Itinerary · Tuscany · October 6-14, 2013
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(One thing to note: this itinerary is the current plan, and, things may change. We will make every effort to provide the tours and experiences that are described below. However, the nature of the places we’ll be visiting — not typical tourist destinations — means that plans may change at the last minute. Also, you always have the option of skipping a particular excursion, but please note that we will be unable to make refunds for any missed meals or other events.)
Day 1 / Arno valley
Nearly all of our guests fly in one or more days early, which we highly recommend, to give yourself time to adjust to the time change before the tour starts, and also to explore the city of Florence, since we do not do so on the tour. (Let us know if you would like hotel recommendations. Also please see the note at the end of the itinerary about the departure too.) We will meet up on the first day in the mid-afternoon at a specific location in the central Florence train station (an easy taxi ride from the airport). From there we’ll drive to our home for much of the tour, a lovely villa perched high in the hills of the Arno valley, where we will find the warm hearth of Peggy Markel’s long established wood-fired-oven kitchen. Surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees, the grounds offer us a spectacular view of the Tuscan countryside. We’ll enjoy a casual lunch, then a rest or stroll to make friends with our new surroundings. We’ll relax over our welcome dinner prepared for us by resident chefs.
Day 2 / Arno valley
After breakfast, we will learn about herbs from Pierre, a local expert, who will share with us about this cornerstone of Tuscan cooking. After lunch and a rest, we will prepare for our first cooking class, in the villa’s cooking-school kitchen with Chef Piero, focusing on an overview of traditional Tuscan food – we’ll try our hand at several dishes while learning some of the history of the region and its cuisine. We’ll relax after cooking and enjoy a leisurely dinner at the villa of the dishes we helped prepare.
Day 3 / Arno valley
Today we’ll explore the Chianti wine region and the town of Greve. After an early departure from the Villa, we’ll take the scenic back roads to Greve. On our way we’ll stop and visit an artisanal pasta producer, and learn from him about his locally grown, traditionally produced pasta. We’ll continue on to Greve, where we’ll have some free time to explore the variety of lovely little shops. We’ll have lunch together, and then we’ll visit a Chianti producer and learn directly from the producer about their wines. Dinner will be in the area at a restaurant, before heading back to the villa.
Day 4 / Arno valley
After breakfast we’ll head to Florence. We’ll shop at the outdoor food market and purchase the ingredients for that night’s dinner. We’ll enjoy lunch together at a favorite Florentine spot. Then we’ll take our produce and head back to the villa, for our second cooking class on primi piatti (first courses, such as risotto, soups) with Piero, followed by some time to relax, and then dinner. Tonight we pack. (You can leave large items at the Villa, and bring a smaller bag for our 2-night trip to Modena.)
Day 5 / Modena
Today we’ll take our small suitcases and head north. We’ll go first to Parma, for lunch and then to visit a traditional producer of the incredible Parma prosciutto. We’ll continue on to Modena, and check in to our little hotel in the city center. Then we’ll gather for a private dinner hosted by the 400-year-old salumeria just around the corner from the hotel.
Day 6 / Modena
Today we will literally get up before dawn, to arrive at a producer of the traditional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as they are making the morning’s batch of cheese. (This will be a very early morning – but seeing this amazing cheese being made is worth it!) Then we head to a family-owned producer of authentic aged balsamic vinegar, where we’ll learn about what makes real balsamic vinegar so amazing, enjoy a taste of the real thing, and have lunch together there.After lunch, we’ll return to the hotel in Modena, and then you’ll have free time for the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore the city of Modena and enjoy a dinner on your own. Pack tonite.
Day 7 / Arno valley
After a more leisurely start to the day and breakfast at the hotel, we’ll check out, and start our way back toward our villa south of Florence. On the way we’ll travel small roads to Carmigniano, for a stop at a noble wine estate, known for their award-winning wines, as well as their exquisite extra-virgin olive oil and Vin Santo, Tuscany’s unfortified dessert wine. We’ll enjoy a tour and lunch together there, before heading back to the villa. We’ll relax back at the villa in the early evening, and then dinner cooked for us.
Day 8 / Arno valley
For our last full day we’ll enjoy being in the beautiful countryside. Those who wish to can take a gorgeous walk through the Arno valley groves and vineyards, before a leisurely lunch at the villa. In the afternoon we’ll have free time to pack up and relax, and then in the late afternoon our final cooking adventure – a wood-fired-oven pizza party!
We travel back to the Florence train station and say goodbye. The bus will arrive at the train station around 10am, which is in good time for flights leaving the Florence airport from noon on. Many of our guests choose to stay in a hotel in the city of Florence for another day or two, to enjoy the city and a leisurely departure. Especially if you need to fly out early in the morning, staying an extra day in the city of Florence will make for a more relaxing end to your trip, since the villa is a good distance away from the city and the airport. However if your departing flight is earlier than noon and you need fly out that day, we can arrange for a taxi from the villa for you, and you will pay the taxi driver directly (the taxi fare from the villa is approximately 100 euros, and the villa is about an hour away from the airport).