Tuscany’s landscape says it all: medieval hilltop towns overlooking rolling countryside covered with grapevines and olive trees. The mountains, forests, cypress trees, and winding roads create the perfect backdrop for discovering one of the world’s most revered destinations for culinary tradition, craftsmanship, fine art, historical preservation, and winemaking.
Join a small group of travelers for a week of culinary and cultural discovery in Italy. We’ll visit Tuscany in autumn, when the olives and grapes are being picked and pressed to perfection. It’s the perfect time of year to savor some of Italy’s best wines and ingredient-driven dishes. Explore regional Tuscan cooking and expand your culinary repertoire with four hands-on in-depth cooking courses. Time in the kitchen is complemented by epicurean field trips, visits to medieval towns and gothic Siena, and opportunities to walk amongst the vines and views.
From our stone villa in the heart of Chianti wine country, we’ll travel throughout the region plus enjoy the charm of Panzano in Chianti. Join The Chopping Block’s travel and food loving community for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary immersion in Tuscany.
Experience Tuscany with an apron tied around your waist and a glass of Chianti in your hand! This unique week in Chianti features four hands-on cooking classes, wine education, and epicurean field trips.
Pasta & Sauces Workshop at Badia a Coltibuono
Chef Benedetta Vitali has lived and worked all her life in Florence, Italy. In 1979, she co-founded the popular restaurant Cibrèo with Fabio Picchi, offering their fellow Florentines a connection to a traditional Tuscan cooking style that had been all but forgotten in the postwar trend of convenience foods. In 1999, Benedetta opened the trattoria Zibibbo, emphasizing fresh produce from nearby small farms and introducing her original interpretations of classic recipes. She is the author of Soffrito: Tradition & Innovation in Tuscan Cooking and of La Cucina degli Affetti | Catering and Caring: 124 Recipes for Cooking with Love.
Home Cooking with a Nonna
Traditional Tuscan Cuisine featuring Beans & Seasonal Vegetables
Tuscan home cooks create some of the most delicious dishes from simple ingredients. They learned from their mothers and grandmothers how to combine local and seasonal ingredients into some of the most well-known Tuscan delicacies such as ribolitta and crostini. A local nonna will teach us her best-loved Tuscan recipes, focusing on vegetables and beans.
Team at Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Cuisine of the Butcher Shop
Tuscany’s iconic butcher shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini is famous for top-quality meats, expert butchery, and proprietor Dario Cecchini’s passion and personality. At Cecchini’s they believe an animal must have four things: A Good Life, A Good Death, A Good Butcher, and a A Good Cook. Dario has two excellent restaurants in Panzano and the knowledge and expertise of this operation are top-notch.
Born and raised in the Tuscany countryside, Alessio began cooking as a little boy, learning to cook the products of his land. He began working in restaurants in 2004 and has worked alongside many great chefs. Like a good Tuscan chef, he is passionate about ingredient sourcing and quality. Alessio has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and he prepares beautiful fine cuisine.
Peggi Clauhs & Viktorija Todorovska
Peggi Clauhs owned a cooking school in Pennsylvania, where she taught for nearly 25 years. Her cooking school also hosted many international adventures, inspiring her daughters Molly & Katerina to start Onward Travel in 2013. She now resides in Florida.
Viktorija Todorovskais a wine educator and writer, formerly based in Chicago and now residing in Provence. She is a Sommelier and taught wine classes at The Chopping Block for five years. Viktorija is an accredited Sommelier, Italian Wine Scholar and Certified Specialist of Wine. She attended cooking school in Florence, is fluent in Italian and has authored two books about regional Italian cuisine.
During this relaxing and delicious vacation, enhance your culinary knowledge and skills as you learn to Cook Like a Tuscan.
Upon arrival, you will receive a recipe booklet to use throughout the week as we work through a comprehensive and fun culinary program. Learn by doing and experience the special ingredients and terroir of Tuscany.
Learn how to:
Welcome to Italy!
Day 1: Saturday October 19
Benvenuti! Welcome to beautiful Tuscany. This morning we’ll organize pickups at Florence Airport and Hotel Pendini, then head straight to Chianti. The first stop: Impruneta, a Tuscan town famous for terracotta. The tradition of making terracotta in this area goes back to the 14th century and the clay and craftsmanship combine beautifully! We’ll tour a workshop and kiln and then tuck into our first meal together, a leisurely lunch featuring the local food and wine. This gourmet restaurant is owned by one of our favorite local chefs, Chef Alessio, who is teaching a cooking class later this week. After a short transfer, settle in for a week at our villa in the vineyards on the edge of Panzano in Chianti. If the sun is shining, relax at the villa’s swimming pool this afternoon or stroll into town.
We’ll gather tonight on the loggia, or open air porch, to enjoy the million dollar vineyard views and a wine class held by Viktorija where we’ll be introduced to the wines of Tuscany including some excellent whites. We have a special dinner planned tonight… a pizzaiolo is coming to the villa tonight with a portable wood-fired oven to make us a pizza feast. Sip a glass of bubbly while you enjoy a variety of pizzas, focaccia bread, and lemon vodka sorbet. The pizza party of your dreams!
Meals Lunch, Dinner
Drinking in the Landscape
Day 2: Sunday October 20
Today, ease into the Chianti lifestyle. We’ll walk into town to enjoy Panzano in Chianti’s weekly outdoor market where the locals shop and gossip. After a leisurely morning we’re off to visit Onward Travel’s favorite local winemakers. Agricola Altiero is a small family operation producing excellent wines. Samuela is a fabulous cook and her signature jams pair perfectly with crostini, pecorino, and salumi. Winemaker Paolo will lead us through a tasting as we enjoy lunch in the sunshine.
Let’s stretch our legs after lunch. We’ll stop in Montefioralle to explore this tiny, hilltop stone village, with 360 degree views of the Tuscan countryside. You’ll feel like you’ve landed in a movie set, but this is real life in Tuscany!
Late afternoon, a local lady will join us at the villa for a hands-on cooking class. At its heart, Tuscan cuisine is peasant food driven by what can be easily grown or procured in the region. We’ll focus on preparing dishes that feature vegetables and beans such as everyone’s favorite… ribollita. Add some recipes to your arsenal and benefit from knowledge and experience passed down and learned by doing.
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Cooking at Badia a Coltibuono
Day 3: Monday October 21
Today we head to the kitchens of Badia a Coltibuono for our first in-depth cooking class. Badia a Coltibuono is a place with a special history… the abbey was founded in 1051 and was home to some of the first vineyard plantings in the region. More recently, it was the home of the late Lorenza De’ Medici, an internationally known cook, author, and authority on Italian cuisine. The estate is now owned by Lorenza’s three adult children and the cooking school is in the hands of another well known Italian chef: Benedetta Vitali.
Benedetta will lead us in a hands-on pasta preparation workshop. Learn recipes for three pastas and three sauces, plus biscotti to pair with Badia a Coltibuono’s prized Vin Santo (dessert wine). We’ll also have the opportunity to tour the 1000-year-old abbey including the impressive wine cellar and Renaissance gardens. Midday, we will dine on our creations, complemented by the estate’s organic wines and olive oils.
You’re on your own this evening to enjoy dinner at one of Panzano’s restaurants or maybe just a bowl of soup at the villa.
Meals Breakfast, Lunch
Day 4: Tuesday October 22
This morning we’ll drive a few miles north to Greve in Chianti, a charming town with nice shops and a picturesque central square. After some time to browse, we’ll lunch at an excellent pizzeria.
Next we will enjoy two artisan field trips. First we will visit a local Frantoio for a tasting and demonstration on how olive oil is made and appreciated. The green olive oil is stunning and so, so delicious. Next we’ll tour Pasta Fabbri, a small pasta factory where they will share their passion and art with us.
Late afternoon we’re back to the villa for some R&R or a glass of wine. This evening we’ll dine together in Panzano at a spot recommended by the locals: Cantinetta Sassolini.
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Meat Cookery & Appreciation
Day 5: Wednesday October 23
Panzano is famous for its location in the heart of Chianti and it’s charismatic butcher: Dario Cecchini. Today we are going to focus on meat cookery at the most iconic place to do so, Dario’s! We will prepare Chianti sushi (beef tartare), Bistecca Fiorentina, Arisa in Porchetta (roasted pork with garlic and herbs) and more. Learn about the passion and precision that goes into their craft plus the care that goes into raising the livestock. After a fabulous and leisurely lunch, you may like to go for a hike or simply relax.
We’ll convene tonight to learn more about the local grape, sangiovese. Viktorija will lead a wine class, this one focused on some big wines like Super Tuscans and Brunello. After lunch at the butcher’s you won’t have a big appetite, so we’ll have a lovely spread of Tuscan crostini for dinner.
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Light Dinner
Gothic Inspiration & Medieval Manhattan
Day 6: Thursday October 24
Today we will depart after breakfast, and drive to Siena, a UNESCO world heritage sight that exploded with art and architecture in the 13th century before the Black Death struck in 1348. We’ll commence our visit with an orientation walking tour by a knowledgeable and charming guide, that includes Siena’s Gothic cathedral, Duomo of Santa Maria Asunta, where the beautiful mosaic floors will blow you away. Enjoy time on your own to have lunch and explore Siena.
We’ll convene in the afternoon to head to our next stop: walled San Gimignano, often called Medieval Manhattan because of the skyline formed by the towers that date back to the 12th-century. Enjoy time for wandering, shopping, and some of Italy’s best gelato. After a full day, we’ll return to the villa and have a delectable, homey dinner prepared by a local Nonna and her daughter featuring lasagna and tiramisu!
Meals Breakfast, Dinner
La Dolce Vita
Day 7: Friday October 25
Enjoy a slow morning at the villa. We’ll have a casual lunch and then those who’d like may join Viktorija for a walk to the winery where we’ll convene this afternoon for a tasting at Azienda Agricola Fontodi. Fontodi is a certified organic estate that has been owned by the Manetti family since the 60’s. Our villa is part of the Fontodi estate and we’ll enjoy their wines all week. So let’s go to the source and learn about their winemaking and passion.
Tonight is our last hands-on cooking instruction and a fun evening is in store! Chef Alessio will teach us how to prepare a sophisticated, gourmet menu, perfect for entertaining friends and family. The menu includes zucchini flan with crispy zucchini flowers and parmesan cheese fondue; gnocchi with orange-scented duck ragout, and sage crusted veal. We’ll finish with a beautiful little chocolate cake and a toast to our week of culinary discoveries!
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Saturday October 26
Our wonderful time together has come to an end. Transportation to Florence will be organized this morning. Buon viaggio!
Who is Cook Like a Tuscan for and do I need culinary experience?
This tour is for any curious food enthusiast who would like to experience Tuscany through it’s food and wine traditions. No culinary experience is necessary, just a desire to spend time in a few Italian kitchens and a good appetite.
Tell me more about The Chopping Block.
The Chopping Block is a Chicago-based recreational cooking school, with locations in Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square. For 20 years, TCB has been on a mission to get the country to cook. TCB has partnered with Onward Travel to offer international culinary experiences. Cooking classes to inspire the home cook inspired the creation of Onward Travel so we jive with The Chopping Block. Viktorija Todorovska is a former wine educator at TCB and will lend her wine and culinary expertise to Cook Like a Tuscan.
How many people will be part of this experience?
This culinary immersion is limited to 12 travelers plus Peggi, Viktorija, and your Italian hosts. We are keeping the group small to make sure everyone has the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and learn by doing. Onward Travel’s culinary tours are always limited to small groups; it’s like a week long dinner party
I have a dietary restriction or preference, can this be accommodated?
Yes it should be fine but contact Molly to discuss. Cook Like a Tuscan is not ideal for someone with celiac disease. If in doubt, get in touch.
Will I have time to [fill in the blank]?
We’ve planned a full week of cooking and sightseeing but do want to make sure you check off whatever’s on your bucket list, including R&R. There are few chunks of downtime throughout the tour.
Can I join Cook Like a Tuscan as a solo traveler?
Absolutely! Our groups are usually made up of couples, friends, and solo travelers. The camaraderie and shared experience is one of the best parts of travel. Our travelers are usually from different parts of the country and all different ages, but the groups mesh and bond and have a lot of fun together. You are very welcome to come on your own and you’ll be in good company! You may select single occupancy or we’ll try to match you with a roommate.
What is included?
The itinerary details out the specifics but to make the most of your time and money, this tour is mostly all inclusive. You’ll have a few meals on your own but that is pretty much it. All activities, tastings, libations, gratuities, impromptu gelato, etc. are included. It is a lot of fun to have paid for your vacation in advance, you can really enjoy yourself.
What should I do about [insert phone / credit card / hair dryer]?
Before the tour we’ll provide you with a guide to answer all your questions about international travel: phone, money, packing list, etc! And of course we’re there along the way to assist.
Can I extend my stay?
Yes, that’s a great idea. Onward Travel is happy to help you make arrangements to extend your stay. We’ll assist you (for free), give you some sightseeing ideas, and make sure your logistics are sound. We suggest arriving early to enjoy a couple days in Florence. It’s a beautiful city with lots to see and do and you can ease into la dolce vita. See the “Don’t Miss Florence!” section.
I don’t like [insert activity / food / attraction], is that ok?
Totally—this is your vacation. We are very happy to accommodate you whether you’re dealing with a bad knee, not a fan of mushrooms, or really want to go cycling. Just let us know your request and we’ll do our best to make it happen. And if you want to skip an activity to relax or wander the shops, we won’t judge. We want you to enjoy your experience abroad on your terms.
Still have a few questions? Get in touch with Molly at Onward Travel at 845-293-2729 or email@example.com.
Begins: Saturday, October 19, 2019
Arrival transfer provided mid-morning from Florence Peretola Airport, Santa Maria Novella train station, or Hotel Pendini. Arrive in Florence by 10:30 AM.
Ends: Saturday, October 26, 2019
Departure transfer provided to Florence Peretola Airport or Santa Maria Novella train station. A 7am transfer from the villa will get travelers to the airport in time for international flights departing after 10am.
Mobility: This tour includes walking for 15-30 minutes at a time, plus stairs and cobblestones. If you have limited mobility, we can accommodate you, but it is essential to let us know at the time of registration. Travelers may always opt out of activities they deem too physically challenging but refunds will not be provided. The villa is located a 10-minute walk from the center of town, mostly uphill, and a few stairs are required to access the villa. Note the charming bathrooms have shower/tub combos.
Trip Length: 8 days, 7 nights
Lodging: This tour’s lodging is very special: a 17th century stone villa that is part of the Fontodi wine estate. The villa is on the edge of town, surrounded by vines and garden plantings, with a peaceful atmosphere and a swimming pool. There is a wood-burning fireplace, panoramic terraces, and a tennis court nearby.
Tour Dates & Price: October 19—October 26, 2019
Please note that air travel is not included and a current passport is required for travel to Italy. You are welcome to pay by credit card, please add a 3% surcharge.
The tour will start and end with transfers to/from the Florence Airport. Please confirm with Onward Travel that the tour is a “go” before booking non-refundable airfare. Contact Onward Travel for assistance. Onward Travel is happy to arrange transfers to Rome, Bologna, or other destinations at an additional cost, plus there are good train connections between Rome and Florence and Bologna and Florence.
Trip price includes the following:
Visit onwardtravel.co to complete the registration form and submit payment. Space is limited to only 12 travelers.
$1,250 deposit due upon booking, balance due by August 1, 2019.
Fall is a terrific shoulder season in Tuscany. Many of the crowds have disappeared and the agricultural harvest is in full swing (hello, olives!). The temperature varies – low of 50 °F and high of 65 °F – so layered clothing is best. It’s a fertile region, so expect both sunshine and some rain throughout the week. The fall temperatures pair brilliantly with the bold Tuscan red wines and wood burning fireplace at the villa.
MISCELLANEOUS TRAVEL INFO
"What an AWESOME company to travel with. Molly, our host and owner of the company was very organized. We were able to see much more of Florence and the Tuscany region than if we were to travel alone. The food was amazing, and the villa was outstanding. I would highly recommend using Onward Travel for any trip to any destination.
Molly's wonderful planning skills and warm personality made this not just an enjoyable week, but the opportunity to make new travel/foodie friends!
The week was a wonderful balance between learning about the food, wine, and history of Tuscany, hands-on cooking, meeting local chef celebrities, enjoying getting to know the others in the group, and just enough downtime to take in the views while savoring a glass of wine. The planning by Onward Travel that went into all of the details made for a smooth, effortless trip with enjoyable events all week. Thank you Molly and Viktorija!"
~Donna , Tuscany Tour 2018
"I enjoyed this trip immensely - thanks to Molly and Onward Travel for making my first trip to Italy a wonderful one!"
~ Susan, Tuscany Tour 2018
Contact Molly with questions or special requests at firstname.lastname@example.org or 845-293-2729.