Join Chef Ezio and his friends in Abruzzo Italy for a 7-night Italian food and wine adventure.
€3,000 (8 Days, 7 Nights), with a €200 deposit, balance payable 4 weeks before the start of the tour
Sunday 24th July – Sunday 31st July
or Sunday 31st July – Sunday 7th August
Each day you can revel in the beauty of Italy’s best-kept secret, Abruzzo, whose lush Apennine Mountains and national parks are home to bears, wolves and lynx. Its rolling hills boast some of Italy’s most beautiful hill towns as well as award-winning vineyards, its Adriatic coastline plenty of Blue Flag beaches and a marine park.
From pick up at Rome’s Leonardo airport, you’ll be swept away from the crowds to the restored Benedictine Monastery of Grancia dei Celestini, where George Clooney stayed whilst filming The American.
It’s set in the middle of the stunning medieval town of Sulmona, the birthplace of Ovid and the world’s favourite sugared almonds known as confetti. This lively mountain town sits in the heart of the Peligna Valley were 3000 years ago the name Italia was first given to the Italian peninsula in 90 bc.
We will meet up late afternoon for a short guided tour of the Sulmona that explores its sacred sites, cultural quarters and a tangle of interesting cobbled alleys and provides an opportunity to go shopping.
For aperitivo and dinner, you are invited to a light 4-course tasting menu of the best from each of Abruzzo’s 4 provinces recreated by Chef Claudio of Grancia dei Celestini.
After a leisurely combined local breakfast, we will travel to nearby Pettorano sul Gizio, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages that are listed as a Borghi Piu Belli and much loved by the acclaimed Dutch graphic artist MC Escher for its incredible views out onto the Peligna Valley.
We take a fascinating tour through the town down to the watermill. The area is now a wonderful picnic area, here we’ll have a mid-morning snack before we head back to the town for our first cooking lesson. We’ll learn how to make lump-free Polenta, the local speciality Polenta Rognosa & polenta chips and sauces and toppings to dress this unique polenta.
We’ll walk off our delicious 3-course lunch by a visit to the 11th century Castello Cantelmo on the way to Bella Vista where Escher sat for his stunning lithograph of the valley.
We’ll return to Sulmona an aperitivo and light dinner served by Chef Claudio in the courtyard of the monastery.
Pack your beach gear as after breakfast we will depart for the Adriatic and the Trabocchi Coast.
You will be quirkily wined and dined aboard a trabocco for 3.5 hours, delighting in a 10-course fish feast in what we guarantee will become your most memorable beach dining experience! Expect a succession of fish and shellfish served sushi-style, drizzled with local olive oil, mixed into salads, served with fresh kinds of pasta, grilled, baked whole fish and crunchy breaded fillets.
Since 1887, these sustainable fishing machines positioned on stilts above a sparkling sea have been used by the local population to catch fish, and some now enjoy a double role as Abruzzo’s most novel restaurants.
After our traditional passegiato (mid-afternoon walk) on the beach, we’ll make our way back to Sulmona for a wine tasting in the original room where Monks used to make wine for medicinal use and to serve pilgrims at our monastery base. We’ll sample Abruzzo’s 5 most established grapes whose wines are glorious enough for US wine dealers stock and have a light dinner.
After breakfast, we will go to the market to buy our ingredients for our morning’s cooking lesson where you will learn how to make great pasta by hand dressed with sauces that touch on the local province of L’Aquila. Dishes created will be paired with local red and white wines.
We’ll spend an afternoon olive oil tasting with accompanying snacks and then it is on for our truffle hunt. Abruzzo is famous for its plentiful musky truffles and supplies almost 80% of Italy’s truffles that are consumed across the world. We’ll join Franco and Lara the dog in the olive grove, who will be waiting to take us on our guided summer black truffle hunt in the local woods.
You’ll be able to find out how dogs have replaced pigs in Italy to find truffles, the areas for white truffles in Abruzzo and discover the treats which are given to dogs in reward for finding truffles. Those that we find will be used for our dinner!
We’ll be hosted by local agriturismo for a deliciously robust and traditional dinner. Before we experience the varied and enticing array of dishes that shows how healthy and varied the food of the countryside of Abruzzo is, Chef Cosimo and his wife will demonstrate the preparation of several ancient Abruzzese recipes and how to work with the black summer truffles we found earlier. In between courses, we’ll have the chance to listen to local folk music played and if you are feeling brave you can try and dance the Salterella!
We will follow breakfast with a gentle canoe excursion down the turquoise Il Tirino river from Bussi which sits within the Gran Sasso National Park. This is an incredible, colourful trip to relax both your mind and body whilst discovering the heritage of the mountains and sampling water celery.
We will make our way up to the spectacular high basin shaped plateau Campo Imperatore (Little Tibet), for a traditional Abruzzese picnic at the mountain refuge, Ristoro Mucciante. Picnics in Abruzzo always include arrosticini, the delectable grilled skewers of meat that the shepherds used to eat and which now becoming one of Europe’s most popular street foods.
After lunch, we will return to Sulmona for a cooking lesson with Chef Ezio.
We will follow breakfast with a savory cookery lesson and learn to make a delicious skinny-crust pizza that is so easy you’ll wonder why you ever ordered takeout, that we will eat for lunch paired with local wines.
We’ll visit the pearl of Abruzzo, the nearby beautiful town of Scanno, photographer Henri Cartier Bresson’s favourite Italian town and birthplace of the composer Henri Mancini. It’s famous for its maze of steps and light that bursts through its narrow alleys, stunning filigree jewellery, lacework and heavy local costume that dates back to the 17th century.
Afterwards, we’ll head south into the Valle Scannese to learn more about Abruzzo’s historic pastoral traditions that brought the Medici Family into Abruzzo. We’ll have an organic raw milk cheese tasting at Gregorio Rotolo’s acclaimed agriturismo. His passion for cheese and free-grazing sheep has crafted some of Abruzzo’s most sublime cheeses.
We will return to the town to enjoy a traditional Scannese dinner.
We will travel up to the nearby small town of Prezza that is described as the balcony of Abruzzo.
Prezza’s passionate history buff Luigi, a fluent English speaker will be our escort on a cultural tour around Prezza’s cobbled streets that will culminate in a wine tasting at the local family-run boutique winery, Praesidium. Here you’ll get to sample Enzo Pasquale’s award-winning wines which are fulsome and lingering. For those enamoured with Italy’s liqueurs, you’ll get to sample their fabulous Ratafia (Amarena Cherry Liqueur).
Today we will be given a demonstration by our butcher on how to make local, extremely moreish sausages which are typically roasted.
We’ll enjoy our sausages for lunch as well as partake in the simple poetry of a porchetta sandwich made with Prezza’s famous potato bread and accompanied by an indulgent sampling of local wines. Diplomas will be presented after our fun food quiz and a blind tasting session.
Our final lesson is devoted to Italy’s legendary and most glorious treat, gelato (ice-cream). We’ll learn from Abruzzo’s best local artisan gelateria in nearby Raiano, who in 2016 were included in the distinguished list of the Top 100 gelateria in Italy. They have been finely crafting their ice-cream recipes since 1964, and they specialise in superb organic and mostly lactose-free ice-creams which show off the rich diversity of local ingredients.
We will spend our final night and dinner together at a colourful local summer sagra. These are Abruzzo’s scrummy food and wine festas devoted to local harvests and dop products and always arrosticini. Tonight will be your opportunity to literally taste ancient local recipes brought up-to-date in the tastiest dishes accompanied by local music. In the unlikely event of a sagra being cancelled or unavailable on your cooking holiday dates we will have dinner on the terrace.
You will be driven to your airport in Rome.