La settimana a lecce
our classic course in lecce
This is how it all began, in the historical epicentre of one of Europe’s great beauties. Students have been coming from fifty-nine different countries, for the last 20 years. Come find out why.
Our Week-long Course in Lecce
Urban, yet small and intimate, a week at our Lecce school gives you full immersion into the vibrant cultural and culinary capital of one of the world’s great food and wine regions.
This hands-on Italian cooking course is held in our owner’s home, using his antique copper pots and pans, knives, with wines pulled from his personal collection. The school also has what is likely southern Italy’s largest cookbook library and students routinely borrow books to read during the breaks.
Every meal starts in the market- either Lecce’s oldest vegetable market, the fish market, the bean and legume store or the various enoteche- before walking back through one of Italy’s prettiest cities.
The goal of our Lecce weeks is to make you feel you live here- saying hello everyday to Cesare greengrocer, Tonino the wine merchant- and gathering around the kitchen table with people from all over the world, united by love of Italian food and wine.
Where: In the Historical Centre of Lecce
When: Throughout the year. Class starts at 10 am on Monday, ends on Saturday morning.
DO NOT COME TO THE SCHOOL. We meet in Lecce’s main piazza under the column at 10 am on Monday.
Where you sleep: in local bed and breakfasts. We have recommendations in Student Services.
How much? 1995 Euro.
Taught in: English.
Best way to arrive, depart, maximise your time with us: Everything is spelled out in our Student Services. You’ll be given access about booking.
Corso Classico a Lecce
Classic Course in Lecce
Held throughout the year in our owner’s home
This is an example of our classic Lecce course, the week-long course that we have been teaching for twenty years now.
Aside from the compelling depth and engagement of all of our courses, what’s special about about our classic Lecce course is that it’s urban, in one of Italy’s prettiest cities. And that the quotidian rhythm of the days gives you the distinct feeling of living in an architectural gem— walking through the historic centre to the market each day, the wine bars, the shops, getting to know the fruit and vegetable vendor by his first name. You might have stayed in other parts of Italy but you’ll feel like you lived here, even for just a bit.
What follows is not a fixed schedule of your classic Lecce week per se, but rather a typical sample week. If there is a wine festival going on, we might move around the days to best take advantage of being in the historic centre and go out together after class. Or we might move things to better suit the changing weather.
What makes your week special will always yield to regimented plans. You’ll have everything that follows, even if the order might change a bit. This spontaneity is part of what makes Italy, Italy.
We also can’t publish our menù as it is always embracing the seasons but we will tell you this: expect that most meals to be focused on vegetables, pulses, grains and greens, with meat, fish and cheese used sparingly (think ‘adoration of vegetables’, versus the ‘avoidance of animal products’ and you’ll be ahead in understanding The Mediterranean Diet).
Expect to never repeat a wine during any of our meals together and that all of them will be sourced less than fifteen kilometres from the Lecce school. And that all our organic waste will be composted, glass bottles recycled and that trees will planted in either Ethiopia or the Brazilian rain forrest to offset the carbon of your flight into Italy (our treat).
While our school is deeply entrenched in the local culture and economy, our students are international and with the exception of the month of August- most come from abroad (59 countries and counting).
All posted classes are taught in English (with the exception of classes for Italian nationals, which are taught in Italian).
All Lecce courses are held in our owner’s private home, using his antique ceramics, personal copper pot collection and taking full advantage of what is likely the largest Southern Italy’s largest bilingual cookery book library. And of course you are free to borrow books during your time here. (If you have a secondary copy of any cookbook bring it with you and contribute to our ever-growing library)
Before the course
Book a room in Lecce for 6 nights or longer, but at least from Sunday night to Saturday morning. See Student Services after book your course for our list of trusted partners.
Arrive in Lecce whenever you like but plan on being here the Sunday evening before your course.
You’ll meet Silvestro at 10 am in Lecce’s main square- Piazza Sant’ Oronzo– under the column that used to mark the end of Via Appia (‘the Appian way’, the superhighway that connected Ancient Rome to Ancient Greece).
You’ll learn what makes Lecce and the Salento special— and decidedly geologically apart from the rest of Puglia. We’ll head to the city’s oldest market, meet the vendors and purveyors for the week and buy today’s produce. Walking back to the Lecce school you’ll meet your artistic guide, who will give you a tour of the city from an historical, artistic and architecturally perspective, before you’re dropped off in front of the Lecce school, just in time for lunch.
We’ll have prepared a large, roaming feast of local dishes so that you can see the sample of what you will learn to prepare during your course. (This will also be the only meal of the week that you do not prepare yourselves, collectively with your classmates).
After a two hour lunch, you’ll be walked back to the main piazza and given a three hour break to rest, nap, walk off the lunch wine and in general, just build back your appetite, returning hungry for more.
We’ll meet at 18:00 (6pm) under the column in Piazza Sant Oronzo and head to the Lecce school to make fresh pasta from scratch (easily Italy’s healthiest pasta).
We’ll make a different, local shape every meal so that by the end of your course you’ll have mastered ten different pastas, all local, all healthy and all southern Pugliese.
You’ll have a lesson in the kitchen about tonight’s dinner, then go about cooking the entire meal, applying what you just learned. We’ll move to the dinning room to have a guided wine tasting, followed by the engaging talk, God Smiled on Us: An Introduction to an Italy that You May Not know.
One of you will return to the kitchen to finish and assemble each course, guided by our staff, and then take turns presenting the dishes to your peers. (This is a deceptively effective learning tool, hearing first an explanation of a dish by our staff, then one by of your fellow students and then repeating it aloud when it’s your turn to finish and present one).
Dinner will run a few hours, the wine will flow like a mighty river and we’ll walk you back to the main piazza around 23:00 or even midnight.
We’ll meet under the column in Lecce’s main piazza (always, always, each day in the same meeting place). We’ll discuss the themes of the day, answer any questions and then head for the city’s oldest vegetable market, focused on sourcing for the day but also making you a better, more engaged consumer of Italy, for the rest of your life. You’ll meet Cesare, Alessandro, Gianluca and Stefano, our longtime vendors, trusted relationships that are Italy’s informal currency, equal in importance to the Euro.
We’ll walk back through the historic centre to Lecce school, working in short stops that feature the impressive architecture that makes Lecce a part of a classical education in Italy (you’ll likely see several groups of visiting school children, all ‘tagged’ to their teacher/handlers by little coloured caps).
We’ll make a new fresh pasta shape from scratch, which will segue into a lesson in the kitchen. Then we’ll prepare lunch together (always, one antipasto, one pasta course, one secondo, four side courses and a dolce).
(Each meal all week will follow this format with the exception of our Thursday lunch at the seaside).
You’ll have a lesson in the kitchen about tonight’s dinner, then go about cooking the entire meal, applying what you just learned. We’ll move to the dinning room to have a guided wine tasting, followed by the engaging talk, Pasta, Polenta, Risotto and Old Bread: The First Courses of the Italian Peninsula.
One of you will return to the kitchen to finish and assemble each course, guided by our staff, and then take turns presenting the dishes to your peers.
Lunch will run a few hours and then you’ll be given a three hour break to regain your appetite as you see fit (walk the historic centre, shop, sleep or speed time alone or with your partner).
You’re welcome to use this free time as you like but if there is any tendency during our 20 year history, it’s that most people start off overly-ambitious with planning the free time during the break, only eventually settling into using the pause to recharge. Same with eating between meals: in contrast with Spain’s constant snacking, you’re rewarded here in Italy from sitting down hungry twice a day.
We’ll meet again at 18:00 (6 pm) and visit a wine store to talk about Italian wine labelling, the DOC structure and why the choice of bottle shape is so telling of what the producers’ desire to communicate.
(You do not need to carry your wallet or purse the entire week, as everything -with the possible exception of souvenirs— is included in your tuition).
We’ll head back to Lecce school for a lesson in the kitchen, then prepare a complete dinner (we always serve everything family-style, allowing you to take as much as you like, so as to never need stand up from the meal feeling overly-feed, unless you want that).
We’ll have the talk, Kaveh to Coffee to Cafè: The Little Bean that Conquered the World. You’ll learn about the history of coffee, Italy’s contribution to it and how to order it in Italian, and like we do here. This talk will transform into a guided wine tasting and dinner will run a few hours- you and your peers explaining each dish as you bring it from the kitchen,. This is important to foster Italian table culture, the wine flowing and the stimulating, international conversation running late.
We’ll walk you back to the main piazza around midnight.
We’ll meet under the column but quickly head to a local espresso bar so that you can use your new coffee ordering skills (Silvestro will just be ‘dad’, ignored until it’s time to pay). We’ll head through the city’s sculpture garden (that celebrates one of Lecce’s most famous artists) on the way to the fish market. You’ll learn how to cook most of the world’s fish using only four, simple techniques. You’ll meet Salvatore and Spartico, our trusted fish mongers that source from the nearby Ionian Sea. You’ll learn about the lunar pull on the Mediterraneans seas and how that alters shellfish prices in Italy.
We’ll head to the vegetable market and source our vegetables before heading to the Lecce school to make fresh pasta from scratch.
We’ll have two lesson in the kitchen, the first on kitchen gear— pots, pans, knives and glassware, acquisition and maintenance- the second on what we are going to prepare for today’s lunch. We’ll move into the dinning room and have a guided tasting of the wine, followed by our fish-based lunch, as finished and explained by you and your peers.
A break and we’ll meet under the column at 18:00. We’ll visit a local dispensary and talk about the importance of grain and pulses in The Mediterranean Diet. You’ll learn how to source, maximise and improve your health by your choices. (Hint: the smaller and darker the legume, the healthier it is).
Back at the school you’ll prepare dinner, move to the table for our wine tasting and learn about, 1493: The History of Italian Vegetables. You’ll learn how much that we think of as Italian arrived late to the party, and how long most of it took to be accepted.
Dinner with yet another new wine, with each course explained by your fellow students. Plan on over- indulging. We’ll stumble back to Lecce’s main piazza around midnight.
We’ll load up the picnic baskets and head to Otranto, a gorgeous Greek city on the Adriatic coast famous for both its historic centre protected by UNESCO, and the largest mosaic in all of Europe. We’ll discuss Dante’s contribution to the national culture and language but how a Greek monk did even a better job of giving the information back to the illiterate. And two hundred years before him.
We’ll have giant sandwiches (that you make) on the Roman-era stone pier (with wine and those little fried things that none of us should be eating) and you’ll hear, Many Seas: A Brief History of The Mediterranean while dangling your feet into one of them. Assuming good behaviour all around, we’ll also visit one of Italy’s oldest gelateria, discussing the differences in the production process, flavour and texture of both ice cream and gelato.
Back to Lecce with Antonio our driver (and one of Italy’s most muscular taxi-drivers) and a few hour break.
We’ll run Thursday evening’s class as a sort of Italian dinner party, inviting locals and composing a meal that is high in pleasure, low in preparation. We’ll talk about the great changes in the history of Italian wine, with Da Mieru a Vino: How Italian Wine Become Modern. But Thursday night is for pleasure, perhaps the sun exposure earlier in the day or a week of flowing wine but the meal is a little friendlier, a little less structured.
Back to the main piazza after dinner. Many head for local wine bars.
Italy is usually fish on Friday and with us it’s no exception. We’ll head to different fish market and you’ll learn a little about each fish on Mimmo’s marble slab. We’ll discuss tactics and techniques and before lunch is over, buying, cleaning, preparing and eating fish will be forever demystified.
We’ll discuss why the Salento is so famous here in Italy for its rose wines and how exactly they are made. (Hint: there are three ways of making pink wine, one of which is highly illegal here in Italy). We’ll discuss tonight’s menu and then you back to the main piazza for a break.
We’ll meet at 18:00 and have a student-prepared, but nonetheless surprise dinner that will run late. We often open special, larger format bottles and after dinner we have gifts.
You’ll leave a message on the school’s chalkboard to the next class, suggesting to them how to get the best out of their time with us.
We’ll walk you back to the main piazza or we’ll visit a local wine bar for one last glass.
About a week after your course we’ll send you a password to all of our recipes online and include all the email address of the others on your course. Many if not most make life-long friendships while here. They send us many happy pictures of wine-soaked reunions, held all over the world.
The historic centre of Lecce is considered a national treasure here in Italy and it’s likely that you’ll see packs of school children in little coloured caps on school trips when you’re here.
Lecce is also the last stop on the national train line, so that even if you fall asleep arriving by train, you won’t miss your stop.
Lecce is also a university town, most famous nowadays for a thriving faculty of nano-technology, followed by languages and law.
Visitors to Puglia, the Salento and Lecce are often surprised to learn how Southern Italy is often more open and progressive than your city. The former governor of Puglia is gay, married, with children. The historic centre is open turned into giant wine festivals, with no laws about consumption, age or location.
Most of the former seminaries are now used as laical buildings, the church now a cultural versus theological centre.
Q: Why haven’t I heard of Lecce before?
A: Most of Italian life is lived in provincial capitals rather than the bigger or the more tourist cities. Lecce has been an important city since the Greek era. Puglia remains the number one domestic travel destination yet largely unknown to the rest of the world.
Q: What do you think of a certain Bed and Breakfast or hotel?
A: Lecce has many hotels and 800 B and Bs. While we list our trusted partners in the Student Services part of our site, we can’t stay on top of all the new ones.
If you decide to seek out your own place, we recommend inside of the historic centre and not too close to the school. You’ll maintain your appetite for the week much better with a little walking and you want to see and experience the city on the way to and from the school.
Q: Where do we meet each day?
A: Always, always under the column in Lecce’s main piazza, lunch and dinner.
Q: Why can’t you bundle accomodation and the tuition?
A: We’re not travel agents. Anyone that does bundle them are either agents- thus not a school- or operating illegally.
Q: Do I need to be at any certain cooking ability? Or relatedly, I’m a chef and I already know how to cook, why would I take your class?
A: We teach regional cooking, Southern Italian wine and extra virgin olive oil, as opposed to any technique classes. Our courses are anthropological and enogastronomica versus any sort of restaurant training. We have chefs and complete novices in the kitchen all the time and there is no difference for us or them. The same way we’d start from zero in any other part of Italy.
Q: I love Master Chef, etc. Is there a winner at the end of the course?
A: If you want to recreate what you’ve seen on food-related ‘reality’ shows, you will not find that here. If on the other hand you want to go deep into a specific and enthralling part of Italy to understand the history, culture, anthropology as expressed through the pasta, vegetables, fish, olive oil and wine, in our opinion no one does that better (or has been doing it in Puglia for longer).
Q: Is the food healthy?
A: The healthiest in Italy. We actually teach a class just for physicians that want to learn more about longevity and the Mediterranean Diet. They could go anywhere in the world but they choose to come here.