Too often when we travel, we frantically fill our schedules with seeing all the major sights, checking things off our bucket lists, and always go-go-going until we’re too exhausted to do much else. Even having a meal is often underappreciated because we rush through it in order to not miss the next thing on our agenda.
But as with anything in life, if you want to get to know a culture better, it’s essential to get beyond superficial sightseeing and enhance your cultural understanding with tangible, experiential encounters. On our Rick Steves Venice-Florence-Rome tour, we get to do just that with our tour members. With three nights in each of these three major Italian cities, we have time to linger longer and enjoy engaging experiences.
In Florence, we test our skills as would-be chefs in a Tuscan cooking class with the chef-teachers of In Tavola. Tucked away on a narrow street in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence, this cooking school taught us how to make bruschetta, fresh pasta, a Tuscan chicken dish, and tiramisu. I hate to think of the calorie count on these dishes, but I like the notion that calories don’t exist when you travel and that you can squeeze out calories from meals if you make it by hand.
Besides teaching us how to create our own Italian feast, our chef-teachers shared insightful information about Italian agriculture, government regulatory systems for food quality oversight, Florentine food traditions, and of course, cooking techniques and even knife skills. Sharing in this experience together as a group gave us a new perspective on Tuscan cuisine, how food is made and where it comes from, and heightened our appreciation of the very fine meal we created ourselves.
The bonus: Rick happened to be in town doing research, so I asked him to join us in the class. He accepted and got to share in the all the fun of making (and eating) a delicious, homemade Tuscan lunch.
Check out these photos and share in our joy of cooking (hover over for captions, or click to enlarge):