Day 1 - Rome
Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Get a feel for this gastronomic gateway to Italian cuisine, with its multitude of restaurants and trattorias catering to all tastes and budgets. Our first stop on this food adventure is a Roman bar to enjoy an aperitivo. A tradition with its roots in 1980s Milan, these days aperitivo cullure is popular all over Italy. The aperitivo hour falls just before dinner - just enough time for a drink accompanied by stuzzichini (bite-size snacks). It's the perfect way to unwind after a day of travel, and to whet the appetite for bowl of pasta.
Day 2 - Rome
Start your first full day with a coffee, the most important drink in Rome. Then check out one of the city's oldest food markets, where pasta-making and other traditional culinary crafts are regularly on display. Chat to local stall holders and sample seasonal produce. The rest of the day is free for your own exploration. Check out some of the city's cultural icons, perhaps the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, The Vatican or the Pantheon. Or simply pull up a chair at a cafe and watch the world go by.
Day 3 - San Gimignano
Travel by train and taxi (approximately 3 hours) to the village of Pancole, located in the heart of Tuscany between Florence and Siena. The region is renowned for a cuisine that celebrates simplicity and the bounty of locally grown produce in hearty, rustic dishes. Pecorino cheese, farro (an ancient grain) and artisanal cured meats like lardo di Colonnata are just some of the many local ingredients you can expect to indulge in during your stay. Your accommodation is a traditional Tuscan farmhouse, located about 7kms from the enchanting village of San Gimignano. The farmhouse is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees from which the family has been producing excellent wine and olive oil by organic methods for over fifty years. Enjoy a guided walk through the vineyards and cellars of the estate, followed by a tasting of some signature Tuscan wines. The wine tasting will be accompanied by some delicious cheeses, oilve oil and bruschetta. This is a beautiful part of Italy, filled with hill towns, grape vines, wild herbs and olive groves.
Day 4 - San Gimignano
Take a walk (approximately 1.5 hours; 7 kilometres) along a portion of the Via Francigena, the major pilgrimage route to Rome during the Middle Ages. The walk is on easy terrain, although comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Explore the medieval walled town of San Gimignano. San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often called the 'Town of Fine Towers' due to the preservation of a number of impressive 'torre' or tower houses within its walls. The town is also known for its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the surrounding sandstone hillsides. Spend the rest of your time exploring the walking paths around the farm or, weather permitting, relaxing by the pool, enjoying beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside.
Day 5 - Bologna
Farewell your hosts after breakfast and travel to Bologna by train (approximately 3.5 hours). Bologna's culinary claim to fame is a significant one, thanks to the ragu alla bolognese. Home of tagliatelle, mortadella and a range of other cured meats and salamis, Bologna, along with the surrounding Emilia Romagna region, is a bonafide food mecca. On arrival, drop your bags at the hotel then get out and acquaint yourself with this city of beautiful old terracotta buildings and lively streets. Later in the day you'll discover the 'real food' of Bologna, with a hands on-cooking class in the fine art of pasta-making. Feast on your handiwork over dinner.
Day 6 - Bologna
Enjoy a day trip to discover the flavours of the renowned Emilia Romagna region. Visit a factory dedicated to the production of one of Italy's most coveted culinary exports – the mighty Parmigiano Reggiano. Get an insight into how this cheese is made, then enjoy a tasting. Continue to the town of Modena (approximately 1 hour) and visit an acetaia, a house where the family produce fine aged Modena balsamic vinegar in the attic. You'll see how the vinegar is aged in barrels made from different woods, and is never less than 12 years old (often well over 25). Taste it and learn the difference between the real stuff and the mass-produced kind. Savour another local specialty - prosciutto di parma - then take some time to stroll around this delightful town. Admire the Palazzo Ducale and, if you're still hungry, perhaps sample some of the town's other specialties: tortellini, or, for the adventurous, zampone (stuffed pig's trotter). Lambrusco, the town's famed sparkling red, makes for a fine accompaniment. Ask your leader about the great specialty panini shop in the market.
Day 7 - Venice
Take the train up to Venice (approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes). Venice's distinctive culinary heritage goes back to ancient times and features rich risottos, saline baccala (salted cod) and creamy polenta. You'll explore the narrow cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas and cross the tiny bridges to find shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings. Stroll past St Mark’s Square, the Campanile and the Doges Palace. Cross the Rialto and admire the Bridge of Sighs, then farewell this Real Food Adventure with the Venetian answer to tapas on a 'cicchetti' crawl through the city's fabulous bacari (wine bars). Snacking is an important pastime in Venice, with many people stopping for cicchetti (small bites) both before and after meals. Don't forget to try a 'spritz'. This mix of white wine, Campari or Aperol and soda water is a popular accompaniment to wash down the delicious cicchetti.
Day 8 - Venice
It's an early start today. Walk down to the canals and watch farmers unload their produce from canal boats, ready to be sold at Venice's famous Rialto markets. This tradition is more than 1,000 years old. Next, swing past the fish market, where the catch of the day might come direct from the Venetian lagoon, the enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea in which the city of Venice is situated. Finish with a market breakfast alongside the traders. Your adventure comes to an end by 11 am.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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