Personalised Adventures

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These fascinating learning holidays are specially designed for you and your family, friends, club or organisation — anyone who enjoys good food and drink and wants to find out where it comes from and how it's produced. We guide you to places you'd never find on your own in a magical land of 'il bello e il buono' (the beautiful and the good) where 'il tempo non corre' (time stands still). Hands-on activities like picking olives and cooking lessons give you a real feel for the ingredients and cuisine. You are welcomed into the 'laboratories' and homes of small artisanal producers eager to show you how traditional foods have been made for centuries or how they have introduced new technology without compromising the end result. Meals in family restaurants are times to relax and savour the fruits of the season and how the locals use them. The adventures are spiced with liberal sprinklings of shopping, walks, music, art, traditional crafts, gardens and architecture. (Group size: 1–10 people)

January
January

January

January

January is a month for snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, but if the weather is good, it's also the season for mountain walks with panoramic views unobscured by leafy trees. Or proceed at a faster pace at one of the small ski resorts in the Apennines that flank the Garfagnana. Surprisingly this is the month when wild herbs for hearty winter soups are at their best. There are plenty of warming indoor activities too.

Sample activities

  • Accompany villagers from house to house with the good witch Befana perpetuating a village folk tradition (evening 5 January only)
  • Forage for potherbs for zuppa (hearty bean and vegetable soup)
  • Be part of the jury in a Slow Food zuppa challenge
  • Learn to cook zuppa with the winner of the zuppa challenge
  • Guided mountain walks and skiing
  • Wine tasting at vineyard
  • Visit a coffee roaster
  • Dine at the home of an Italian family where mamma is a superb cook
  • Visit a farm, make bread with mamma, meet the Cinta Senese pigs, lunch at the farm
  • Learn to make sausages
  • Visit a cashmere scarf mill that weaves scarves on traditional handlooms for international fashion houses and shop at outlet store
  • Visit cigar factory where women still hand roll the cigars (but not on their thighs)
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

February
February

February

February

Carnival celebrations and banquets to say farewell to meat (carne) before Lent. Viareggio is second only to Venice for its Carnival parade of stupendous animated floats. With the sea on one side of Viareggio and mountains of marble on the other, you can dine on fish and lardo di Colonnata.

Sample activities

  • Carnival is the celebration just before Lent when you eat up all the delicacies you're not allowed during the 40 days before Easter; plunge into the good-humoured crowd in fancy dress and marvel at the parade of floats
  • Learn to make cenci, delectable crispy sugary carnival treats
  • Visit an artisan brewery, learn the secrets of making beer and taste the six real ales
  • Learn to cook zuppa (hearty bean and vegetable soup) with a real Italian mamma
  • Be part of the jury in a Slow Food zuppa challenge
  • Visit a lardo producer in Colonnata and find out how pork fat is transformed into a delicacy
  • Sightseeing in the seaside town of Viareggio with its turn of the 20th century stile liberty architecture
  • Dine at the home of an Italian family where mamma is a superb seafood cook
  • Visit a sculptors' studio in Pietrasanta
  • Shopping at the famous Wednesday market of Forte dei Marmi
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

March
March

March

March

You'll know the end of winter is near when you see the camellias in flower at a festival with parti-coloured beans, tea and olive oil. Beans and sausages are inseparable in Tuscany, which leads to a visit to a pork butcher. It's still cool enough to enjoy warming up by baking bread with the village baker.

Sample activities

  • Visit a pork butcher and find out how they make those incomparable Italian cured meats
  • Wine tasting at the vineyard you see from the pork butcher's workshop
  • Learn to make sausages yourself
  • Cheese, salumi and wine tasting at Andrea Bertucci's parallel gastronomic universe, the Osteria 'Il Vecchio Mulino', beneath the 12th-century fortress in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
  • Join the locals at an international camellia festival in a village famous for its tea plantation, olive oil and many types of beans
  • Use your sausages and the festival beans in a cooking lesson with a real Italian mamma
  • Spend a day in a village where ancient and modern work together in harmony: bake Garfagnana potato bread with the village baker in his wood-fired oven, visit farro fields and state-of-the-art farro polishing machine
  • Visit the water mill where the baker's farro is ground
  • Free day in the walled town of Lucca for sightseeing and shopping, or rent a bicycle and tour the tops of the 17th-century walls
  • Dine at the home of an Italian family where mamma is a superb cook
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

April
April

April

April

Wildflowers dot the meadows, mountain slopes are fuzzy pale green and people emerge from their houses to congregate at spring festivals. Azaleas make a colourful theme for one village festival, olive oil and wine join forces with art and antiques at a festival at a Medici villa and fish are on the menu at a lakeside village.

Sample activities

  • Visit the molo at Viareggio where the small family fishing boats land their catch of pesce povero, once the fish of the poor, but now vaunted as the traditional cuisine of northern coastal Tuscany
  • Buy your fish at the molo and take it to Gabriella's house for a lesson in traditional seafood dishes of Viareggio
  • Sightseeing in the seaside town of Viareggio with its turn of the 20th century stile liberty architecture
  • Visit an artisan brewery, learn the secrets of making beer and taste the six real ales
  • Glide silently in an electric boat among the reeds of Lago Massaciuccoli at dusk, seeing the now dilapidated fishing huts on stilts and watching the sunset over the lake as the water birds come home to roost
  • Visit the Puccini villa and museum on the opposite side of the lake
  • Visit a lardo producer in Colonnata and find out how pork fat is transformed into a delicacy
  • Join the locals at a Medici villa for olive oil, wine and art
  • Visit a sculptors' studio built over the Medici villa's fish ponds
  • Dine at the home of an Italian family where mamma is a superb cook
  • Free day in the walled town of Lucca for sightseeing and shopping, or rent a bicycle and tour the tops of the 17th-century walls
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

May
May

May

May

Early summer, full of promise. Milk from sheep grazing on fresh pastures makes the best pecorino cheese. Unripe farro, the primitive wheat of the mountains, ripples in its terraced fields. Silk worms are feeding on mulberry leaves before spinning their silk cocoons in June. And bees collect nectar from the creamy drooping acacia flowers which will become next month's honey.

Sample activities

  • Spend a day in a village where ancient and modern work together in harmony: bake Garfagnana potato bread with the village baker in his wood-fired oven, visit farro fields and state-of-the-art farro polishing machine
  • Visit a shepherd and watch her make pecorino and ricotta with milk from her own flocks
  • Learn to cook a soup that can only be made in May and local dishes prepared with ricotta
  • Join the locals at a strawberry festival
  • Glide silently in an electric boat among the reeds of Lago Massaciuccoli at dusk, seeing the now dilapidated fishing huts on stilts and watching the sunset over the lake as the water birds come home to roost
  • Feast at an olive oil festival and learn how to taste olive oil
  • Guided tour of one of the grand villas and its gardens near Lucca
  • Walk in spring wildflower meadows on a mountain top
  • Visit a silkworm breeder and feed mulberry leaves to the silkworms (they can't feed without human help)
  • Free day in the walled town of Lucca for sightseeing and shopping, or rent a bicycle and tour the tops of the 17th-century walls
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

June
June

June

June

Hardworking bees were collecting acacia nectar in May, and at last it's ready for the beekeeper to extract from the hive. Black truffles may be lurking in the woods. Delve into the mysteries of cheese and ricotta: visiting cheesemakers, making it, tasting it, and cooking with it.

Sample activities

  • Visit a beekeeper, learn about the extraordinary life of bees, help extract honey from the frame and sample the intense and varied flavours of single-flower honey
  • Visit a shepherd and watch her make pecorino and ricotta with milk from her own flocks
  • Visit the small family-owned Caseificio Bertagni (dairy) where tradition and modernity meet
  • Learn to cook local dishes based on ricotta, summer vegetables and herbs with Italian mammas
  • Join the locals at a solstice festival
  • Hunt for black truffles with Riccardo and his truffle hound and return to his home for lunch (truffles will be on the menu)
  • Cheese, salumi and wine tasting at Andrea Bertucci's parallel gastronomic universe, the Osteria 'Il Vecchio Mulino', beneath the 12th-century fortress in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
  • Visit the mediaeval walled town of Barga, its duomo and 17th-century baroque theatre
  • Guided tour of one of the grand villas and its gardens near Lucca
  • Walk in the summer woods
  • Free day in the walled town of Lucca for sightseeing and shopping, or rent a bicycle and tour the tops of the 17th-century walls
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

July
July

July

July

Summer is truly here and every village is celebrating with festivals, from suckling pig to farro (primitive wheat) to wine and bandits. They usually take place at the weekend, so make sure you're here for at least one. Shepherds are making cheese at their high alpine pastures and the honey of the month is chestnut.

Sample activities

    • Visit a beekeeper, learn about the extraordinary life of bees, help extract honey from the frame and sample the intense and varied flavours of single-flower honey
    • Visit a shepherd in cool, green alpine pastures and watch her make pecorino and ricotta with milk from her own flocks
    • Farro harvest festival and lunch in courtyards through the village
    • Learn to cook local dishes based on ricotta, summer vegetables and herbs with Italian mammas
    • Visit an 18th-century water mill and the miller's flower and vegetable gardens
    • Visit trout farm where the fish have room to swim, lunch of trout for every course (well, not dessert) and the adjacent hermitage church carved out of rock
    • Cheese, salumi and wine tasting at Andrea Bertucci's parallel gastronomic universe, the Osteria 'Il Vecchio Mulino', beneath the 12th-century fortress in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
    • Guided tour of the stalagmites and stalactites of the Grotta del Vento, cool even in July
    • Visit the mediaeval walled town of Barga
    • Guided tour of one of the grand villas and its gardens near Lucca
    • Walk in the summer woods
    • Free day in the walled town of Lucca for sightseeing and shopping, or rent a bicycle and tour the tops of the 17th-century walls
    • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

August
August

August

August

All Italy is on holiday in August. The third biggest holiday of the year is Ferragosto on the 15th. Villages, practically deserted in winter, suddenly fill up with emigrant Italians back for a nostalgic month in the houses in which they were born. Children pedal tricycles in the piazza while their parents, seated at tables in front of the bar, catch up on the year's gossip. Even hardworking artisan food producers relax for a couple of days with their families. It's a good time to join the locals at a festival, the sheep and goats still have to be milked and cheese made, and wild berries are waiting to be picked on refreshingly cool alpine slopes.

Sample activities

  • Visit a beekeeper, learn about the extraordinary life of bees, help extract honey from the frame and sample the intense and varied flavours of single-flower honey
  • Visit a shepherd in cool, green alpine pastures and watch her make pecorino and ricotta with milk from her own flocks
  • Eight-row maize festival leads you through the town from one inventive course to the next in private courtyards of old farmhouses and a water mill
  • Learn to cook local dishes based on summer vegetables, farro and ricotta with Italian mammas
  • Pick wild berries and learn to make jam and wild blueberry grappa
  • Visit an 18th-century water mill and the miller's flower and vegetable gardens
  • Visit trout farm where the fish have room to swim, lunch of trout for every course (well, not dessert) and the adjacent hermitage church carved out of rock
  • Almost every night enjoy good food, wine and music at festivals with crazy themes from mediaeval bandits to bread and biroldo (a Garfagnana speciality)
  • Guided tour of the stalagmites and stalactites of the Grotta del Vento, cool even in August
  • Visit the mediaeval walled town of Barga
  • Guided tour of one of the grand villas and its gardens near Lucca
  • Walk in the summer woods
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

September
September

September

September

Early autumn and the warmth of summer lingers on. On the sunny slopes the vendemmia (grape harvest) and winemaking begin, while in the chestnut woods there are treasures to be found. With the help of a local wild mushroom expert, you can get your eye in and experience the thrill of discovering the highly prized porcini. Porcini are shyer than shrinking violets, and if the weather hasn't been just right, we'll feast on them in local restaurants instead of finding them ourselves. If you're not in the vineyards or the woods, then this is the month for Lucca, its solemn procession through candlelit streets and exhibitions and markets in every piazza and even atop its Renaissance walls.

Sample activities

  • Pick grapes at a biodynamic vineyard, tour the cellars, taste from the barrel and lunch with the owner
  • Hunt for wild mushrooms with an expert
  • Learn traditional wild mushroom dishes with mushroom expert's wife
  • On the 13th observe the procession of the Volto Santo through the candlelit streets of Lucca; magical but boring after a while, so we watch from the comfort of our dining table
  • Free day in Lucca to nose around the markets and exhibitions
  • Judge dishes made with endangered beans at a Slow Food bean contest
  • Attend one of the autumn village festivals covering the gamut from cheese to cured pork to pheasants & polenta to rare breeds of fruit and vegetables
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

October
October

October

October

This is a time of great activity in the hills surrounding the Lucca plain. The grape harvest is ending and the new wine is fermenting in tanks and barrels. By the middle of the month little 3-wheeled farm vehicles buzz up and down the narrow roads loaded with olive nets and plastic crates, empty on the way up and full of green, brown and black olives on the way down. The olive presses, dark for 9 months of the year, now run 24/7. In the mountains, chestnuts are falling to the ground and bursting out of their prickly covers, which means they're ready to be gathered and taken to the metato, the chestnut-drying hut, before being ground into flour.

Sample activities

  • Collect chestnuts in the woods, take them to the chestnut-drying hut and see how they're dried before being ground into flour
  • Visit a water mill where the chestnuts will be ground at the end of November
  • Learn to make traditional chestnut pasta and chestnut cake with an Italian mamma
  • Eat roast chestnuts and chestnut flour crêpes filled with ricotta at a chestnut festival in a picturesque mountain village
  • Pick olives and visit olive presses traditional and modern (2nd half of October)
  • Learn how to taste olive oil
  • Cooking lesson using your new olive oil
  • Taste the new wine—hmm, interesting—at a wine and food festival, or you can choose a squash festival, or feast on porcini and black truffles at an autumn livestock fair
  • Dinner at a restaurant whose chef is touted as the up and coming young chef of Italy
  • Visit the butchers Rocchi and witness them making sausages and other delicious cured pork products

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)


November
November

November

November

White truffles can be found, with the help of a well-trained dog, from mid September until the end of December, but November is the only month in which you can combine a truffle hunt with the National Truffle Fair in San Miniato. In the hills surrounding the Lucca plain everyone is picking olives and taking them to their favourite olive press, eager to know whether the year's oil will be good and plentiful. The mountains are a rich gold tinged with copper before the leaves fall, opening up panoramic views to walkers. Chestnuts finish their forty days of drying and are shelled, sorted and taken to the miller. In Lucca a Christmas market in magnificent old cloisters sells artisan food and crafts, enlivened by guided tastings.

Sample activities

  • Hunt truffles with Riccardo and his truffle hound, eat lunch at his home and sniff out the San Miniato truffle fair in the afternoon
  • Pick olives and visit olive presses traditional and modern
  • Learn how to taste olive oil
  • Cooking lesson using your new olive oil
  • Walk to a chestnut-drying hut in the woods and find out how they're dried before being ground into flour
  • Visit a water mill where the chestnuts will be ground at the end of November
  • Learn to make traditional chestnut pasta and chestnut cake with an Italian mamma
  • Wend your way through a picturesque mountain village from one food stall to the next until you emerge at a chestnut roast on the open hillside
  • Wine tasting and dinner at the vineyard
  • Visit the butchers Rocchi and witness them making sausages and other delicious cured pork products
  • Do your Christmas shopping at a Slow Food artisan market in the cloisters of an old monastery in Lucca
  • Meals in restaurants off the beaten track

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)

December
December

December

December

Seasonal good cheer radiates everywhere. The new chestnut flour is finally flying off millstones and its arrival is celebrated in Castelnuovo, the capital of the Garfagnana, with feasting, music and processions. Chocaholics can indulge their habit for two blissful days amid the master chocolatiers of Italy. Lots of opportunities to shop for unusual Christmas gifts while enjoying the food and customs of northern Tuscany.

Sample activities

  • Visit a water mill where the chestnuts are being ground and taste its concentrated sweetness
  • Join the festive crowds under the arcades of Castelnuovo for mulled wine, roast chestnuts, chestnut crêpes and delectable handmade chocolates
  • Gorge on chocolate at the scene of an invasion of chocolatiers from all of Italy
  • Learn to make traditional chestnut pasta, chestnut fritters and chestnut cake with an Italian mamma
  • Visit a scarf mill where cashmere and silk scarves are woven on traditional handlooms for top international fashion houses; you're bound to find several Christmas presents at their outlet shop
  • Another opportunity for Christmas shopping in the attic of a handloom weaver who uses antique hemp for his traditional pieces for the table and bath
  • Plaster of Paris figurines used to be a mainstay of the local economy, and they're still used in evocations of the Nativity scene, from ingenious mechanical constructions to whole villages transformed into life-size Bethlehems
  • More Christmas shopping in a Slow Food artisan Christmas fair in the cloisters of an old monastery in Lucca

Accommodation

Hotel, villa, apartment in town or agriturismo (self-catering unit on a farm)


Here's how it works

  • Decide when you want to take your vacation. Each season has its culinary and cultural excitements. Click the links above to see some sample tours.
  • Fill in the the Booking Form with information about you and your group and what you'd like to do on your holiday or Phone Us to discuss your plans.
  • We create a programme for the number of days you want to stay and give you a costing which includes accommodation, local transport, most meals, cooking lessons and entrance fees. Only your international transport is excluded.
  • You tell us what you'd like to change (if anything) and we fine-tune the programme to suit your requirements and adjust the price if necessary.
  • Once you've agreed the itinerary and the fee, we email you a booking form which you fill in and return to us with a deposit. The balance is due 8 weeks before the start of the tour.

Fees

The price of an adventure depends on when you travel, how long you stay, what you choose to do and how many people are in your group. Please ask us to give you a quote.

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