Adventure and History
Come visit Tuscany and Emilia Romagna the Zingerman’s way. We’ll go behind the scenes and visit traditional small producers of some of the region’s finest foods – from the massive wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, to the beautiful, small bottles of real balsamic vinegar, from Chianti Classico wines and artisanal olive oil to the melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto crudo. And we’ll roll up our sleeves and enjoy Tuscan cooking lessons in a 15th century villa in the rolling hills outside of Florence. Together with Peggy Markel, long-time fellow culinary adventurer and food guide, we will experience the wonderful food, culture, and landscape of Tuscany.
The trip is designed for experienced travelers with a passion for great food that is still made the way it was done hundreds of years ago – food that is deeply connected to the people and culture of the place.Our guests are adults of all ages, who enjoy walking, and enjoy exploring places on their own as well as with the group. We keep the group small. Up to 16 guests traveling with two experienced hosts.
Behind the scenes visits to artisanal producers of some of the most outstanding food of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.
Wonderful food – almost all meals. We will enjoy traditional regional specialties made from local, fresh ingredients, some of which we’ve made ourselves.
Cooking lessons with local chefs in a lovely Tuscan kitchen.
Visits to beautiful towns such as Greve and Modena, and a food market in Florence.
A Zingerman’s tour host and our guide will be at your disposal at all times.
Recipes of the dishes we will make together, to take home with you.
Transfer from a central meeting spot, the Florence train station Santa Maria Novella, on the first and last days of the tour. (Guests will arrive and leave on different days and times and by plane and by train – some guests choose to come a few days early or stay a few days later to further explore Florence.)
Transportation by air-conditioned private bus during the tour.
What’s not included?
Alcoholic beverages (other than beverages with dinner or when they are specifically included in the itinerary).
Personal spending money.
A few meals on your own.
What about accommodations?
Guests stay at a 15th century farm that houses a hotel and residences on 55 spectacular acres overlooking the Arno Valley, olive groves, vineyards and a panoramic view of the Florentine hills. The farm is on the countryside, 45 minutes away from Florence, and is our base for the week.
Nearly all of our guests fly in one or more days early, which we highly recommend. 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. Enjoy a rest or stroll to make friends with our new surroundings. We'll relax over our welcome dinner prepared for us by resident chefs.
After breakfast, we will take a gorgeous 3-1/2 mile walk on dirt roads through the hills and surrounding vineyards of the Arno valley, passing estates, crossing over a Renaissance bridge, observing the old ways of trellising vines between olive trees. 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.
Today we'll explore the Chianti wine region. After an early departure from the Villa, we'll take the scenic back roads through Chianti. We'll stop and visit an artisanal pasta producer, and learn from him about his locally grown grain and traditionally produced pasta. We'll have lunch together, a short walk, then a wine tasting at an estate. Dinner will be in a local trattoria before heading back to the villa.
After breakfast we'll head to Florence. We'll shop at one of the oldest outdoor food markets and enjoy lunch together at a favorite Florentine spot. We'll gather our produce and head back to the villa, for our second cooking class on primi piatti (first courses, such as pasta, risotto, soups) with Piero, followed by some time to relax, then dinner.
Today we'll spend a leisurely day exploring the delights of the lesser explored Chianti Rufina wine region. We will dine in an 11th century Cloister on locally produced goat cheese, honey and a surprising cuisine. On the way home we will visit a classic Tuscan fattoria situated on 240 hectares of vineyards and olive groves, where we'll have a tasting and tour. Tonight we pack! (You can leave large items at the Villa, and bring a smaller bag for our 2-night trip to Modena.)
Today we’ll take our small suitcases and head north to the region of Emilia Romagna, home to traditional balsamic vinegar, parma prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano. We'll go first to Parma for lunch, then visit a traditional producer of the finest Parma prosciutto, and enjoy a tasting. We'll continue on to Modena, and check in to our hotel. Then we’ll gather for a private dinner hosted by a 400-year-old salumeria just around the corner of our hotel in the heart of downtown.
Today we will literally get up before dawn, to arrive in time to see the 'birthing of the parmigiano' at one of our favorite producers of traditional Parmigiano Reggiano, while they are in the process of making the morning’s batch of cheese. (This will be a very early morning - but as our guests from previous years agree, seeing this King of 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 exceptional. Enjoy a taste of the real thing, followed by lunch in the village. After lunch, we’ll return to the hotel in Modena, where you will 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.
After a more leisurely start to the day and breakfast at the hotel, we’ll head back toward our villa south of Florence. On the way, we'll travel the narrow country roads to Carmignano, for a stop at a noble wine estate, known for their award-winning wines, their exquisite extra-virgin olive oil and Vin Santo, Tuscany’s un-fortified dessert wine. We'll have a private tour of the estate and cellars, and have lunch. An hour's ride finds us back at the villa to relax. Dinner is prepared by resident chefs.
For our last full day we'll enjoy being in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Those who wish can retrace their steps through the stunning Arno valley groves and vineyards. Enjoy a light lunch on your own from the villa cafe. In the afternoon we'll have free time to pack up and relax for 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 an hour 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. You will pay the taxi driver directly (the taxi fare from the villa is approximately 100 euros, as the villa is about an hour away from the airport).
**(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.)