cooking holiday or cooking vacation
. . . take a culinary or cooking tour to delight the senses
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   What happens on a cooking holiday? Cooking Vacation in Italy  
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. . . enjoying the food and the romanticism of Italy

This particular holiday is no longer available. What made it so special for all of us was Chef Jonathan and the good news is that he now runs his own cooking holidays . . . more info

What follows below is a photographic account of a cooking holiday in Tuscany that was hosted by Hub-UK during the summer (2005).

Apologies for the fact that the page may be slow to load but the only way to show what such a holiday is like is by using photographs - lots of them!

Cooking Italy - the holiday begins for all of us with our arrival in Rome . . .

Following our arrival at Rome's International Airports - needless to say we all contrived to arrive at different times and airports - we were met and transferred from Rome to Tuscany either in an air-conditioned minibus or one of the high speed air-conditioned trains.

On arriving at our home for the week, Alla Corte del Sole, we were each shown to our special rooms each with en-suite bathroom and individual air-conditioning so that we could unpack before enjoying a late buffet supper, and a few welcome glasses of local wine, in The Orangerie.

During our welcome buffet we meet our mentor for the week, Chef Jonathan Arthur and his daughter Lizzie who will be our guide during our stay

The first reaction of everyone was one of amazement at the luxury and quality of our accommodation. We are almost wondering if we have arrived at the wrong place..

. . . and the bedrooms. All individually styled, all en-suite and all with their own air conditioning. What paradise to be able to sleep well at night without suffering from the heat.

After a wonderful breakfast with a vast array of food to chose from - and a refreshing cup of tea for those of us who liked to be traditionalist - it was all aboard our air conditioned minibus for our fist visit of the week, to an olive oil mill. Chef Jonathan explained the process of harvesting and pressing the olives which was then followed by a tasting and an opportunity to purchase some very fine olive oil.

Then on to Cortona for a walk around this ancient hill town - and when I say hill I mean steep!

It took some climbing in the midday heat of around 35°C to get the photographs so it was a relief to get into the cool of the town's fascinating little theatre.

. . . followed by lunch at a nearby trattoria in the small square.

After lunch it was back to the hotel for relaxing around the pool for the more energetic and a siesta in an air-conditioned room for the rest of us. The eagerly anticipated first evening coking session was due to start at 7.00 pm.

All our cooking sessions, with the exception of the pizza making, were to be held in the hotel's cantina which is what they call their wine cellars. Not a true cellar in the sense that we understand it as it was built into the side of the hill with access from the driveway and no need to climb stairs - which might be dangerous after a full cooking session with liberally dispensed local wine!

The cooking lessons were part demonstration and parts hands-on but even if you were not helping with the preparation there were wine bottles to be continually opened and wine dispensed to thirsty would be chefs!

On our first night we prepared and dined on Crostini Neri, Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola, Chicken Breasts alla Marsala with Pannacotta to finish. A thoroughly enjoyable meal followed by nightcaps in The Orangerie.

Our second full day started with another sunny blue sky to greet us as we emerged for breakfast. Today our morning trip was going to be to Pienza for Balsamic Vinegar tasting followed by sampling of local cheeses and then on to Montefollonico for a wine tasting.

There was an incredible selection of different balsamic vinegars. After being used to what is available in supermarkets at home it was a shock to realise that there was so much variety . . . and the flavour!

The next tasting to savour was the cheese in a small specialist shop just around the corner. The smell was incredible - you certainly needed to like cheese!

A quick stroll around Pienza . . .

. . . and then it was all aboard the bus to head for our wine tasting in Montefollonico. The Innocenti winery was incredible with its ancient cellars with worn sloping floors and huge barrels. After a brief talk about the wines and how they were made we adjourned to the garden for the tasting with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.

Feeling nicely mellow from slightly too much tasting it was then off down the street and around the corner to the local trattoria, with the unusual name of 'I 13 Gobbi', for a wonderful lunch of pastas and meats. The Italians certainly know how to feed you!

The evenings cooking lesson saw Chef Jonathan tackling the most amazing T Bone steaks . . .

. . . in fact I think they were probably the biggest and thickest T Bone steaks I had ever seen!

The third day dawned bright and sunny and after the hectic pace of the last few days it was nice to have a day to ourselves where we could chill out, relax and enjoy the pool . . . until the evening that is.

It was as well that we had all rested during the day as that evening we were really going to be in the heat of the kitchen cooking Pizzas in the special ovens that they use.

Have you been wondering where I am in all of this. That's my hat at the table!

A wonderful evening was had by all and what better way to unwind after it all than with coffee and drinks around the pool. The night was so warm some of us were in the pool until well after midnight.

Already it is Thursday and today is the big market in Camucia, which is just below Cortona. As well as getting the chance to browse all the market stalls our challenge today is to buy the produce we want to make an out door lunch by the pool. How different the Italian markets are to what we are used to. You get to try before you buy and how different the fresh food tastes . . . you really want to take some home!

And so, laden with shopping bags and a significant quantity of red wine, we head back to the quiet of the hotel to prepare lunch.

The evening's cooking session turned out to be one of our finest once we all overcame our aversion to rabbit. The first course never made it to the table - it was Fried Zucchini Flowers. A truly amazing starter. Fried in a light batter these were so delicious they were being grabbed as soon as they left the pan. We did not go short though what with the rabbit dish, Ribollita and the polenta.

All too soon it was our last full day and this was the big trip of the week with our visit to Siena, famed for the Palio. What can you say about Siena? You have to see it to appreciate the buildings, the narrow streets and the atmosphere. We were there as they were preparing for the Palio on the following day so they were preparing the main square where the horses race and the old town was bedecked in the banners of the different factions. The camera was constantly clicking!

It was certainly a day of contrast as far as the weather was concerned. The morning started cloudy which after four days of continuous sunshine and deep blue skies was a bit disconcerting. The rain never materialised and by the afternoon (as you can see from the photographs) the blue sky had returned.

After a short siesta on our return, and a request to start the evening's cooking lesson an hour late, it was sadly our last evening. Again Jonathan had us all, aprons on, busily preparing a variety of dishes to savour for the last supper. Everyone had a lot of fun making the fresh tagliatelle and a degree of satisfaction in having succeeded in what was at first approached with some trepidation. The fresh made Tagliatelle with baby Clams was wonderful and as with all of Jonathan's cooking there was none left. Other delights created during the evening were our very own Focaccia and Cacciuco, a fish and shellfish dish, which was so simple to make yet so delicious to eat.

. . . and Saturday dawned hot and sunny with everyone departing for Rome and their respective flights home feeling totally relaxed and very well fed. Everyone agreed it was the most relaxing and stress free holiday they had ever taken.

. . . and that was cooking Italy

This photographic account of a cooking holiday in Tuscany was created by Hub-UK (
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