When you go to Italy, why not learn something new on your vacation? Italy offers a huge number of learning and experiential vacations, ranging from half-day classes to programs that last a week or longer.
Often classes and workshops allow you to participate in the local culture in a way that’s not always possible for tourists. You may be able to interact with local people and maybe even make new friends as well as learn a new skill or try something you’ve always wanted to learn. It’s a great way to be more than just a tourist.
Cooking Courses and Culinary Vacations in Italy
Taking a cooking class, whether it’s a half day class or an all-inclusive week, is a popular way to learn something while on vacation and get an insight into the culture, since food is very important in Italy. Cooking classes usually include eating the food you’ve prepared accompanied by wine so you’ll get to enjoy a good meal and maybe even try new foods.Most classes are taught by chefs, cookbook authors, or local women and are usually taught in English or with the help of a translator.
Tuscany is one of the most popular regions for cooking classes. See my selection of recommended cooking programs in Tuscany. Highlights include Tuscan Women Cook’s all-inclusive 6 day program and Food Artisans classes taught by author Pamela Sheldon Johns on her organic farm. Pamela also leads culinary vacations in several other regions of Italy.
- For other parts of Italy, see this selection of half and full-day cooking classes in Italy from Select Italy.
Other classes I’ve tried and recommend are cooking classes at Bella Baita Mountain Retreat in the Piedmont Alps, taught by the owners, an Italian chef and an American-born chef and Flavor of Italy taught by an American (who has lived in Italy for many years) in a country house north of Rome. Both programs offer personalized cooking classes as well as market tours. For a unique twist in Venice, dine in period costume after your cooking class.
Italian Language Courses
Of course Italy is a great place to learn Italian and there are many programs throughout the country. Most courses require a commitment of at least 5 days to several weeks. Schools range from very small classes to big schools that offer classes at several learning levels, such as the Universita per Stranieri di Perugia, where I studied for two months.
Language schools usually help with housing and some place students with local families, a good way to practice outside of class. Consider studying in a small town where English is less likely to be spoken so you have more chance of using your skills. Browse this list of 58 language schools in Italy.
Art Classes in Italy
Italy, known for its many museums and masterpieces, is an ideal place to study art. If you just want to spend part of a day trying something, you can make pottery in Tuscany, take a fresco painting workshop in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, or learn to make a mask in Venice.
I spent an interesting weekend at La Gioccia, a studio that offers two to six day art courses tailored for anyone from absolute beginners (such as myself) to professional artists at the instructor’s studio in a small town between Florence and Bologna (with lodging). Other courses that have been recommended to me are Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Stone Sculpture near the marble quarries of Carrara, and La Meridiana Ceramics School with residential courses in a Tuscan farm house.
In Puglia, Messors Workshops include a unique Art Restoration and Conservation Workshop, a 16-day program that includes hands-on practices, art lessons, field trips, and lodging on a restored masseria, or farm estate.
Special Workshops and Volunteering
Another unique project offered by Messors is their Shepherding and Culinary Workshop, an 8-day learning experience where you’ll live on a restored farm estate, take field trips, interact with locals and learn about shepherding traditions, including how to make cheese, bread, and traditional dishes. Read about our day visiting the Shepherding and Culinary Workshop.
Participating in a volunteer project or special workshop is a great way to interact with local people and become immersed in the local culture. You can find more information about Messors workshops and other volunteer opportunities on Go Volunteering – choose Italy in the travel destination drop down box. Some schools and projects offer programs where students can participate in local projects, such as the digs run by the American Institute of Roman Culture.