Learn to Cook on Your Italian Vacation

Italian Food
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Taking a cooking class or food-related tour in Italy has become very popular. It's a good way to combine your vacation with a learning experience and also get to know more about the foods and traditions of the region you choose. there are a few things you'll want to think about before booking a cooking class or culinary tour.

Choosing a Cooking Class or Tour in Italy

Cooking classes in Italy range from half-day to a week or longer. Think about these questions before choosing your program:

  • How long do I want to spend at the cooking program?
  • Do I want to take a private class or group lessons?
  • Do I want to choose what I learn to cook or take a course that's already outlined?
  • What part of Italy do I want to visit?
  • Do I want to pay only for cooking classes or do I want a cooking school that includes room and board and other activities?
  • Do I want to just cook or do other things as part of the cooking course, such as visit local markets, taste wine, or take escorted tours to nearby towns?
  • Do I want to take classes from an Italian chef or a native English speaker who lives in Italy or has studied regional cooking extensively?

Cooking Schools in Italy

Italian cooking schools vary widely, ranging from individualized classes taught in a B&B or agriturismo to cooking schools with professional kitchens. There is really no such thing as "Italian food" since cooking varies from region to region so each region offers slightly different classes. Here are samples of cooking classes and schools to consider in different regions of Italy.

Tuscany is probably the most popular region for cooking vacations.

  • In Becoming a Tuscan Chef for a Day (information and booking on Select Italy), students first visit Florence's central market to buy ingredients, then return to the nearby school to prepare a meal.
  • In this Florence Cooking Class, students shop at the market and prepare a 3-course Italian meal.
  • Toscana Saporita Cooking School near Lucca offers courses that include lodging, meals, and tours. One of our readers shares her experience at Toscana Saporita and photos.
  • Judy Witts Francini is an American-born chef who taught cooking in Florence for many years. Her Divina Cucina classes, from one day to one week, are now taught in the medieval Tuscan town of Colle Val d'Elsa but she still offers a one-day Florence market tour. She also does a Sicily cooking tour twice a year.

Cooking Schools in Other Italian Regions

  • In the Piedmont Alps in northwestern Italy, Bella Baita Mountain Retreat offers Cooking Together, a class where students prepare a 2-3 course dinner (and eat it), personalized for students' tastes. There's a wood-burning oven for bread or pizza making and classes are taught by the owners, an Italian chef, and an American-born chef. Read my review of Bella Baita Bed and Breakfast.
  • In the Lazio Region (around Rome) Flavor of Italy offers personalized cooking classes in a country house (transportation can be arranged) and food tours in Rome while Casa Gregorio, south of Rome, offers a Roman Countryside Culinary Vacation. 
  • Southern Italy's Puglia region, the heel of the boot, is still a little off the beaten track. La Cucina at Gelso Bianco has a variety of gastronomical programs from week-long residential courses to half day excursions held at their masseria, or country estate. Cyclists may want to try one of their Chef in Bici programs, a bike tour with a guest chef.
  • Le Marche, in central Italy, is another off the beaten track region. La Tavola Marche is an organic farm with guest apartments and cooking classes in the heart of truffle country. Choose from half and full-day classes or multi-day seasonal programs and special course, taught by an American couple who have made the farm their home.

Culinary Tours Throughout Italy

If you're not sure where you want to go, Cooking Vacations offers one-day to weeklong Italian Cooking programs in many of Italy's regions, including their most popular school on the Amalfi Coast. Food Artisans Culinary Workshops, led by cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns, are held at Pamela's farm in Tuscany and in other parts of Italy.

Mama Margaret and Friends has a variety of special interest cooking adventures in Italy ranging from 3 to 8 nights. Select Italy offers a variety of half or full-day Food and Wine Tours, including cooking classes.