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  • How To Find An Affordable Italian Cooking School Tour

    by Margaret Cowan

    Many frugalista foodies and wise wine lovers are now taking advantage of cheaper airfares and traveling to Italy despite the strong Euro. They want to indulge this year in an Italian cooking school tour but at an affordable price.

    How? Here are two tips.

    1. Ask for what you want.

    If you see a cooking school tour you like, but the price is wrong for you, ask the tour operator for what you want. Their yes answer may surprise you!

    Here's a true story. A Canadian couple was attracted to a four day cooking, wine and walking tour in Piedmont's Barolo wine country in north west Italy. Even though the tour was based at a historic hotel and was for just the two of them, the price of 1620 Euros a person (about $2187 US), was beyond their budget this year. They told the tour operator they liked the tour but wanted to pay half that price.

    The tour operator asked them what was most important to them on their tour. She redesigned the tour so they stayed at a simple B&B, didn't take a cooking lesson they weren't interested in anyway, and ate their farewell dinner at the B&B instead of an elegant restaurant. Their new price came in 40% less at 1045 Euros (about $1411 US). This time they said yes!

    2. Take cooking school tours with local Italian families

    Look for cooking school tours where you stay and cook with families in their country or city homes. You get a far better taste of genuine Italian life and you usually spend less than for a comparable cooking school tour with a top chef based at an elegant villa.

    Here's a comparison of two cooking school tours in the Chianti area in Tuscany, one at a lovely villa hotel and one at a family's farm house.

    You can indulge for six nights at a luxurious, four star villa hotel and enjoy three full menu, hands on cooking lessons with a top professional chef in a state of the art kitchen for $2800 (March, November and December) to $3500 U.S. (May to October). The tour also includes transfers from Florence, welcome dinner, three meals after cooking lessons, picnic lunch, wine tasting, one light dinner, castle visit, half day walking tour and drive to Siena and San Gimignano where you explore on your own.

    On a family style Chianti cooking school tour for five nights, you can stay in a family's beautifully renovated farm house in a hill top hamlet in "at a friend's home" style rooms. With the daughter you cook five multi course lunches in their big kitchen with magnificent views over herb gardens, roses, olive trees and vineyards. At noon every day you gather around their dining table with your cooking teacher and her charming 80ish dad.

    Price for five nights all year round is 1555 Euros, about $2099 U.S. at current exchange rates and includes five full menu, hands on cooking lessons followed by lunch of your creations, welcome dinner at a restaurant, four light dinners at home, two afternoon excursions with your cooking teacher to Chianti towns with wine tasting, and transfers from Chianti town of Greve to and from the family's home.

    The Chianti villa tour costs $466 U.S. (off season) a night to $583 U.S. (May to October) a night while the Chianti family tour costs about $420 U.S. a night all year round at current exchange rates. Both offer similar excursions but you get more meals with the family tour.

    Is a family style cooking school tour more expensive in a major city? No.

    For example, for six nights in Bologna, you can learn to cook with a mother and daughter, both excellent cooks, in their apartment home in the historic centre and live like a local in your independent apartment right next door.

    In their cozy kitchen in three hands on cooking lessons you cook multi course dinners together. Each evening you share your creations of appetizers, two kinds of pasta, meat, vegetables and dessert with local wines and chat and laugh with their family around their dining table. You feel like old friends have invited you to dinner that you helped to cook.

    The rest of the time you tour Bologna's colourful food market in an ancient warren of narrow streets in the centre and learn about local ingredients, enjoy a guided day trip to Florence or Venice and have time to hang out in the piazza soaking up local life. Price is 1395 Euros, about $1880 U.S. ($313 U.S. a night) at current exchange rates.

    By asking for what you want and choosing family style cooking tours in Italy, frugalista foodies can afford to make their dream of indulging in an Italian cooking school vacation come true this year.


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    About the author:

    Margaret Cowan of Vancouver, BC owns an Italian cooking tour company, Mama Margaret Italian Cooking Holidays. They ran their first cooking tour in Piedmont in 1995 and now offer cooking tours all over Italy at http://www.italycookingschools.com

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