day's guided tour of Rome. At times it felt very long and tiring. But we got to see not just major monuments but also hidden gems.
    • Please indulge me and let me name them, because the memories are so beautiful
    • We’re talking the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain  
    • And also the small neighborhood churches and piazzas significant in Roman history

    The Stars were Out in Rome

    Touring the Pantheon with my group from La Cucina Sabina, I even had a star sighting.
    • Diane Keaton stood a few feet away from me admiring the intricate ceiling of the Pantheon. She was in the Eternal city shooting a film

    Lunch in Rome's Jewish Quarter

    Lunch was a delicious repast in the Jewish quarter, called the Ghetto.
    • Here, we feasted on Sephardic specialties like roasted eggplant and the most famous dish of this community, fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudia; see facts and recipe)

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    We Were Bewitched by Magic Hour in Rome

    Dinner in Rome's magic hour
    ••• What could be more enchanting than a rivate veranda dinner at magic hour in Rome?. ©Mail Pham

    An Unforgettably Magical Roman Dinner

    Dinner was an absolutely wonderful treat. We were invited into the private home of one of  our host’s friends, where we dined on home-cooked Italian fare
    • We savored antipasti of fresh vegetables like eggplant and tomatoes, fantastic homemade lasagna, and more
    • All while relishing panoramic views of the Roman skyline at magic hour, then sunset

    Olive Oil: The Plantation Tour

    I learned a lot in a long afternoon visiting a 1000-year-old olive grove, finding out about the olive oil-making process, and taste-testing freshly squeezed oils
    • It was educational, if a bit dull. If you'd rather lounge by the pool at La Cucina Sabina than wander around an olive grove snapping photos, I can fully understand why

    Winery Tasting and Tour with the Owners

    One La Cucina Sabina excursion is a visit to a local winery, doing a tasting and having lunch.
    • The winery owners treat you as personal guests. It could not be more lovely
    • This excursion, one of the last in my week...MORE at La Cucina Sabin, summed up the entire experience: Italy up close, welcoming and delicious

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    Find Out More About La Cucina Sabina Cooking School in Italy

    Pantheon in Rome
    ••• Imagine: a cooking school in Italy where you got to see the Pantheon in Rome during an afternoon excursion. ©Mai Pham

    Find Out More About La Cucina Sabina

    • La Cucina Sabina website 
    • Like the hotel on Facebook and follow on Twitter
    Photos on Instagram and videos on YouTube
    • Reach by email
    • Italian mobile number: +39 348 4763809
    • U.S. number mobile on EST time: +1 727 560 7430

    Disclosure: The school provided a complimentary stay for review purposes, a standard practice in the hospitality field. For more information, please see our site's Ethics Policy.