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We’d be hard-pressed to describe any particular week as “typical”, as there is always some special food coming into season, a local fair, the opening of a new wine bar, etc. Still, at your cooking school vacation you should look forward to something like this during a week:

Sunday or Monday: arrival in Lecce, check into your B&B for the week.

(Upon registration you’ll be given access to our Inner Sanctum, the hidden pages that tell you everything you need to know for arrival, how to book your stay, where to go before and after our school, etc.).

Just some of the things you may do:

IMG_0070Monday night: (beginning of course) Meet at 7 pm under the column of Sant’ Oronzo, in the city’s main piazza. Short tour of the city, talk on why the food and wine of the Salento are special- and deeply respected inside of Italy- and then a walk back to the school for welcoming toast and orientation. You’ll partake in a massive feast at the school that will go late into the evening. We’ll then walk you back to the main piazza, pointing out where to meet for pastry and espresso the next morning.

We’ll meet for an excellent espresso and local pastry, then collect the woven baskets and walk to the open market, where you’ll meet Cesare and Pina, Ermanno and Stefano, and all the other vendors that make our local market something special.

We’ll have a short, onsite Italian lesson, teaching you the words you’ll need to buy your fruit and vegetables and the phrases that will help you get the most out of your time in Italy (not just on this trip, but on future trips as well). We’ll gather our fresh produce and then head to the school to make fresh pasta, for both lunch and dinner. We’ll cook lunch together, then gather around the table and enjoy the meal (always two to three hours). You will have a little free time, perhaps for a nap or reading. Then we’ll meet again for dinner, uncork some world-class wine and leisurely prepare our meal, which usually ends late.

Wednesday: You’ll be getting a guided tour of the world-famous architecture of the city of Lecce, by the city’s most eminent guide. You’ll get to see context and the relationship between history and food, wine and culture as you see how folks in the past rendered ideas into stone. You’ll be dropped at the school, where we’ll have a great lunch together. We’ll give you a three hour break for a nap and a chance to rebuild the appetite and we’ll meet again at 6 and cook and eat dinner together. We’ll discuss extra virgin olive oil, and how most of what you know you know about the stuff, is simply wrong. (Ex. How is that Italy is at a deficit every year, that we can’t produce enough for domestic consumption, yet yet how is so much is exported?)

cornetti, cucina, cirò, silvestori
Wednesday is a copy of Monday, a massive day of cooking and eating, where you’ll do all the cooking under our instruction. A special emphasis will be placed on wine today (we taste, discuss and drink wine with every meal but today we’ll show you how it’s made, and why it is the way it is here). At night after the break we’ll make fresh sausages from scratch and grill them with Mediterranean vegetables. It’s the kind of feast that you’ve only seen in films.

Friday: We’ll visit the market and make great sandwiches with leftover grilled sausages, charred bell peppers, local cheeses and a two-napkin, garlicky vinaigrette that the crusty bread absorbs. We’ll pack the picnic baskets and head for Otranto, one of the prettiest beach towns in all of Italy. We’ll eat lunch on the ancient stone marina and if the weather is good, you can even enter the water. On a sunny day, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place.

After lunch you’ll see the largest mosaic cycle in all of Europe, as historically significant and intellectually rigorous as the Divine Comedy, even if virtually unknown outside of Italy. We’ll head back to Lecce, take a break, to enjoy your only meal off during the week. You can catch up on your shopping or time with your spouse or just head out to dinner with the other students.

Saturday: After the morning’s pastry and espresso we’ll head to the fish market and discuss why the Mediterranean stands out as a sea (which just might surprise you). We’ll talk with the fishmongers about what jumps out as particularly fresh (much of the fish is either still alive or so recently dead as to still be in rigamortis). We’ll buy a little of everything and head back to the school for a massive pot of fish stew, Salento-style (hint: it’s much fresher, brighter in flavour that other fish soups you may know, and much faster to make, as well). And nothing’s better with fish soup than a crisp cold rosato, the most famous pink wine in all of Italy.

After the break, Friday night is the students’ night, where as a group you choose your favourite dishes from the week, recreating them once again. We’ll open some special wine, often in a large format bottle that we’ve been saving for the night.

Dinner will run late and we’ll pass out your presents.

Sunday: Free morning (with or without aspirin). We’ll have arranged your departure for you. Most take the Eurostar to Rome or a taxi to the airport in Brindisi. We’ll have packed a lunch for you that is something very special.

Or Reserve a place now!


What do Insiders Know About Getting the Most Out of Southern Italy?

Find out, with our free 20-page guide to the food, wine, language, extra virgin, as well as insider travel tips. If you want to fall in love with this part of the world, you’ll need to to know a few things first. What’s worth visiting? What isn’t? And what should you be eating and drinking along the way.