Cooking Schools in Italy

by Jessica on March 26, 2009

by | March 26th, 2009  

cookingschl1Some people who visit Italy are content to enjoy the country’s famous cuisine in restaurants, trattorie, and crowded bars. Some with access to a kitchen, like in a hostel or an apartment rental, take it a step further by shopping in the Italian food markets and trying to reconstruct Italian recipes on their own. But if you really want to get the inside scoop on the dishes that make Italian cuisine what it is, then the next logical move is to sign up for a cooking class in Italy.

But what usually comes next is a web search of the words “cooking schools in Italy,” and a barrage of results. How do you know which one to choose?

Only you will know when the description of a cooking school looks like it’s the one for you, but here are a few things you might want to consider when comparing your options.

Cooking Schools in Italy

Where is it?
cookingschl4You may immediately think of Tuscany when you think of Italy’s cooking schools, and while there are plenty in the Tuscany and Umbria regions there are also cooking schools in many other parts of the country. Cooking schools in Tuscany do seem to be more numerous than elsewhere in Italy, however, and you certainly wouldn’t be disappointed by the surrounding scenery if that’s the route you decided to go.

People who know Italy well may be interested in exploring a region they aren’t as familiar with by signing up for a cooking school in that part of the country. On the other hand, for those with less Italy travel experience, booking a spot in a cooking school in or near a major tourist city gives you the added benefit of being close enough to visit the big attractions when you’re not in the kitchen.

The “where” question is also something you’ll need to take into consideration when you’re determining what kind of transportation you’re going to be relying on while you’re in Italy. If you’re someone who really doesn’t want to drive in Italy and will be restricted to public transportation, then you’ll want to be sure the cooking school you choose is situated somewhere that’s easily accessed by train or bus. Many cooking schools are in more rural locations which may be tough to get to without a rental car – which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something you’ll need to know in advance.

What’s included?
cookingschl3Cooking schools in Italy can take on many forms, and include many different elements. Some of the various extras you may find as part of your cooking class itinerary could be regular trips to the Italian market to pick up the necessary ingredients for the day’s recipes, a visit to a nearby winery or cheese maker to see the process behind the foods you’re eating and cooking with, and even a meal out at a local restaurant.

Depending on where your cooking school is, you may also find that things like lodging and other meals are included in the price as well. This is especially likely if the cooking school doubles as an agriturismo and/or is well off the beaten path, so that there aren’t any nearby hotels or restaurants to speak of.

Not every cooking school is going to include extras like lodging, excursions, or meals, and there are great ones that don’t – it’s just something you’ll want to know when you’re comparing your choices. That way you’ll know if the prices you’re seeing are really for similar experiences, or if the one that’s charging more is doing so because you won’t have the added expense of a hotel (for instance).

How long is it?
cookingschl2You can find cooking school experiences in Italy that last anywhere from a day to a week, or even longer. This is great news in that you’ll be able to find one that suits your trip perfectly, whether you’re spending a month otherwise aimlessly wandering through Tuscany or you’re on a mission to hit Rome, Florence, and Venice plus spend a couple days learning to cook, all in a 10-day trip. (The latter is truly crazy, and you shouldn’t try it, but I really can’t stop you if you desperately need to do something crazy, can I?)

When you’re looking at the duration of the cooking classes, also check out what kind of free time you’ll be given. If you’re in a remote agriturismo for a week, you may not have an opportunity to hop on a bus and spend half a day (after class, of course) in a museum. But if your cooking school is either more easily accessible via public transport or gives you ample free time, you may be able to tick off all kinds of local to-dos in between cooking sessions. That is, if you want to do anything other than kick back and relax!

How many people are in each class?
cookingschl6Some Italian cooking schools are equipped with big, industrial kitchens which can handle a group of people all cooking at once. Others are decidedly more rustic, and require taking turns with the appliances. In addition to knowing what the setting of a cooking school is like (rustic vs. modern), it’s important to know how big the maximum group size is at the school as well. The last thing you want to do is pay good money and spend your hard-earned vacation time being ignored by the instructor because there are 15 other people who are getting attention before you.

Depending on your budget, you may also want to look into private cooking classes in Italy, too. These can be one-on-one or, if you’re traveling with your own small group, can be tailored to your specific needs. Private – or at least smaller – classes are also particularly good for anyone who’s a bit more serious about getting something out of the experience. If you’d like to actually learn a recipe or two that you can make back home, rather than just putter about in an Italian kitchen and eat the products of your efforts while on holiday, then a small or private class is definitely the way to go.

Some Italian cooking schools to check out:
cookingschl5

original photos, top to bottom, by: Brian J. Geiger, vademecum, Brian J. Geiger, vademecum, vademecum, hithro


{ 8 comments }

Ashley & Jason November 23, 2009 at 5:14 am
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I just wanted to suggest La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School in Le Marche, Italy. It is off the beaten path, hands-on cooking classes of local seasonal dishes – with produce from our farm! Stay in a 300 year old stone farmhouse set on 500 acres of rolling hills, farmland & truffle rich woods.
The cooking classes are fun & informal ranging from pasta by hand to pizza in the outdoor wood burning oven! Spend a day mastering meats or try a dozen different antipasti. Chef Jason teaches you techniques to take home & shares the secrets of cucina povera – peasant cooking.
Truffle & porcini hunts too!
For more information: http://www.latavolamarche.com

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cinzia January 1, 2010 at 5:50 am
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Ciao Jessica! I wanted to suggest Stile Mediterraneo Cooking & Wine School in Puglia, Southern Italy. http://www.stilemediterraneo.it
The cuisine of Puglia is fantastic, very simple but extremely tasty because based on the freshest ingredients (vegetables, tomatoes, durum wheat, legumes, sea food and the excellent extra virgin olive oil).
One of the beauty of Puglian cuisine is its variety: so many culinary traditions in each different little town, just because of the many regional landscapes and dominations.
Classes focus on the healthy and Mediterranean cuisine of Puglia.

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ylenia February 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm
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I invite you to live an authentic foodie experience with YLTOUR. Located in Lecce, we provide cooking classes in wonderful local kitchens cooking with lovely people. Healthy food, rustic and family friend atmosphere, visit of local markets and farmers, wine tastings. Totally customized tours. http://www.yltourcongressi.com

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raffaella May 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm
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HI Jessica,
I would like to inform you about the activity of let’s cook in Umbria. we offer cooking classes, winery tours, gourmet tours, excursions to artisan chocolate and olive oil producers, truffle hunting and very popular cooking vacation programs that include accommodations and excursions to remote villages throughout Umbria and Tuscany. We offer a great opportunity to live for a short break in Umbria, learning about authentic Italian food, touring beautiful art sites, relaxing in the luxuriant garden or at the pool.

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sallie aden January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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i am very interested in your school and would like to get more information.
my sister and i have dreamed about a cook class in italy forever. our time frame is one week.

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silvia February 2, 2012 at 7:30 am
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Hi Jessica, I’m contacting you to suggest my cooking classes in Florence. I’d like to give you couple of details: my name is Silvia Maccari and I’m a private cooking instructor in Florence. I started in 1993 and back then, I was the first Italian cook who offered private market tours and classes in town. During all these years my business is grown so that I’m now one of the food expert of Marriott UK and Western Europe and train their chefs on original Italian cooking. I also work with other hotel European companies and travel often to USA to teach. Just last week I was in New York teaching.
I’ve seen Florence market dramatically change in these last years and not always for the best: people who were not trained in the kitchen improvise cooking classes teaching meatballs and bruschetta. Should you need any further information or my cv, you can google my name or just contact me at smaccari@iol.it. Hope this info will be of any interest for your customer and look forward to hearing from you. Silvia

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Nancy February 27, 2012 at 4:18 am
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Il Chiostro has been offering arts and cooking workshops in Tuscany since 1995. We think that the good and simple life of Italy is an artwork in itself. We find interesting, non-traditional places to stay, like a convent or a farmhouse or a family-run winery, where we settle in at one place for the week. We dig our heels in and talk with the man who owns the grocery store. We shop for dinner at outdoor markets, eat newly harvested strawberries, drink fresh wine from a vintner`s own cask. Linger over a cappuccino and watch the people come and go. Watch them watching you. And learn to cook like your grandmother did….from the heart. http://www.ilchiostro.com

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Hazell September 20, 2012 at 1:24 am
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I noticed that the link to the agritourism site here is no longer working, I’d like to suggest one of my favorite food/cooking experiences in Italy – Ozu olive picking weekends: http://www.ozu.it/pagina_open.asp?id=66&lin=eng. I went last year and it was a wonderful experience! The food was beyond delicious and the people fantastic – really got to learn a lot about the olive picking and olive oil process.

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