Authentic all inclusive Italy vacations with Culture Discovery
People love to travel. As someone once said, “traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. But travelling to a foreign country and completely immersing yourself in its culture is NOT something that happens very often. There’s always something that keeps you from being able to do so–whether it’s a habit, like what and when you eat, or simply the language barrier. Plus, if you visit a country like Italy, it may be hard to experience the real Italian lifestyle if you don’t actually know Italians. That’s where Culture Discovery comes in, offering the answer to all your problems. Culture Discovery offers authentic all inclusive food, wine and cooking vacations in Italy. Forget your daily routine, you’re going to live like a true Italian for the duration of your trip to Italy.
When I was contacted by Sam (CFO of CDV and husband of Alyssa, daughter of founders Michael and Paola) to see if I could visit one of their locations, I thought it could be a great opportunity. After all, showing people how amazing Italy is is a mission we had in common. After one day spent with Culture Discovery, they completely exceeded my expectations. So much so that I came back for the olive harvest (with my sister Giulia)!
How do they do it?
Unlike many food, wine and tour companies that offer cooking vacations in Italy, Culture Discovery is completely family run. Each member of the team is either family or a close friend. The whole concept started from Los Angeles native Michael and Italian born and bred Paola, a married couple who decided to offer authentic tours and cooking vacations in Italy. As the company expanded, they included all their family members, their daughter Alyssa and her husband Sam, Paola’s sister Carla, and friends Rocky and Daniele to help them run it. Their core mission? Showing the authentic Italy (not the Italy you see in tour guides).
As Paola comes from Soriano nel Cimino, a small town in the Lazio region bordering Umbria and Tuscany, her family has many Italian friends. Some that own wineries or olive mills, some that are restaurant owners, and others that have stunning villas, to name a few. They decided to bring all these friends together to create amazing experiences that allow their clients to live Italy in an authentic way, with Italians and with Italian traditions. Culture Discovery’s clients aren’t just clients, they’re guests, they’re family.
Their Soriano nel Cimino Location
As I was saying, Paola and Carla are from Soriano nel Cimino in the Lazio region. They have an amazing villa where they always host friends and family. Now, their villa has become their base for cooking classes, lunches and dinners for Culture Discovery. The villa itself is spectacular. Recently renovated, it has a cozy kitchen with the aromas of an Italian home. Step inside and the pots are cooking, the pans are on the stoves and pasta is being made fresh on the spot. Stacks of wine couldn’t be missing either, along with Italian music floating in the background.
The outdoor space is breathtaking. There is a beautiful veranda overlooking the countryside with a giant wood fire oven, a lovely table for meals and charming wrought iron chairs. It’s the perfect space to enjoy an Italian meal with spectacular food, company and views!
Cooking vacations in Italy
When I came to visit their Soriano location in October, the day started at the main bar of the piazza where we first enjoyed a delicious Italian breakfast. Afterwards, Carla’s brother Sergio came to pick us up with Culture Discovery’s private bus. We were headed to the Soriano villa, where we’d take our first cooking class of the week! The menu included bruschettas, homemade pappardelle with ragu, porchetta and a refreshing salad with radishes, oranges and nuts. And to end in perfection, panna cotta! With Carla at the helm, we learned to make all these things from scratch! The quality of the ingredients is top-notch, the food was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We enjoyed our lunch out in the veranda, with many bottles of wine, great food and great people. The group was wonderful and they got along great. People were mostly from Canada or the United States, such lovely people, easy to talk to, I even exchanged contacts with a few of them! But that’s not it, we also learned to make pecorino cheese and ricotta at the villa!
Learn to make cheese in Italy
Antonio, one of the family’s friends from Sardinia, has been a cheese-maker since he was a teenager. We spent a couple of hours with him learning the art of cheese-making. As an Italian, I had never experienced this! It was really a remarkable experience, and Antonio is such a genuine and good-hearted person, it was a pleasure meeting him. We started off with the pecorino, which we then placed in the baskets. And then moved on with the ricotta, which we then ate warm (had never tried that either) with honey. As Antonio only speaks Italian, we had the lovely Ilaria translate for us.
The olive harvest in Italy
The second time I spent the day with Culture Discovery I brought my sister Giulia along. We met with the group in Soriano and then headed off to Castiglione in Teverina for the olive harvest. Again, I had never done an olive harvest in my life (starting to feel like I’ve never done anything…) and it was one of the coolest experiences ever. We went to the olive mill and winery of Serena, a friend of CDV, where she and her brother have a small olive oil and wine production (and also process olive oil for other small producers).
Serena greeted us and explained what we were going to do. We headed off to the fields filled with olive trees and vineyards, put on our black gloves, hats and started using our rakes to pull the olives away from the branches. Before doing that, we had to lay down a net under the trees, so the olives would fall on it. After around one hour, Rocky and Serena came with some fresh focaccia and wine bottles of the winery’s vermentino. What an amazing break! We then placed the olive in the baskets that were taken to the olive oil mill to get processed! In the meantime, Serena took us through the whole olive mill process, explaining the variations between extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and olive oil (what sets them apart is the acidity levels, which depends on the heat the olives are subject to and when they are harvested–that’s why olive picking is done in autumn when the olives are green, in December they become black and acidity increases).
After learning the whole olive oil process, we were taken into the stunning underground winery where we had an olive oil tasting and wine tasting with the different wines they produce. It was a stellar experience. We then enjoyed lunch out in the open, had wine, ate cured meats and cheeses and local specialties. One by one, we then went into the olive mill where Serena’s brother filled up our bottles with the olive oil from the olives we picked that very same day! I use it all the time to season my dishes!
Exploring the nearby towns
Of course, in addition to the wine and food experiences around Italy, Culture Discovery also plans excursions to see nearby towns. For the Soriano cooking vacation, this includes the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Assisi in Umbria, as well as Orvieto. The first time I went, we spent the day cooking in the villa and in late afternoon we went to visit the beautiful Medieval town of Viterbo. What a gem!
Di I mention Culture Discovery organizes authentic all inclusive vacations in Italy?
Culture Discovery offers all inclusive cooking vacations in Italy. Where’s the catch? There isn’t one! Apart from your flight and transportation to reach the location you have chosen, Culture Discovery thinks of everything. Each excursion, lunch, dinner, wine-tasting and experience is already paid for, drinks and wine, too! Even the coffee you get at the local bar is included in the price. Unless you plan on doing some shopping, you won’t ever have to grab your wallet!
Where does Culture Discovery organize its wine, food and cooking vacations in Italy?
You can explore pretty much all of Italy with Culture Discovery. They have a variety of food and wine tours in different locations in Italy, and the vacations usually run one week. Of course, depending on the season the locations change. During autumn, their wine, cooking and olive oil harvest in Soriano vacation is a must! They also have vacations in Tuscany, Umbria, Bologna, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. Not sure which one to choose? Have a look at their Italy vacation program to find the one that suits you best! If you choose to go with them, you’ll 100% have an amazing time.