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 email@example.com