“Tuscan cooking classes” are an entire subgenre of travel. I’ve blogged more about this subject than I have about entire countries. That’s because this region has an outrageously appealing food culture — ranging from big, sloppy plates of pasta to refined high cuisine. And there’s a cooking class or a food experience for every taste. Here are a few of my favorites:
At the Cretaiole agriturismo, every Thursday night is pasta-making night: All of the week’s guests gather on the veranda, and Carlotta and Isabella walk everyone through how to make the local, hand-rolled pici noodles — from a little volcano of flour to a delicious feast. Everyone gets in on the action: Grandparents and little ones all challenge each other to roll out the perfect noodle.
High in the hills overlooking the Val d’Orcia, we went to the home of Mamma Laura, who instructed our small group how to assemble a seasonal feast. From the moment we arrived, Mamma Laura masterfully orchestrated the meal. She’d demonstrate the task at hand — chopping up chunks of squash, packing ingredients into little pouches of cabbage, rolling out long sheets of pasta dough — then turned us loose to try it out. Ingredients would disappear into an oven or pot or blender, then reappear when it was time for the next step. Miraculously, everything was finished at exactly the right time. And it was all outrageously delicious.
Chef Roberto invited us into his Michelin-star restaurant, hiding out on the summit of Monte Amiata. This wasn’t quite a “cooking class.” We were flies on the wall of a brilliant chef’s working kitchen — a graduate-level seminar on Advanced Italian Flavors. He threw together a luxuriously creamy risotto sprinkled with precious, aged parmigiano reggiano cheese. He attacked a wad of dough with his knife, demonstrating how to make a half-dozen different types of pasta. He threw together a batch of all-purpose, vibrant salsa verde that instantly answered the question “What do you put it on?”: Anything. And he whipped up a batch of pastry cream drizzled with aged marsala wine. And then, after all of this…we had dinner.
Some food experiences are more about sourcing the ingredients than the actual cooking. One misty, chilly late-November day, I followed a persistent pooch named Mili and her owner through a damp oak forest, sniffing out precious truffles embedded deep beneath the soil. Once she found one, her owner tenderly unearthed the truffle — that pungent nugget of decadent flavor — with a special shovel. Digging into our truffle pasta later that day, the flavors were all the more delicious.
If you’re seeking not just food — but food experiences— there are few better places in Europe to find them than Tuscany.
Heading to Tuscany? I share a dozen of my favorite Tuscan experiences here.
Our new Best of Tuscany in 12 Days Tour — which begins in 2020 — incorporates many vivid experiences in Italy’s heartland…including a hands-on cooking class.
Or, to do it on your own, you’ll find all of the details you need in our Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany guidebook.