From beautifully fresh produce fattened by the Mediterranean sun, to homestyle cooking so tantalising in its simplicity that it brings tears of joy to the eyes of even the most discerning foodie, it’s no surprise that Italy has a reputation for being one of the great gastronomic paradises. We’ve collected our favourite hotels that are more than happy to share the secrets of this extraordinary culinary heritage with you. Whether tasting truffles in Tuscany or sampling Sicilian sauces, these retreats will teach you the fine art of taking the very best ingredients and making them sing.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany, the 13th-century villa of Borgo Santo Pietro is set within a sprawling 200-acre estate that is almost entirely given over to an organic culinary garden. Almost everything in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant is sourced from the hotel’s own estate or the immediate local vicinity, and you’ll have a chance to better acquaint yourself with these extraordinary ingredients at one of Borgo Santo Pietro’s cookery classes. Classes include lessons on traditional Tuscan cooking, as well as bread and pizza masterclasses, but we particularly love the courses which really emphasise the importance of sourcing high quality produce, such as the cheesemaking course with the estate’s shepherd.
Located in coastal Taormina, and with heart-stopping views over the sparkling sea to Mount Etna, Hotel Villa Carlotta is the perfect base for a gastronomic tour of one of Italy’s best foodie destinations. Begin your day with a traditional Sicilian breakfast of granita in freshly-baked brioche, before embarking on a culinary journey at one of the hotel’s cookery classes. You’ll have the chance to cook everything local, traditional favourites, which could include the cheesy, bright-red traditional fare that is the grandfather of lip-smacking Italian-American cuisine, or sardines fresh from the ocean, reduced into a tantalising pasta sauce. You’ll end your lessons creating your own Sicilian sweet treats, a glass of smooth local dessert wine in hand.
Nestled in the countryside near picturesque Arezzo, Il Borro is both a bastion of good eating as well as a literal fortress with a history dating back over 700 years. In this characterful, evocative setting, guests can discover the region’s produce and add some favourite local dishes to their repertoire under the watchful eye of Chef Andrea Campani. If you’re travelling with the little ones, treat them to a lesson on how to make genuine pizza and delightful Tuscan biscuits. This foodie heaven doesn’t stop at cooking courses: from the cellar bursting with exceptional local wines to the regular truffle hunting expeditions, there’ll be more than enough to fill even the most demanding of plates.
The heart and soul of Italian rural cooking still resides in the humble agriturismo, and this 15-room family-run boutique hotel is one of the best. Situated just outside of Fasano, this charming farmhouse is located on a working farm, and surrounded by the famous Puglian ‘Ulivi Secolari’. Fill your arms with fresh fruit and vegetables, grab a bottle of the silky olive-oil produced on the estate, and head to one of the hotel’s cooking classes where you’ll learn how to put it all to good use. You’ll learn the art of delicious, simple cooking: with ingredients this good, why would you want to overcomplicate things? It’s worth nothing that lessons are only available in high season.
Set across a magnificent castle and a 17th-century hamlet, this 14-room boutique hotel has two impressive restaurants and an award-winning winery. The resident chefs will teach you how to create traditional dishes from the local produce, and you’ll also learn how to pair your creations with the estate wines. The hotel has an informative museum of wine, but your best bet is to sample a glass or two yourself on a winery tour of the local area.
Il Falconiere offers cooking classes run by Michelin-starred chef Silvia Baracchi, in the achingly beautiful surroundings of Cortona. Over three to six days you’ll learn how to take Tuscan’s finest produce and transform it into everything from fresh, golden pasta to mouthwatering main dishes. Some of the courses include visits to the estate’s extensive wine cellars, and at the end of each session you’ll have the chance to tuck into your culinary creations with a glass of something local.