Cheese, Bread & Honey

15–22 June 2014 (4 places left)

Optional pre-tour extension: 13–15 June 2014

While staying in the beauty and silence of the mountains of the Garfagnana, you have the rare opportunity to work alongside food artisans and mix with the locals at their homes, eating their traditional dishes and learning to cook them yourself. You walk along historic trails where pilgrims, merchants and bandits have gone before — though none have been seen recently! An ideal tour for nature lovers and hikers with an appreciation of food and wine. Very small group (only 8–10 guests).

Highlights

Itinerary at a glance

Day 1 — Arrival and summer solstice festival

Day 2 — Make bread with village baker

Day 3 — Visit beekeeper and confront the crisis threatening bees, sightseeing at Barga

Day 4 — Visit family dairy, cooking lesson

Day 5 — Cooking lesson and pizza party at Italian home

Day 6 — Visit pecorino cheesemaker and cooking lesson

Day 7 — Walk the bandits' trail, farewell dinner

Day 8 — Departure

Highlights of tour

3 cheese experiences

  • Visit family dairy that makes cheese from milk they buy from shepherds
  • Visit shepherd who makes cheese from milk of her own flock
  • England vs Italy sheep's milk cheese tasting

3 bread experiences

  • Bake Garfagnana potato bread with village baker
  • Visit 18th-century water mill and meet the miller
  • Learn to make pizza dough and cook it in a wood-fired oven

1 honey experience

  • Lunch with a beekeeper, help remove honey from the combs, discuss the current threat to bees, taste single varietal honey

3 cooking lessons

  • Learn the many ingenious ways Tuscan farmers use stale bread
  • Cook lunch based on summer vegetables and local trout
  • Learn to make ravioli filled with ricotta and nettles

City sightseeing

  • Barga, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Lucca (optional pre-tour extension)

Other activities

  • Summer solstice village festival
  • Visit Orecchiella Nature Reserve
  • Pizza party with Italian family and friends
  • Walks to Barga and along mediaeval bandits' trail
  • Optional pre-tour extension: weekend in Lucca during monthly antique fair

Optional pre-tour extension

Since this tour doesn't include time in Lucca, this is your chance to get to know this gem of a city on your own. We make it easy for you by arranging transport from Pisa airport or Pisa or Lucca train station, booking your hotel and dinner at a restaurant on your first night. All you have to do is relax and enjoy your stay.

Friday 13 June

Transfer from Pisa airport, Pisa Centrale or Lucca train station to your hotel in the historic centre of Lucca. Dinner in the wine cellars of a 16th-century palazzo.

Saturday 14 June

Free day in Lucca. This is the weekend of the monthly antique fair when the streets of the city are filled with antique dealers from all over Italy.

Sunday 15 June

Free morning in Lucca. Afternoon transfer to Ai Frati with rest of group.

Itinerary

Day 1

Transfer from Pisa airport, Pisa Centrale or Lucca train station to Agriturismo 'Ai Frati', our secluded, peaceful home for the coming week. Tonight we celebrate the summer solstice at a village festival with a panorarmic view of the Alpi Apuane silhouetted against the sunset.

Day 2

This morning we join Paolo Magazzini, the village baker, who teaches us to make Garfagnana potato bread, a Slow Food presidium, in his wood-fired oven. While the bread ferments and rises we find out all about farro of the Garfagnana (an even more primitive wheat than spelt). Paolo's wife cooks our lunch which we wash down with farro beer made next door. In the afternoon we visit the Orecchiella Nature Reserve where we can see mouflon, the local wild sheep.

Day 3

A free morning to explore the territory, swim in the pool, read in the cloisters or breathe deeply in the clean mountain air. Revived, we visit the beekeeper Francesca Buonagurelli for lunch, including her incomparable salsa rossa and, of course, her single varietal honey. As we help her extract honey from the combs, we discuss the recent disappearance of bee colonies, the catastrophic effects on agriculture and vegetation and what we can do about it. Then to the lively mediaeval town of Barga (optional walk) for sightseeing and dinner.

Day 4

There are ways to modernise without adding chemicals or losing the essential flavour of artisan food. Verano Bertagni shows us how he accomplished it with his cheese and saved the shepherds whose milk he buys. We learn why ricotta isn't cheese and taste his award-winning pecorino. We lunch in Andrea Bertucci's parallel gastronomic universe before returning home for a cooking lesson using our stale bread to make delicious Tuscan farmers' dishes.

Day 5

Still on the theme of bread, our cooking lesson this morning includes pizza dough, which is best after rising for several hours, so we'll bring it to the beekeeper Francesca's pizza party tonight. The afternoon is free for leisure activities until we depart to shop for pizza toppings and help Francesca light her wood-fired oven. We learn how to tell when it's hot enough and become dab hands at cooking our pizzas. Soon Francesca's family and friends arrive and we feel as if we've lived here for years.

Day 6

Cerasa farm is an alpine paradise for the endangered Garfagnina sheep. The Cavani family is part of a project to save the breed, and the fee we pay for our visit contributes to the cause. Signora Gemma shows us how she makes pecorino in the time-honoured fashion from their milk, whilst her daughter Ombretta explains about using natural dyes to colour the wool and displays the textiles they're producing. After lunch, composed almost entirely of food produced on the farm, we buy some ricotta and forage for nettles before returning home for a cooking lesson making ravioli with ingredients we know we can trust.

Day 7

This morning the hikers among us will follow one of the old bandits' paths to Sillico, a mediaeval hill village even more exquisite than most. With luck we won't have to hold up the local restaurant to get some lunch. On the way to dinner, we stop at Ercolano Regoli's 300-year-old water mill, where Paolo, the baker, brings his farro to be ground and other farmers bring their maize and chestnuts. Our farewell dinner starts with a sporting event: Italy vs England for the sheep's milk cheese championship with you as the referees. A full meal of typical Garfagnana dishes and Tuscan wine follows.

Day 8

Transfer to Pisa airport or train station.

Accommodation

Agriturismo 'Ai Frati', Pieve Fosciana

A 14th-century monastery in an idyllic mountainside setting. Each ample apartment is composed of three monk's cells. Despite its tranquil hidden location, Napoleon's troops found it and destroyed its chapel, but left the cloisters and their frescoes for us to admire. Swimming pool and magnificent views.

Group Leaders

Heather Jarman

Following her careers as archaeologist, orchestra and artist manager and chef, Heather came to Lucca to pursue her passion for traditional artisan food. Her tours, inspired by her infectious curiosity, open captivating new worlds to her guests.

Prices & What's Included

Price

Per person €1950 (Euros)

Single Supplement: €225 (Euros)

Includes

Friendly English-speaking guide throughout your stay

7 nights welcoming, relaxing accommodation, en suite bathrooms

Local ground transportation for 8 days

Daily continental breakfast, 5 lunches, 6 dinners

Cooking lessons, guided visits with artisans

Does not include

Airfares

Travel and cancellation insurance

Wine and drinks, other than those served with meals, additional meals

Personal expenses such as telephone, mini-bar, etc.

Meeting points

Pisa airport, Pisa Centrale train station, Lucca train station, Lucca hotel if you book the pre-tour extension

If you are flying from outside Europe, we suggest you arrive a couple of days early to recover from jet lag so you can fully enjoy your time with us. We are happy to advise about where to stay and eat and what to do before and after your tour.

Dress

Informal. Jeans or smart trousers are acceptable everywhere. Good walking shoes are required for optional walks.

Weather in June

13–26˚C/55–79˚F, precipitation 43 mm/1.7 in

Optional pre-tour extension

3-star hotel (including breakfast)

    • Price per person: €325 (Euros)
    • Single supplement: €45 (Euros)

4-star hotel (including breakfast)

    • Price per person: €375 (Euros)
    • Single supplement: €50 (Euros)

Includes

2 nights in 3-star or 4-star hotel

Transfer from Pisa airport, Pisa Centrale station or Lucca station to hotel

Daily continental breakfast, 1 dinner

Does not include

Airfares

Travel and cancellation insurance

Wine and drinks, other than those served with meals, additional meals

Personal expenses such as telephone, mini-bar, etc.

Services of a guide

The Itinerary is subject to change if necessary due to weather or agricultural conditions or other events outside our control.

What People Say

When people ask what I liked best, I must say that I rave about our trip with you — it was excellent and a real contrast with all the big city tours we did.

Neroli Blakeman, Australia, October 2011, Truffles, Olive Oil & Chestnuts

It was one of those magical trips for me that you can't really ever re-live, you just have to cherish it.

Libby Saylor, USA, June 2011, Cheese, Bread & Honey

This is a tour for those who want to get below the surface. You will meet extraordinary people, share meals with them in their homes and watch as they keep ancient traditions alive. Heather's knowledge comes from her love for the Garfagnana and its people and it is infectious.

Janette Gross, USA, May 2011, Tastes & Textiles

I want to thank you so much for the wonderful week we had with you. It was so much fun. I’m telling everyone about it.

Marian Sticht, USA, May 2011, Tastes & Textiles

We had the most wonderful time on our tour. I knew I would enjoy myself but I was blown away by how much Bryan enjoyed himself. I have not seen him so relaxed. We all got on so well and loved all the things we did and saw. Just wanted to say thank you for organising such a great tour. I would recommend it to anyone.

Kaye & Bryan Dillon, Australia, October 2010, Truffles, Olive Oil & Chestnuts

Your tour was the highlight of our seven-week absence from home. There were so many highlights that it is difficult to single out one experience above another, but I must say that the contact with the olive trees was very special. Above all it was your preparation and organisation and great communication with us all that will remain with me forever.

Gillian & Max Poole, Australia, October 2008, Slow Food Tour to Lucca & Salone del Gusto

We are truly grateful for the opportunities afforded by traveling with you. You willingly share your passion for the slow food lifestyle with your clients, creating unforgettable and personal experiences like visiting with Beppe at his metato, picking olives with Augusto, or tasting the newest prosciutto with Andrea. Everyone made us feel like part of the family. Not to mention all of the amazing meals! We learned so much and are eager to apply it to our life here at home. It was truly a perfect honeymoon, and a once in a lifetime holiday.

Kimberly Tortorice & Jay Hochman, USA, October 2008, Slow Food Tour to Lucca & Salone del Gusto

Amazing trip for us both. Much enjoyed every segment of our itinerary and our congenial group and coach driver! Food, our hosts, accommodation, your information and effective communication—all very good.

Brian Marshall & Shirley Dwyer, October 2008, Slow Food Tour to Lucca & Salone del Gusto

We had so much opportunity to learn, not just by observing the producers, but by cooking, tasting and eating and, of course, being involved in all aspects of olive oil production. It was just brilliant to be able to pick, process and bottle our own oil.

Fiona Richmond, UK, November 2005, Olive Oil, Chestnuts & Polenta

The pleasure hasn't waned and I have already prepared food differently and made a big veg soup, bruschetta with OUR oil and the mondiola. Went to my local Sainsbury's last evening and was totally depressed at the range and quality of the veg ... My life won't return to exactly where it was before the trip, truly: I shall experience greater satisfaction and greater frustration!

Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, UK, November 2005, Olive Oil, Chestnuts & Polenta

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