Introduction to Italy’s Food Culture: Gastronomic Vacation

Vineyard in Tuscany, Italy
A 12 day trip to Italy 
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Your custom-tailored food tour of Italy provides insight into the importance and diversity of the gastronomy of the Italian peninsula, immersing you in the luxury of culinary excellence, authenticity of regional cuisine, and splendor of traditional culture. From the canals of Venice to the maritime cliffs of the Amalfi Coast and the charming hills of Tuscany to the dramatic walls of Rome’s Colosseum, you will travel between illustrious cities and across the enchanting countryside. You will also transform cuisine into artistic pleasures, which derive from a black truffle pasta that is coated with guanciale wine that also emits aromas of sweet tobacco and gelato, erupting with fresh strawberries.

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Freshly made Italian pizza with eggplant, tomato and basil | Salad and garlic bread in the background
The city of Atrani, Italy on a hillside on the Amalfi Coast
View of the Sorrento coastline in Italy
Bunches of purple grapes in an Italian vineyard
Dog helping his owner sniff out and find truffles in Italy
View from Villa Rufolo of the Amalfi Coast, Italy and the Mediterranean Sea
Pile of shrimp in an Italian market
View of St. Peter's Square from St. Peter's Basilica of Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Old Pompeii ruins surrounded by green vegetation | Rome, Italy
View of the streets of Trastevere, Rome, Italy
View of the Mediterranean Sea from a terrace in Sorento, Italy during sunset
Assortment of fresh vegetables in a Florence, Italy market
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Venice, Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Sorrento

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Venice – Arrive in Charming Venice with a Tour of the Grand Canal

The gorgeous city of Venice rises out of the lagoon with elegant marble palaces and arching bridges, which connect approximately 118 islands that shape the greater city. Gondolas and vaporetti glide down the Grand Canal beneath the fascinating views of the domes of St. Mark’s Cathedral and the captivating cupola of Santa Maria della Salute. Your private transfer will meet you at Marco Polo Airport where you will continue to the shores of the Grand Canal and board a boat to begin your captivating tour along the renowned, two-mile waterway.

The splendor of Venice derives from the preserved grandeur, which reflects on the wealth and cosmopolitan culture that was brought from centuries of trade, peaking in the High Renaissance. You will easily notice the golden shine of the weathervane that tops St. Mark’s Campanile at 320 feet tall. As you float down the canal, your guide will point out the incredible wooden plinths that support the walkways and structures that line the banks with Santa Maria della Salute. The structure was built in gratitude at the end of the plague and stands on more than a million timber plinths that support the weight of this massive, Baroque dome. The interior smells of frankincense and possesses the marvelous Marriage at Cana by Tintoretto.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Venice – Delight in a Half-Day Food Tour of Venetian Cuisine

In the morning, the Rialto Market will brim with locals who are eager to find fresh produce and seafood. The vendors call out to passersby amid the aromas of fresh eggplants and ripe persimmons. Your private guide will meet you in the hotel lobby and lead you through the magnificent marketplace that highlights the preserved culture of food in the city, dating back to the 11th century. As you explore the cityscape with your guide, you will visit the stunning landmarks of St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Doge’s Palace.

You can venture into the depths of the grand complex for insight into the power and prestige of the Venetian Republic that is reflected in the Hall of the Great Council, which is a harmonious room that reaches 177 feet long by 82 feet wide and can accommodate up to 1,800 people. Paradise by Tintoretto drapes the wall behind where the Doge and the highest officials sat, creating an astounding feature that is only matched by the panels on the ceiling, which were painted by Veronese.

You will continue to through the neighborhoods of Venice, which are often overlooked by visitors and will immerse you in the traditional cuisine of the city known as cicchetti. The aromas of salted cod and fresh fish will linger in the doorways of bacari, which are local bars that are known for serving the small plates alongside delicious cocktails. Your guide will introduce you to the marvelous flavors of customary dishes that range from freshly toasted bread that is topped with Italian goat cheese, berry compote, and fried anchovies.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Florence – Enjoy a Prosciutto Farm Visit before Exploring Florence

In the morning, the aromas of frothy cappuccino and a traditional tart will fill the streets, deriving from the bakeries, neighborhood bars, and cafes that are scattered along the cobbled lanes. You will meet your private transfer in your hotel lobby and travel south toward Florence and the iconic rolling hills of Tuscany. Before reaching the splendor of the famous countryside, you will stop in the Emilia Romagna region at a farm that rests in the hills around Parma near the Baganza valleys. The cured meat is a staple of many regions in Italy and is enjoyed around the world.

Your guide will explain the tradition and culture that surround prosciutto before they explain the process that is shaped by the elements along the Po River. You will traverse the villa where you can enjoy the scent of pine as it drifts from the surrounding trees. After learning about the process for making and aging prosciutto, which must cure for at least 400 days, your guide will provide a sample of the fresh meat. By cutting away a fresh piece and filling the air with a familiar aroma of bacon, it will give way to a dry, scintillating flavor that will melt in your mouth.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Florence – Discover the Enchanting Art and Culture of Florence

The aroma of freshly baked pastries will fill the cobblestone streets of Florence in the morning, stemming from the bakeries that are hidden around the city center and providing delicious cronetti that are stuffed with Nutella. Vendors in San Lorenzo Market open their doors to showcase coats and purses, which are complete with the strong scent of leather that can overtake the fragrance of espresso, baked goods, and simmering pastas sauces. After breakfast, your guide will greet you in your hotel lobby and escort you on a captivating tour of Florence’s renowned culture, beginning with the bustling aisles that wind through the Central Market. The produce section will fill with the aroma of artichokes in winter and with juicy blackberries and peaches in summer.

Cheesemongers, butchers, and bakers display their delicious goods in cases and offer samples to passersby. These artisans represent the customary flavors of the city and greater region, ranging from briny olives to the protected Pecorino Toscano DOP cheese, which is a sheep’s cheese with a soft or semi-firm consistency and delightful herbaceous flavor. After discovering the savory delights of the city, your guide will lead you into the Uffizi Gallery for an incredible tour of the celebrated artwork that is on display, which captures the evolution of Tuscany’s artistic aesthetic from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Here you can see works by Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Botticelli, such as The Birth of Venus, which is an enchanting painting that depicts the goddess of beauty and love.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Tuscany – Indulge in White Truffles and Traditions of Medieval Tuscany

The friendly and enchanting bustle of Florence’s cobblestone streets will return in the morning as the sunlight washes over the impressive brick dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Your private transfer will greet you in the hotel lobby after breakfast and escort you into the charming Tuscan countryside, taking you from the Renaissance art and palaces of Florence to rows of cypress trees, blanketing vineyards, and herbaceous olive groves.

You will indulge in the fascinating history of truffle hunting in the region, where you will learn about the customs that have been carried through history. You will follow your guide through the forests of the province outside of San Miniato in search of the “Golden Mushroom,” which is the white truffle that is famous for its intense flavor and elusive nature.

The dogs will run through the woodlands, sniffing the ground before honing in on the strong, earthy aroma that penetrates the scents of oak and chestnut. Your guide will know when the dogs have found a truffle because the dogs will bark and pound the soil. You can hold the truffle in your hand, and later, you will enjoy the seductive qualities of the pungent, earthy flavor it has when it is shaved over a simple taglioilini pasta and complete with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Tuscany – Sample the Delicious Wines of the Tuscan Wine Region

The Tuscan hills will shine with an emerald hue in the morning as the sunlight washes over the landscape that is decorated with vineyards, olive groves, and oak trees. After a delicious breakfast that is filled with the aromas of espresso and homemade berry jams, your guide will greet you at the hotel. They will be eager to introduce you to the famous wines of Tuscany with a tour of Montalcino. The classic medieval town, which is located south of Siena, retains a fairytale ambiance that is set beneath a dramatic castle that is perched on top of a hill. The cobbled lanes and tranquil architecture have changed little since the 16th century with panoramic views that open to fields of yellow and red flowers, oak forest, and picturesque olive orchards.

You will visit a selection of vineyards in the area that is immersed in the charm of Tuscany. You will follow your guide through the vines as you note the aroma of bittersweet grapes and arid soil. As you sample the wine in the tasting room, you will be surrounded by the traditional aging barrels and will notice the aromas of wood, berries, and vanilla with hints of fig, sweet tobacco, and espresso.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Rome – Search for Elusive Black Truffles in Umbria en route to Rome

Your private transfer will escort you over the border and into the region of Umbria whose rolling hills resemble those of Tuscany but are often overlooked for the more famous landscape of its neighbor. You will travel along the tranquil landscape that is filled with vineyards, chestnut trees, and medieval towns until reaching the charming timeless streets of Pettino. The village created a constitution in the 15th century that stated the importance of land use and management along the edges of the Apennine Mountains.

Antique stone buildings overlook the plowed fields and small piazzas where the traditions of Italian life continue. Your guide will lead you through the beauty of town before venturing into the countryside where you can find foraging wild boar, roebuck deer, pheasant, and partridges while searching for the delicious black truffle. The dogs chase through the trees as you hunt for the elusive treasured flavor that grows along the roots of beech and oak trees. The decadent ingredient thrives in the moisture of the valleys beneath the soaring peaks of the neighboring mountain range.

You can enjoy the impressive view over the Spoleto Valley and enjoy the subtle aromas of strawberries and cocoa that fill the woodlands. After finding the hidden and treasured black truffle, you will return to your lodge with your guide for a delicious meal. Your meal will highlight the flavors of the local cuisine and reasons for the truffle’s celebrated presence in regional and international dishes.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Rome – Traverse Ancient Rome and Take Pleasure in a Cooking Class

The marvels of Ancient Rome have captivated visitors during the height of their empire, and for thousands of years following its fall, have inspired masterful architecture and art around the world. You will begin your remarkable, private tour of ancient Rome at the Colosseum for a fantastic introduction into the preserved grandeur of the past that is showcased by the 187-foot tall outer wall of the amphitheater. Doric columns adorn the lower level with Ionic columns that decorate the middle and Corinthian pillars. The scent of ancient soil will bring the ancient setting to life and will make you feel as though you can hear the crowds shouting in the stadium that could hold up to 50,000 spectators. You can look down into the hypogeum, which is where the wooden stage once stood. You can find a two-story maze of walls in which gladiators once trained.

You will continue your exploration of Rome with a private cooking call that will immerse you in the celebrated flavors of the ancient city. Your chef will act as your guide into the history and heritage of Roman cuisine as you learn the art of preparing an artichoke and crafting fresh noodles as the kitchen fills with the aroma of grilling guanciale. The rounded noodles that are topped with the natural oils from the pork and savory pecorino cheese will become a symphony of simple ingredients that create dynamic flavors in every bite.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Rome – Explore the Vatican Museums and the Cuisine of Trastevere

The scent of roses and peonies will drift through the streets in the morning, deriving from the flower stands that are spread across the unique neighborhoods of Rome. You will meet your guide after breakfast and venture to Vatican City for a fantastic exploration of the basilica and galleries that host some of the Western World’s most cherished artwork. The sensational dome of St. Peter’s Basilica soars above the eponymous piazza at 448 feet tall with the pillared colonnades stretching outward from the edges of the religious center like welcoming arms. Beginning at the portico with the magnificent equestrian statue of Constantine, the grandeur of the basilica’s interior will fascinate you. The Pietà by Michelangelo stands behind a bulletproof casing and depicts a youthful Mary cradling Jesus after the crucifixion.

In the evening, you will follow your guide through the neighborhood of Trastevere, which is located on the opposite bank of the Tiber River from the city center in which you are located. The historic neighborhood was once considered outside the walls of the imperial center and remained a working district that retained the authentic culinary treasures of Rome with aromas of almond cookies, sweet milk from gelaterias, and the fried rice balls that are known as supplì. The restaurants and cafes around Trastevere have become institutions that are dedicated to the customary cuisine of the neighborhood, ending with a refreshing sample of authentic, artisan gelato.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Sorrento – Visit Ancient Pompeii and Experience Traditional Pizza

Bound for the bustling streets of Naples and the uniquely preserved ancient port city of Pompeii, you will travel outside of Rome in the morning. Your private guide will greet you as you reach the gates of the ancient city where aromas of lemon blossoms, sea breeze, and ancient soil fill the air. The sensational heritage of the Roman Empire remains on display, lining the cobbled lanes and filling the standing architecture after nearly two millennia of being encased in mud, pumice, and ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The Villa of Mysteries retains frescoes, which glow with vibrant colors that depict women who are engaged in an initiation of a Greco-Roman cult. The unique representation offers a different perspective of life in Pompeii while also setting itself apart from the main attractions of the city. You will continue to Sorrento for a fantastic cooking class that focuses on the art of making traditional Neapolitan pizza. Your class will offer specific recipes for crafting the dough, cooking the dish in a wood-fired oven, and capturing the essential flavors of the wheat flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and fior di latte or mozzarella di Buffala cheeses.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Sorrento – Traverse the Amalfi Coast with a Local Cooking Lesson

The breeze will carry the scent of the sea across Sorrento in the morning, blending the refreshing, briny aroma with the fragrant lemons that grow around the edges of the city. Your private driver will meet you at the hotel after breakfast and escort you along the winding road of the Amalfi Coast, connecting a series of traditional towns. The coastal road travels for approximately 25 miles between Positano in the west and Vietri sul Mare in the east. The colorful homes climb the rugged cliffs, overlooking the sparkling sapphire waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The narrow lanes open to beautiful views of the cobblestone piazza, sailboats gliding along the water, and the cliffs of the distant island of Capri. Boutique shops line the walkways, and the aromas of grilled prawns with lemon will drift out of the charming restaurants.

You will meet your chef in the comfort of their private kitchen for a delicious cooking lesson that highlights the delicacies of the Campania region and the coastal towns of the Tyrrhenian Sea. You will relax in the accommodating villa with a charming garden that grows delicious herbs. Your chef will introduce you to customary ingredients like crab, octopus, tomatoes, and lemons to reveal the freshness of the ingredients that are used in each dish. After some instruction, the scent of pistachios will overtake the kitchen as you prepare supple scialatielli with mussels, clams, and pistachios. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 12: Sorrento – Depart for Home

The morning light will spread over the Marina Grande in Sorrento and glint against the colorful fishing boats that wade in the calm waters of the bay. The colorful tower homes will rise above the narrow beach and will reflect in the rippling water. The ancient city walls continue to stand near the marina with foundations that date back to the ancient Greek settlement. The sweet aroma of fresh sfogliatella will fill your dining room and will be accompanied by the subtle aromas of espresso and lemon zest. Your private transfer will meet you at your hotel after breakfast and escort you around the Bay of Naples to reach Naples International Airport with plenty of time to check in for your flight home.  

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,295
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.