Italy and food are synonymous. The Italians have given the world so much to be thankful for, Getaway
has saved the best until last.
Where better than in Tuscany, just an hour from Florence, to take lessons from the experts? After successfully running a resort in Mexico, host Matteo Murzilli returned to his native Italy and put his expertise to good use. Hotelito Lupaia, overlooking the ancient town of Montepulciano, offers accommodation, horse riding, bicycles, a pool and cooking school.
There are seven rooms, most with a fireplace and with garden or terrace, in three existing stone buildings and there are plans to expand. They have maintained original features as much as practicable. There are beamed ceilings and brick floors, and Senora Murzilli has a flair for decorating. Bold colours ranging from celestial blues, chartreuse greens, solar yellows and rusty reds have been mixed with hot oranges and work so well with every carefully chosen piece of furniture and objet d'art.
After breakfast in the garden, guests may help pick olives and grapes for making oil and wine. Cooking classes are for in-house guests and while they do have sample menus, they are flexible. They are held in a large, open kitchen and at the end, the class sits together to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Turin, at the confluence of the rivers Po and Dura, is a regal baroque city of wide boulevards, covered arcades, grand buildings and palatial coffee houses. It is known for producing cars, vermouth, coffee and chocolate.
Turin was the birthplace of solid chocolate as opposed to drinking chocolate. It was created in the 18th century using a machine invented by Senor Doret, a man the world has much to be thankful for.
So intertwined are chocolate and Turin, each year the city hosts a two-week chocolate festival. For interested chocoholics, next year's Cioccola To will be held from March 1.
For around $25 you can purchase a Chocopass from the tourism office in Turin. That allows you to have 23 chocolate tastings from selected retailers around the city. If by some chance that's too much for you, you can share the pass. Mind you, it covers pralines, cakes, biscuits, ice-cream and hot chocolate from some of the best cafes and patisseries in town.
Naples, in southern Italy, is the capital of the Campania region. It is known for a rich history, art, culture and gastronomy. It could be best known for inventing the pizza. The dish with humble beginnings as peasant food has certainly taken the world by storm, but purists say Naples is still the only place to get a real
pizza, and as they have been dishing them up since 1780, they should know.
The origins go back even further. Cooking bread and toppings at the same time may have begun in Egypt, Babylon and Palestine. Soldiers of the Roman Empire liked the idea, took it home and made what they called picea. Once tomatoes were discovered in Mexico and Peru, they were taken to Italy where they grew in profusion and were used on their piceas. Mozzarella, made from the milk of water buffaloes in Asia was imported and added.
During the 18th century small boys walked around the streets with a small metal oven on their heads selling fresh, hot piceas.
The Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana (the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza) insists that the pizza be cooked on the floor of the oven (often made of volcanic stone), not on a pan, with oven temperatures of 400°C to 430°C. At these temperatures, a pizza cooks in three or four minutes.
Antica Pizzeria Brandi is where the Margherita was invented in 1889 in honour of Queen Margherita di Savoia, queen of the less than 30-year-old unified Italy. Brandi still makes wonderful pizza, and waiters rush it to the upstairs restaurant via a narrow staircase to hungry customers. Topping variations are endless but whatever you choose you know you are receiving the real thing!
Tuscany, Turin and Naples.
Hotelito Lupaia two-and-a-half-hour cooking classes are $350. Book through CIT Holidays.
CIT Holidays has hotels in Naples starting at $96 per person twin share.
Emirates has flights to Milan, Rome and Venice.
- Perth $2795
- Melbourne $2823
- Brisbane $2833
- Sydney $2841
- Adelaide $3464
Prices correct at August 28, 2008.
For further information
53049-Torrita di Siena (SI)
Ph: +39 0577 668028
Level 2, 263 Clarence Street
Ph: (02) 9267 1255
Fax: (02) 9261 4664
Antica Pizzeria Brandi
Salita Sant' Anna di Palazzo
Angolo via Chiaia 2
Ph: +39 081 416 928
Ph: 1300 303 777
Italian Government Tourist Office
Level 4, 46 Market Street
Ph: (02) 9262 1666
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.