Tuscany Villa with cooking class

Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:16 PM
  #1  
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Tuscany Villa with cooking class

We are going to Italy in June with our children ages 6 and 8. We have rome set now we are looking into renting a villa in tuscany. I am looking for someplace that has cooking classes or classes in a town close by. This is for me! the girls and my husband would enjoy a pool. We have not desided where in tuscany we are going to make our homebase yet and are open to ideas. We are looking to make a few day trip to local sights but really would like the feel of the local culture. thanks in advance for any help. lizzo
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:28 PM
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I read about one in the Los Angeles Times travel section. No website, but here's an email address:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...near-lucca.cfm

The same chef is mentioned on Tripadvisor:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-...Antonella.html
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:34 PM
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We stayed at this location in July 2007.

http://www.lemanzinaie.it/

It's not a villa per se, but rather a podere or farmhouse converted into apartments (4 or 5 total). We rented the stand alone, 2 story building (Viole) for a week. The owners Fiore, Marzia and their daughter Alice are super friendly & host a dinner for all their guests once a week. Marzia told us she was planning to offer cooking classes, but I don't know if that's come to fruition.

The grounds and pool are nice. In mid July when the temps were 100+ the pool was refreshing. It may be cool in June, and is definitely not heated except by the sun. Even on the hottest days it cooled down a lot at night. They don't have AC, and we never needed it, even on the 104 degree days.

The location is about 15min east of Montepulciano in a broad, flat valley - somewhat rural. Since we used it as a vacation from our long Italy vacation we didn't mind the location at all. A few really hot days we didn't even leave the place, except for a quick run to the local supermarket to buy a t-bone to grill on hot, wood coals Fiore prepared for us to bbq. Add to that the fresh veggies from his garden for the picking it was a nice break. The several other guests came and went, so on the days we stayed put we had the place to ourselves. That was good for us, but sometimes kids like to have others around.

OK, somewhat rural is a misnomer. It's in the middle of sunflower fields. You need to drive anywhere. Since it's 20min for us to get to the closest supermarket at home we didn't mind a 15-20min drive into Montepulciano for dinner a few nights.

There are more scenic locations located directly in the rolling hills, but for us, for the price, it was perfect.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:34 PM
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When people post on Fodor's that they want to "feel the local culture" in Tuscany, that is usually ignored in favor of steering them in the most touristed places in Tuscany -- because that's where most Fodor's posters have been.

How serious are you about feeling the local culture? If very serious, do google searches with a search string like "cooking class pool villa sinalunga" or Asciano or Buonconvento.

You get things like this:

http://www.villa-tuscany-rent.com/index2.html

Sinalunga and Asciano and Buonconvento are actually located in an extremely scenic part of Tuscany. The towns are not necessarily museum-like or "cute", but the neighboring countryside is pristine and more authentically Tuscan in its preservation than the val d;Orcia or Chianti.

If you are afraid that when you get home your friends will gasp "You didn't go to Pienza? Or Chianti?" -- Then go there if that' s more important to you.

Also be aware that most Italians regard Tuscan cooking as one italy's least interesting. If learning to cook really amazing italian food interests you, you might consider a stay with a pool in Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, Liguria, Sicily, Sardegna -- and I would Lazio and Campagna.

http://www.theinternationalkitchen.com/real.htm

http://www.villacontessarosa.com/sitoeng.htm

http://selectitaly.com/food.php?product_id=65

etc.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:37 PM
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PS: I wanted to add that my remarks were not directed at the posters directly above me but just a general observation. In fact, basing near Lucca would give your children more to do -- but I would think twice about learning Lucchese cooking, which tends to be very bland.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:38 PM
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And do consider the province of Lazio as opposed to Tuscany:

http://www.cookinginitaly.net/Cookin...azio/index.php
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 04:52 PM
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Sure, just skip Tuscany since that is where all the tourists go. Just tell your friends you went to a cooking school in Wisconsin or Sardegna. Hogwash !
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 05:52 AM
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Bobthenavigator,

For your information, Asciano, Buonconvento and Sinalunga are all in the heart of Tuscany, which is where I suggested lizzo look for a villa. So is Lucca (although geographically north). That is what has become so typical: Americans believe the definition of "Tuscany" is Montepulciano and Pienza, and Chianti, and if you don't go there, you're not in Tuscany. That's the hogwash.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 06:26 AM
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We stayed at the most amazing villa this past October in Tuscany:

http://www.agriturismoaiavecchia.com/

We have 3 children, ages 7, 5, and 2, and this was the PERFECT location!! The villa apartments are large and beautiful with everything you need to feel at home. The grounds of the villa are also beautiful with an amazing pool, children's play area, and just plenty of room for the kids to run free and play while you enjoy your time too. We felt completely at ease allowing the children to explore and not feel like we needed to watch them 24/7.

I took a cooking class with Chiara and it was a special treat that we had for dinner later that evening. Chiara's wine was some of our favorite of the region!

The villa is about 30 minutes from Sienna, and 20 minutes from Pienza and Montelpiciano which were our 2 favorite Tuscan towns!

We can't wait to go back we loved it that much!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 06:46 AM
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Villa in the Tuscan countryside (near Buonconvento) with pool and cooking classes available:

http://www.tuscany-villas.it/vacation_rentals/35486/

Villa in Tuscan countryside (near Asciano) with cooking class and pool:

http://www.yourtuscanvilla.com/large...na/profile.htm

Villa in Tuscan countryside (near Sinalunga) with nearby cooking class and onsite pool:

http://www.tuscanyfinerentals.com/villa-sinalunga.php

http://www.casabiancacortona.com/eng...s_daytours.php

There is more to Tuscany than the tourist triangles!

Had not the original poster included the words "but really would like the feel of the local culture" I wouldn't have posted. But she did, and said she is open to ideas.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:49 AM
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Lizzo,

I just popped back to say that I'm not trying to dissuade you from basing yourself in the most-talked about areas of Tuscany or learning Tuscan cooking. But in putting together those links for you, I perused one of the links for Lazio, and the organic cooking-oriented Fontana del Papa just looked like so much fun with children, I had to come back and highlight it for you:

http://www.fontanadelpapa.it/

http://www.cookitaly.it/

What also would make this spot so appealing to me is its proximity to the incredibly undertouristed but fascinating town of Civita Castellana -- if you want authentic Italy, this is it -- and the "monster park" of Bomarzo. In addition, you are within striking distance of some amazing small towns and attractions: Montefiascone on Lago Bolsena and even Orvieto.

If what you want is the Tuscany so often memorialized in postcards and calendars, you shouldn't hesitate to head to val d'Orcia or Chianti. Around Lazio, there are many lovely landscapes, but its proximity to Rome and its long, long history as a transit route for the Roman empire means manicured beauty spots aren't a dime a dozen in Lazio. But I thought you should at least know about such places.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:59 AM
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I also meant to add it has a pool and easy proximity to the Mediterranean if that is of interest, plus hot springs.

http://www.cookitaly.it/where.htm

I'm posting all this in case anybody finds this thread and this place sound just right for them.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 12:10 PM
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I just saw something like that in vrbo in Montepulciano (vrbo #13370) but it's a bigger place than you need. I know...take me!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 09:41 PM
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Civita Castellana! Stepsbeyond, you are telling the world about one of my favorite secret places in Italy! I spent a week there last May, using it as a base to visit the countryside as well as the exquisite Renaissance gardens of Villa Lante and Bomarzo, near Viterbo, and Castello Ruspoli, near Vignanello.

To reach this small hill town, you must wander into the undulating Sabine hills, about 30 miles north of Rome, where you will find a startlingly green and beautiful landscape of river valleys, deep gorges and high cliffs. The route cuts through Sabina’s most unspoilt scenery, past citadel-like hilltop towns few tourists have heard of, places like Bocchignano, where the people are known as the frog people because it’s so damp in their valley, and Castelnuovo di Farfa, surrounded by ancient groves of silvery trees which produce Italy's best olive oil.

The road twists and winds as it climbs into the hills, finally arriving at a perilously narrow bridge which spans a vertiginously deep ravine separating the new town from the old. Civita Castellana is situated on a tufa plateau surrounded by deep gorges, built on the site of an ancient Etruscan town destroyed by Roman forces in 241 B.C.

In the heart of the old town is Relais Falisco, a 17th century palace which was converted into a comfortable hotel in 2002. Ristorante La Scuderia, in what was once the carriage house of the palace, is located in the arched passageway leading to the hotel. At La Scuderia, Sergio and Daniela lovingly prepare wonderful food typical of the region. Their son Alessandro was our waiter one evening, serving us the most memorable food and wine of our entire trip.

Here are a few images, if anyone is interested:
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p58443917.html
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p58443913.html

And here is Bomarzo, the park of the monsters:
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177413.html
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177405.html
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177421.html

And Villa Lante, not to be missed:
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177390.html
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177388.html
Have you ever seen anyplace more exquisitely perfect?

And Castello Ruspoli, where you may find the Princess trimming the hedges:
http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p51177429.html
Loo with a view: http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/p58422705.html
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Old Jan 7th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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julia1,

How wonderful you went to Civita Castellana! I just wandered in there during a long road trip, having some vague idea I'd heard somebody once say it was interesting. I wasn't at all prepared for its unspoiled charm, and its palpable historic vibe.

I want to add to your post that there is a terrific small Etruscan museum inside the castle fortifications, almost hidden from any sign it's there.

All that said, I had second thoughts championing it to lizzo as part of a stay at Fontana del Papa -- mainly because it would be a somewhat longish car trip on winding roads. Children can get carsick -- and maybe the pleasures of Civita Castellana are more for adults. Kids might prefer the beach -- and it's closer.

Thanks for posting links to the pix! It really isn't fair to keep too many Italian secrets -- and I wouldn't worry so much about it getting overhyped. People will still stampede right past it to get to the places so successfully marketed as to foreign visitors.
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Old Mar 11th, 2010, 06:20 PM
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We are staying here in May:
http://www.villacicolina.it/node/110

It got good reviews on tripadvisor but I'd have to let you know after we get back.

Enjoy your trip!
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