Day 1: Florence/Colle Val D'Elsa. Meet in Florence late this morning to board a private coach and ride into the heart of Chianti to Colle Val d'Elsa. Here walk through the cobbled streets of the old town and have lunch on the terrace of the Michelin-starred Ristorante Arnolfo. The food here is an excellent marriage of regional and creative, the menu is imaginative and you will leave with a wonderful introduction to the local cuisine. After lunch continue on and arrive in the charming stone hamlet of Fonte de Medici on the wine estate of the illustrious Antinori family. Settle into your apartment, explore the grounds and maybe take a siesta. Dinner tonight is on the estate in the trattoria. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Panzano. This morning embrace the profound tradition of market day in nearby Panzano. Meet a local food connoisseur and travel though the array of burgeoning market stalls like a native. Shop in the world renowned “Macelleria”, the butcher shop of Dario Cecchini where his passion for meat is contagious, and visit a local Balsamic vinegar producer who will welcome you in his home for lunch. This afternoon head back to Fonte de Medici for an afternoon at leisure. This evening, your aperitivo will be a wine tasting with acclaimed food and wine expert Burton Anderson. Burton will explain the intricacies of oil and wine production, and then join us for dinner in a historic osteria. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Volpaia. After a leisurely breakfast transfer or hike 9km into the tiny Medieval village of Volpaia. Meet your host and owner of the Volpaia winery in her state-of-the-art kitchen overlooking the valley. Prepare some traditional Tuscan fare including delectable stuffed zucchini flowers and sample a selection of the estates wines, vinegars and olive oil over lunch under a sun-dappled pergola. Visit the wine and olive oil making facilities before leaving Volpaia, take some time to explore the charming town of Radda across the valley, and then head back to Fonte de Medici for an evening at leisure. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 4: Brolio/Siena. Begin the day with a visit to the magnificent 14thC Castello di Brolio now owned by the Baron Ricasoli. Explore the castle and its treasures before walking down the hill through the woods to the Osteria del Castello. Meet the exuberant chef Seamus, an Irishman who has lived most of his life in Tuscany and enjoy an open kitchen demonstration as he prepares lunch. Seamus is known for his creativity and passion for seasonal ingredients, and this meal will be a treat. After a feast on the sun lit terrace, continue into the magnificent medieval city of Siena. Take a guided walk through this enchanting centre and then explore on your own the rose-tinted alleyways, shops and museums. Take part in the Sienese custom of the Passegiata, the evening stroll through town to meet friends in the Piazza del Campo and pause for a glass of Prosecco in this breathtaking outdoor setting before choosing a local restaurant for dinner at leisure. After your meal, return to Fonte de Medici by coach. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 5: Podere le Rose. For the early risers in the group, this morning you have the option to ride in a hot air balloon over the lush Chianti hills. Get a spectacular birds-eye view of the region as the sun rises and the mist creeps off the treetops. Following breakfast, transfer a short distance to the Fattoria Corzano, where Antonia Ballarin produces some of the region’s finest cheese. Visit the farm and learn of the process for each of her exquisite products. Head down through Radda to the rustic farmhouse of the de Mari family. Here in a kitchen perched atop the valley you will prepare bruschetta over an open hearth, fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta and pumpkin and other tantalizing dishes that are typical in the homes of Chianti families. Test out the house wine over an indulgent lunch before transferring back to Fonte de Medici and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 6: San Gimignano Merket. Thursday is market day in San Gimignano and a great excuse to visit the imposing medieval city. Over breakfast, split into small groups and consult your new recipes in preparation for a friendly cook-off for tonight’s dinner. Each group is assigned a different course for this evening’s meal, and the challenge begins in San Gimignano with the selection of your fresh foods at the market. Drive west across the Val d’Elsa and meet your local guide at the town gate for a short walking tour before dispersing into the bustling market to shop for your key ingredients.
You may want to visit the local wine shops to pair and purchase wines for your dishes, or you can purchase your wine at the winery. Enjoy lunch in a local trattoria, make yourself a picnic with your market fare or grab a fresh panino at your leisure. On the way home climb a small scenic road into one of Chianti’s most exclusive wine estates, Isole e Olena and meet the owners and winemakers, Paolo and Marta de’ Marchi. Bask in their warm welcome as you sample their fine wines and explore their cellars, and if you are lucky you can sample also their exquisite olive oil. Later this afternoon, back at the Fonte de Medici head to the kitchen for the fun and festive preparation of tonight’s dinner. Buon Apetito! Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 7: Badia Coltibuono/Nozzole. After breakfast at the villa, transfer up to the forest of the Parco dei Cavriglia and hike 7km into the secluded Romanesque Abbey at Coltibuono. Visit this perfectly serene spot and if you feel like it have a taste of some of the family’s historic vintages. Here you can choose to eat in their fine restaurant under the delicately draped wisteria overlooking the Arno valley, or you may decide to head home for some quality time lounging at the pool on your last afternoon. Later on, drive a short distance up hill to the 17th century Villa Nozzole amidst the prestigious vines of the Folonari family. Here Giovanna Folonari, the pioneer of Tuscan cooking classes and author of two cookbooks, will be our most elegant hostess in a high-spirited cooking demonstration. Prepare her favourite family recipes fit for royalty and dine in style for our final night at Giovanna’s opulent table overlooking the hills. Accommodation: Fonte de Medici. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 8: Departure. After breakfast at transfer back to Florence and say goodbye to your guides and our week of Tuscan culinary adventures. Includes: (B).
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