Nestled high within the Apennine Mountains lies the enchanting medieval town of Barga, home to Beatrice’s unique Tuscan cooking classes. Take a step back in time as you make your way down the Villa’s captivating and majestic garden path and through the century-old grand doorway. Beatrice and her team of chefs are waiting to take you on an unforgettable culinary adventure where you will learn the ancient secrets and methods of Italy’s most humble cuisine.
Lucca Cooking Classes
It’s often pointed out that Tuscan cooking has its roots in cucina povera – peasant cooking. It’s certainly true that Tuscan dishes are both modest and elegantly flavored, but it is also true that the art of good food cultivation, preparation, cooking and most importantly, eating (naturally with the company of a good wine) is a central theme in local dialogues and remains to this day an unwavering, valued and integral part of Barga life. A trip to the Family Farm run by Guido, Beatrice’s father will allow you to witness first-hand the care and skills which are invested into the territory by the local farmers.
At the farm, you will also meet some other members of Beatrice’s extended family: Giove and his two lovely ladies Giunone and Tepepa – the farm’s cock and hens. Here learn to recognize the differences between home-eggs and store-bought eggs, and later how to use these fresh eggs in specialities like sformato, and torta di mele, apple cake, naturally with the home-grown apples.
During your cooking classes, learn traditional dishes, such as bruschetta – with tomato, crostini -with vegetarian and/or paté, panzanella, soups of local spelt and beans, home-made pasta and ravioli with exquisite fresh sauces, and desserts made with local ricotta cheese or freshly picked fruit to name but a few.
Each class will be followed by lunch or dinner where participants eat and enjoy the foods prepared in class accompanied by a bottle of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and ending always with Vin Santo and side bar Cantucci for dipping, that we keep in our cellar.
Check in to the exquisite family-run Villa, located in the quaint and picturesque Tuscan town of Barga, high in the Apennine Mountains, close to the city of Lucca. The Villa was built in 1924, a time in which Art Nouveau characterized art and architectural design throughout Europe. The Villa was built Castelvecchi family . After years of working in Scotland, they returned to their native town of Barga to create the magnificent holiday home.
The Villa is situated in Barga’s giardino, a stone’s throw away from the historic center. Guests have both dramatic mountainous scenery on one side of the Villa, and a direct view of the beautiful medieval ‘old-town’ of Barga on the other: the perfect setting for an inspirational cooking course.
The antique furniture, glass chip mosaic floors, Murano glass lamps, hand-woven carpets from Florence, wrought iron banisters, and artwork by the Barga-born painter Bruno Cordati form every detail of the Villa. The same style and sophistication that is in the hotel’s common areas is also found in the bright and spacious guest bedrooms. The Villa has a total of 12 luxurious bedrooms, all decorated with early 20th century, traditional Tuscan furniture and equipped with every modern comfort, from Satellite television to wireless Internet. A number of bedrooms are connecting and, on request, can accommodate families and groups of different sizes. At the Villa, a continental breakfast buffet is served each morning, which includes café-Americano, cappuccino, espresso, fresh fruit salad, cheeses & meats, fresh local pastries and much more.
If you wish to enjoy your free time for simple indulgence and relaxation, why not stay in Barga, soaking up the town’s charm and taking advantage of the luxuries the Villa has to offer. After kick starting the day with a lavish home cooked breakfast, guests can relax in the reading room, unwind in the hotel bar, or sit back and enjoy an Italian coffee or alcoholic beverage on the large, shaded terrace overlooking the garden and hydro-massage swimming pool.
A grand and scenic hydro-massage swimming pool tucked within the privacy of the Villa’s extensive gardens offers the perfect opportunity for guests to unwind and take in some of the Tuscan Sun while a bar service is always available. Just a short five-minute walk from the Hotel guests can enjoy all that is on offer in Barga’s Old Town.
The Town Of Barga
Barga is home to a vast music, food and art culture, and throughout the year hosts many events, shows, exhibitions and food and wine tastings such as La Sagra di Porchetta – Roast Pork Festival, and the Festa di Cioccolato – Chocolate festival in December. During the summer from June through to September, enjoy any one of the many music festivals in Barga such as Opera Barga, Barga Jazz, and Festa di Centro Storico during which live music can almost always be heard and enjoyed in the town’s open piazzas. A stunning antique market is also set up in Barga’s Old town on the first Sunday of each month.
Like most gastronomic traditions in Italy, Tuscan menu choices are determined seasonally which allows the delicious local menu choices to vary all throughout the year, and offer the freshest of produce available, from the wild berries and plum tomatoes in summer, to mushrooms and chestnuts in winter. Some of these local products used by Beatrice in her cooking classes are, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, olive oil, polenta, spelt and of course, local wines and cheeses.
Chestnuts & Mushrooms
Autumn in Tuscany brings many changes to the landscape and the lifestyle. The bright and deep greens turn to the warmer yellows and browns of falling leaves. Soon many forests will be left bare awaiting the first snowfall. Autumn is still warm, and the daytime temperature is perfect for a walk in nature, especially if you head towards the chestnut woods. The beauty of these tall trees and the color of their fruits make for a splendid stroll. This is the chestnut season in Tuscany, which means you will be able to make and taste all kinds of chestnut specialties, such as chestnut-flour pasta and castagnaccio and learn of the long tradition that ties this area to the versatile fruit which was a staple for the people living here during times of struggle and poverty.
Depending on the summer rainfall, this area’s mushroom season can begins in August and lasts through to the end of October. Guests can go mushroom-picking in the forest to pick their own porcini, or simply await the arrival of the brimming baskets which local mushroom-pickers bring back daily.
Use your free time to explore other areas of the Garfagnana like the town of Castelnuovo, which runs its local market every Thursday morning. The Garfagnana’s own nature and wildlife park Orechiella is also a must see, and guests can spend the whole day there. You can dine either in their charming restaurant or pack your lunch and find a secluded area for a picnic.
The zone of La Garfagnana is known for its mushrooms, including the rare prugnoli primaverili, chestnuts and spelt, as well as meat roasts. Barga is known for its black and white truffles, and depending on what time of year you come, you may be able to find some of these wild delicacies.
Lucca, Pisa, Florence and the Cinque Terre are all easy to reach by train and car. Beatrice provides maps and brochures containing information on places to visit and activities available in the area such as hiking, horseback riding, golf, tennis and of course, wine and food tastings. Staff are always available to offer help and advice on possible day trips, and can provide daily travel timetables for public services and/or book taxis.
Lucca & The Finest Italian Olive Oils
Lucca was the home of Giacomo Puccini and Leonardo da Vinci, so for the art and opera lovers this walled medieval town is worth a visit. There are regular Puccini Opera Concerts (sometimes with free entry), grand piazzas to explore, restaurants to try, and tourists can rent bikes and ride through the beautiful cobblestone city or around the city’s impressive walls which date back to the 16th Century.
Since ancient time, olive-growing has characterised the province of Lucca. In fact around the mid-15th century olive oil was defined as “necessary for man’s well-being.” ?Lucca’s olive oil is so famous throughout the world that the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Lucca Oil”: superior quality of olive oil,” thus giving it an esteemed position among the highest quality olive oils of the world – on a par with Cognac and Champagne. Tastings can be arranged.
Itinerary: 5 Days, 4 Nights
Day 1: Benvenuto & Welcome Dinner
- Check in to your luxurious hotel room, relax and meet your hosts.
- Welcome Dinner in the Villa’s beautiful dining room or on the terrace by the pool. Guests will taste some delicious examples of local cuisine and be treated to 2 complementary bottles of the property’s prized Lucchesi wine, and as is the nature of the social practices of the Tuscan Table, get to know the hosts in a relaxed and informal setting.
- After dinner, you can enjoy a sip of local Vin Santo as you discuss the itinerary of the week. The Villa is dedicated to making guests feel as relaxed as possible, Beatrice organizes your itinerary with you when you arrive, according your individual needs and desires for your trip.
Day 2: Shop With The Chef & Cooking Class 1
- Breakfast is served.
- 1 hour Tour of Barga with guide and coffee stop at one of the old town’s artisan cafés.
- ‘Shop With The Chef’ market visit to learn about fruits and vegetables in season and pick fresh produce for the day’s lesson.
Return to the Villa for your Introduction and brief history of Italian and local cuisine.
- Cooking Class 1 begins! You will prepare two dishes: an antipasto and primo (first course), and learn typical garnishes for each plate.
- Lunch in the villa or on the villa’s spacious terrace of the foods prepared in class. (Wine can be chosen from our extensive selection in the cellar).
- The rest of the afternoon is free to spend as you wish. Suggestions provided.
Day 3: Free Day ~ Suggestion: Visit Lucca Or Reserve A Tasting At The Villa
- Breakfast is served
- Use your day to visit the city of Lucca and perhaps take in a Puccini Opera Concert. Visit the fantastic ‘Grotta del Vento’, make your way to Forte dei Marmi beach or simply kick back and relax at the Villa’s pool
- Olive Oil and Wine tastings can be booked for you in Lucca.
Alternatively, book a Tasting at the Villa including a tour of the Cantina, the most important room of the Tuscan home. Emma provides you with a step-by-step introduction to some of the finest cheeses, cured meats and wines available in Tuscany.
Day 4: Cooking Class 2
- Breakfast is served.
- In the morning, shop with Chef’ at Barga’s local produce market to buy fresh ingredients for the afternoon’s cooking class.
- Lunch time is free, and hotel staff are happy to book tables at local restaurants so you can taste some different varieties of the area’s main dishes.
- Aprons on at 2pm for the Cooking Class 2 where you will prepare two dishes: a secondo, main dish, and contorno, side dish, whether it be meat, fish or vegetarian. Informal discussion included on garnishing and traditional presentation. Your hands-on cooking class will help work up an appetite for your evening meal!
- Dinner on the terrace: You are invited to a relaxed, sit-down dinner in the evening where you can taste delicious second courses as well as your own. Discussion on wine pairings of local wines to accompany the dishes you have made, whether it be a full bodied, dry Chianti or a light and fruity Montepulciano.
Day 5: Arrivederci!
• Breakfast is served.
• Check Out, goodbyes and Bea’s Goodbye Gift!
• Arrivederci and have a safe journey!
- 5 days, 4 nights, based on 2 guests.
- Daily continental breakfast and maid service.
- Welcome dinner with 2 Complimentary bottles of the property’s Lucchesi wine.
- 2 Cooking Classes followed by lunch or dinner on the foods prepared in class (Wine and beverages not included – choose from an extensive selection in the cellar).
- 1 hour Guided Tour of Barga with coffee stop.
- Shop with the Chef 2 mornings before class at the local marketplace and be introduced to seasonal ingredients.
- Transfers from Barga – Gallicano train station on arrival and departure.
- Cooking Vacations welcome bag with chef’s apron, Prosecco toast and recipe booklet.
$ 1,795 per person, based on 2 guests.
For Single Guests: If you are traveling on your own, please call us for the best group price. We are happy to welcome you into an already scheduled group.
2022 Dates: This program is offered 12 months per year and by request. Rates are subject to change based on currency exchange. Call for updated rates. Airfare not included. Group transfers for any cooking tour or tours that include transfers, are for the group and are not private. Transfers before, after or to another destination outside of your cooking tour are not included in the program price. If you would like to add on a private transfer or transfers, let us know and we will send you pricing.
Special Cooking Courses:
Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter Menus
Leading up to everyone’s favorite time of year, Christmas, where most people like to live by the philosophy of ‘eat, drink and be merry’, the Villa offers special cooking courses of either 4 days or a week, which focus on how to cook a traditional Italian Christmas Menu so you can spice up your season’s festivities at home.
Christmas Menu Sample
• Antipasto (bruschetta, crostini alla Toscana, prosciutto)
• Tortellini in Brodo (stuffed pasta in homemade broth) or Lasagne
• Bollito & Salsa Verde (Beef with green sauce)
• Arista (Roast meat)
• Sformato, insalata, Patate Arroste (Pie, Salad & Roast Potatoes)
• Panforte or Panettone (Traditonal Tuscan Dessert)
• Vin Santo
We also provide cooking classes to celebrate San Valentino, Valentine’s Day. Couples tie on their aprons to learn to a special Valentine’s menu in the land of love. Enjoy a romantic lunch or dinner following, just for the two of you.
Easter Menu classes are also offered: this is the time of year for the Garfagnana’s celebrated dessert Pasimata, a type of sweetbread made with aniseed and currants.