Californian’s Cooking School in Tuscany

Cooking school in Tuscany geared to Americans seeking culinary authenticity

The other day I wrote about my persnickety issues with Brio Tuscan Grille, an Ohio-based restaurant chain that promotes an image of Tuscany but is Tuscan mostly in name. Like many other Italian-style restaurants in this country, Brio serves food whose roots may be pan-Italian and whose dishes  toned down suit to middle American tastes. The food is better than, say, Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, but still, it doesn’t speak to the increasing number of Americans who desire authenticity.

 Travelers to Italy who want to wake up their taste buds  with the real thing can sign up for a day or a week at Il Campo/Cucina in Radicondoli, Italy, a walled medieval village just west of Sienna with fewer than 700 residents. It doesn’t take long to feel at home.

Radicondoli with vineyards just beyond the village walls. (Marlane Miriello photos)

Campo is the Italian word for field, and cucina is kitchen. Founder Marlane Miriello describes the school as “culinary immersion richly seasoned with local culture, customs and kitchen wisdom.” Classes include hands-on cookingwith local instructors whose recipes and skills are handed down from generation to generation, plus opportunities to visit village homes, gardens, vineyards and farms to learn heirloom recipes and family trades, and locals serve as instructors.

Making pasta from scratch comes naturally to locals and is a learned skill for visitors.

Classes may include such varied culinary experiences as lunch with a shepherd, dining with a count, learning how to make cheese from fresh sheep’s milk,cooking with a Michelin one-star chef or making pasta with a local farm wife. Il Campo/Cucina reveals the value of living in a community where everyone knows everyone else and relies on one another.

Sisterhood in the kitchen as visitors learns cooking secrets from a local woman whose recipes and skills have been passed down through generations.

Miriello, once a California stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, discovered Radicondoli. Her own journey to establishing a cooking school in Tuscany was rooted in memories of her Italian grandmother’s homemade noodles, light-as-air tiramisu and other specialties. A trip to Tuscany in 2009 was transformational for her — and the beneficiaries are anyone who longs to  to follow in her footsteps. With the  (slowly) rising profile of Slow Food as part of the growing movement toward healthier eating, organic produce and local food sourcing, Marlane’s own journey reflects changing attitudes about what we eat, where it comes from and how it is prepared.

Classes are offered in spring and fall. The cost is ($3,450 per person, double occupancy, $400 single room supplement), all-inclusive except air and airport transfer. Anyone booking before January 31 gets a $500 discount. It’s a pricy week, to be sure, but then again, even local cooking classes at Colorado cooking schools can cost anywhere from $50 or more for just a couple of hours.  Click here for images from last season’s classes.  

Il Campo/Cucina, 826 Orange Avenue, P.O. Box 541, Coronado, CA 92118; 858- 375-5757 or info@ilcampoitalia.com

8 thoughts on “Californian’s Cooking School in Tuscany”

  1. I was one of the lucky ones that was on the second advisory group last May. It was a wonderful, life changing trip. The village and the residents are now a part of my heart. The food and cooking were superb. I have never cooked better. Marlane, Giovanna, and all the wonderful families that took us into their homes and kitchens made the experience unforgetable. I highly recommend for anyone who loves cooking and wants a true Italian experience to book the trip. You’ll not regret it.

  2. I too was one of the lucky ones to attend the very first advisory group last May. And actually, that is a picture of me with Clizia who absolutely stole my heart in the kitchen. Attending Il Campo was such an intense and personal experience because not only are your lessons in private kitchens, you are being immersed in the beauty and history of this small Tuscan village. I would imagine that a commercial cooking school could be very impersonal. This is so personal! Marlane (San Diego) and Giovanna (Radicondoli) have made this a beautiful experience.

  3. What a terrific post on culinary school california! I honesty enjoyed reading it, and my own site is about Culinary School so I’m not just saying so lightly. Keep up the excellent work!

  4. My wife and I visited Radicondoli back in 2009 and I remember chatting with Giovanna back then in regards to how to make Radicondoli in my words “sexy” in which she laughed and probably thought I was crazy.

    These cooking classes that they have look to be wonderful and I hope one day my wife and I can go back in Radicondoli and be part of it.

    Everytime I think of a place that I would like to retire or move to, Radicondoli comes to mind. So peaceful, the people are so welcoming and you are in the heart of Tuscany.

    To all who have been there, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

    We miss you Giovanna and Umberto and Irma and hope to see you again soon.

    Luc, Jacquie and little Mila.

Comments are closed.