Autumn in Chianti tour


Pauline Leonard of Melbourne's 'Cooking The Italian Way' and noted chef Gary Cooper (the creator of Eleanor's Restaurant at Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley and now owner of Bella Vedere Restaurant) are leading a 10-day discovery of ancient food and wine traditions in Tuscany's tiny Chianti Classico region in October.

Sip chilled Prosecco overlooking the rooftops of Florence at sunset, stock up on sumptuous provisions next day at Florence's central market, then head off to a luxury villa at the 11th century Castello di Volpaia as well as taking part in hands-on cooking classes is the style of this 'Autumn in Chianti' tour, priced $6950 per person.

The price includes full escorting by Pauline Leonard and Gary Cooper, hotel (in Florence) and luxury villa accommodation, all local transport, five cooking classes, guided tours of ancient castles and hamlets, lunch and cocktails with local experts on food, wine and history, entrance fees and guided tours, all meals, including wine with lunches and dinners, food and wine tastings and  local guides and interpreters.

"I've been guiding groups to Italy since 2006, and love the Chianti Classico because of its exceptional beauty and the food that's quite distinct from the French-influenced northern Italy and the north African influences in southern Italy," Pauline says.

"There's a purity and simplicity about the food in this tiny region. The artisan techniques date back thousands of years  for example the Chianina cattle have been raised here for more than 2000 years - and the producers are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

"We stay at the ancient Castello di Volpaia because it's family owned and run, with historical cellars, outstanding wines and its own olive oil, vinegars and honey. In the piazza, there's a little cafe for early morning coffee or a glass of wine at sunset, and a couple of rustic but excellent restaurants overlooking the Chianti hills and valleys."

The matriarch of Castello di Volpaia, Giovanni Stianti, is renowned for her local cooking school, and will teach the group how to prepare a special 4-course Tuscan lunch that's served under a vine-covered pergola. She also cooks a special dinner for the group in her own home.


'Autumn in Chianti' runs from October 4-13, 2012, and October 10-19 next year. The tour begins and ends in Florence. Details and booking information...

The tour features:

-         Five hands-on cooking classes with Gary and local chefs in magnificent venues including the original kitchen of a 14th century castle.

-         Walks around markets full of artisan foods and local produce...porcini mushrooms, pecorino cheese, fragrant porcetta, hand-made pasta, prosciutto, salami, bread and Tuscany's Chianina beef from which the famous 'bistecca alla Fiorentina' (Florentine t-bone steak) is produced.

-         Discoveries including tiny cafes, enoteca and specialty producers hidden away in old cobblestone alleys.

-         Tastings of Chianti's classic Sangiovese and other wines in venues including a beautifully preserved 18th century village.

-         Aperitivo and dinner in a Siena cafe at the Piazza del Campo (site of the famous Palio horserace).

-         A guided tasting at an organic olive oil grove where the traditional stone wheel still grinds oil from the olives.

-         A wander through Pienza, a Renaissance village in the Val d'Orcia that's home to pecorino cheese and lined with wine and cheese shops.

-         Exclusive use of the luxury villa 'La Pozza' in the Castello di Volpaia, a family-owned castle and hamlet dating back to the 11th century.



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