On several special occasions throughout the year, (see our calendar) a local baron loans us his ancestral home, a beautiful and aristocratic castle not far from the Adriatic, in the deep, deep south of Italy (an hour south of Lecce). Inside of the castle walls, there are hundreds of fruit trees, an herb garden, an impressive swimming pool, an underground olive mill, ovens, giant stone grills, the castle itself- with a large stone kitchen, built just for our students.
The castle’s main kitchen (there are 9 kitchens on the premises) opens onto the small Southern Italian town’s main piazza and fountain. And while the castle impresses deeply all who stay here, it’s actually the interacting with locals that make our castle courses so remarkable. (If you’ve ever wanted to meet curious locals, who want to buy you espressos in the piazza while they practice their limited English, this is that opportunity).
We still make pasta everyday, cook, learn, eat, drink but we also sleep at the castle- and for our birthday course- swim in the baron’s beautiful pool- our school’s staff and self-selecting guests finishing each night bobbing in the pool, glasses of local bubbly in hand. (NB For clarity, this is NOT alternative venue but an alternative week. Not only do we sleep on the premises, but we don’t return to Lecce until after our week is over. While there is the same emphasis on learning and doing- hands-on- the castle courses are larger, decidedly more thematic, ex. the week we make the year’s tomato sauce or the week we celebrate San Martino).
At our castle courses, you’ll meet Piero the baker, Serena the fruit and vegetable lady and Mario the butcher. We’ll stroll the nearby olive groves for a late afternoon walk to build an appetite for dinner. We’ll finish our cold weather courses in front of the four hundred year old fire place, a warming brandy in hand.
And aside from the kitchen he built us, he also created a Mediterranean herb garden and with an old pair of shears you’ll fill your bundled apron with the heady herbs for our next meal. Or pick lemons right off his trees (we’ll have already stocked your dresser drawers with his wife’s lavender). And we’ll snip bundles and bundles of fresh bay to scent and fuel our fires for our inclusive, communal roasts, all of the sourcing involving a first name, a reach towards a tree, a package from the butcher, his hand-writing across the paper.
With thoroughly modern amenities, each room has heating, air conditioning and a private bathroom. All have vaulted ceilings, just steps off the castle’s main hall, where we dine in the colder months, and the bouganvilla sprayed stone loggia, where we eat in the warmer months.
Our school’s staff and self-selecting guests finish each night bobbing in the pool, glasses of local bubbly in hand.
A week at the castle or a week at the school in Lecce? Which is right for you? Only you can decide but it’s best to know all that we offer. We should also point out that many returning students decide to sign up for the venue they didn’t choose the first time, only to love them both, each for different reasons.
Transportation to the castle
And always, we meet in Lecce and then we handle all transportation. Once booked, see the Inner Sanctum for more information about arrival and departure. We’ve thought of everything.