By Charis Atlas Heelan
For me, every vacation is a culinary experience – the more exotic the location and the more diverse the food the better. The essence of travel is immersing yourself in the local culture, so indulging in its cuisine and delicacies is the perfect place to start. Okay, so I wasn’t too wild about trying guinea pig meat in Peru or even thinking about that morsel of raw horse meat in Japan, but I have had the distinct pleasure of savoring some of the most tantalizing dishes in the world in their places or origin.
If you live to eat, then a culinary vacation seems a sensible and delicious, albeit often pricey option. Most tours are land-only and run at several hundred dollars per day.
Cooking Vacations (tel. 617/247-4112; www.cooking-vacations.com) specializes in culinary trips in Italy featuring tours and classes in 12 different regions – each including the unique tastes and flavors of the area. Travel to Piedmont, the land of truffles and chocolate, for the "Six-nights at Palazzo Cuneo" vacation. Executive Chef Marc Lanteri invites you to experience the Piedmont’s unique food and wines as he offers his hands-on cooking classes at the prestigious Michelin Star restaurant property in Cuneo. This four star property is a 16th century noble palace, once the playground for the King of France Francis I and Pope Pio VII. Recently refurbished, it is now host to many cooking classes and wine tasting dinners! This complete culinary experience includes wine tastings, a one-hour wine lesson, featuring the wines of the Langhe area, an epicurean guided tour of Cuneo, and instruction on how to prepare several of Northern Italy’s specialty dishes. Included in the $2,625 price is six-nights accommodation, round trip transfers from Turin train station or airport, English speaking guide for excursions to places like Castello di Neive and an excursion to Monte Carlo and the Cote d’Azur, elaborate lunches and dinners daily (sometimes cooked by you) and personalized cooking classes as specified.
Another offer by Cooking Vacations is "Organic Cooking Vacation in Bologna," offering insight into the best produce and recipes of the Emilia Romagna region. Included in the $2,295 price is six-nights accommodation (based on double occupancy) at an estate near the Salvarola spas in the Sassuolo area, breakfast daily, round trip private transfer from Bologna airport, four cooking lessons (three hours each), four lunches or dinners following the class, a half-day guided tour of balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese producers, a half-day guided tour to Modena and the market, a half-day tour to a wine cellar near Bologna with tastings and a visit to Vignola Medieval Castle. Single supplement is $250. Both Cooking Vacations tours take place throughout the year.