Tuscan Women Cook’s program is the perfect mix of experiences, learning, and tourism. Experiential travel is an excellent way to be more than just a tourist while you learn something new and experience the local culture. Tuscan Women Cook offers an excellent opportunity to discover the food of Tuscany through cooking with local women, be part of a small town, and visit local food producers. It’s a great all-inclusive vacation for couples, friends traveling together, or multi-generation families.
Cooking Classes with Tuscan Women Cook
Four different cooking experiences are included in the weekly program, each taught by women who have grown up cooking traditional Tuscan dishes and are passionate about sharing their skills and foods with others. Each class has something unique to offer.
Our first lesson started with Chef Dania Mazotti in the Michelin-starred restaurant of La Chiusa, where we stayed. She has quite an entertaining personality and she turns out fabulous food. One of her assistants taught us to make pasta, including hand-made pici, a specialty of southern Tuscany and one of my favorites. We got to tour her vegetable and herb garden, picking fresh herbs to use in the cooking.
The next day we cooked in the kitchen of 13 Gobbi, another local restaurant. We made several types of pasta, including pici learning a different method to form it than we had used the day before. It was interesting to see the different ways to make the same thing. We also helped to make the aglione sauce, one of the traditional sauces for pici made with tomato and lots of garlic.
The class at Relais La Costa was taught by the mother of one of the owners who doesn’t cook at any restaurants but of course has cooked most of her life. See Chef Isa at Relais La Costa for an in-depth look at this class. The final class contrasts to the fast cooking of Isa with a slow-cooking lesson at Belagaggio, an agriturismo (a farm that has a restaurant and offers lodging).
Classes are a good combination of observation and hands-on participation. We learned about the traditional foods of Tuscany and picked up special tips and techniques from each of the teachers, assisted by an English translator.
Of course the highlight of each morning was the delicious 4-course lunch with the foods we prepared in class, served with local wine and lots of laughter.
Our home base with Tuscan Women Cook was La Chiusa Hotel, a historic hotel just a short walk from the center of Montefollonico, a typical Tuscan hill town that’s not a usual tourist stop even though it’s close to several top towns (see Excursions below). We had coffee at the local bar before class and enjoyed a glimpse of local life you don’t always see in tourist towns or on other tours.
Tuscan Women Cook is the original immersion cooking program in Montefollonico. Patty and Bill, the founders, first came to Montefollonico to eat at La Chiusa, known for its excellent cuisine. They came back year after year, eventually buying and restoring a farm house just outside town. They started the program to share their passion for the food and the area with others.
Bill and Patty are retiring and after 16 successful years, they’ve passed on their well-established program to Rhonda and Coleen, two enthusiastic and passionate women ready to make a career change and embark on a new adventure. Rhonda had already attended the program three times (and loved it) – once with her husband, once with a friend, and once with her mother and adult daughter – so she was very excited to take over when Bill and Patty asked for her help in 2015.
Rhonda teamed up with Coleen, already a successful business owner, to buy Tuscan Women Cook in 2016. Both women are passionate about cooking, entertaining, meeting new people and travel – ideal qualities for a program such as this.
Tuscan Women Cook Details
All-inclusive sessions are 6 nights, starting on Sunday evening. We had 6 dinners at local restaurants including a 7-course tasting menu, 4 cooking classes with lunches following, a day trip to Siena with lunch, afternoon excursions, visits to local cheese farm and winery, and 6 nights lodging with breakfast. Unlike some tours, you won’t have to spend a euro more unless you want to shop, everything is really included. Sessions are available from mid-May through June and September through mid-October.
See Tuscan Women Cook for all the details including how to sign up.
Montefollonico is ideally located in a beautiful part of Tuscany near Pienza, built to be the ideal Renaissance city, and the hill town of Montepulciano, known for its wine. We visited each town on an afternoon excursion by mini-bus that include photo stops and a stop at Bagno Vignoni to see the Roman baths and soak our feet in the thermal springs. There was also a full day guided tour of Siena, one of the most famous Tuscany hill towns, with an excellent guide.
The food experience is rounded out by visits to a local winery and a farm producing the famous pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese of the area. The grand finale is a 7-course tasting dinner at La Chiusa in the Michelin starred restaurant.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Tuscan Women Cook.
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