There is no shortage of ways indulge while in Italy. Craving gooey hunks of mozzarella atop crispy charred pizza crust? Go to Naples. Freshly caught seafood and stunning views of the Mediterranean? Amalfi. Creamy scoops of gelato and a stroll through some ancient ruins? Well, anywhere in the country, really.
But if your interest in Italian fare extends beyond the usual tasting and browsing, you might consider doing something a bit more immersive. Luckily, there is no shortage of those experiences, either. Here are just a few ways you can cook, taste and learn, all at the same time.
1. Hike to the Good Stuff (With a Chef)
If you love burning calories as much as you love consuming them, check out the Amalfi Stroll with Ciclismo Classico. This weeklong tour, scheduled for September, combines hiking through Instagram-worthy cliff-top towns with stops to sample fresh, local fare like gnocchi and limoncello. In Positano, Boston-born Italian chef Dante de Magistris will join the group. While Magistris has gone on to open several successful restaurants in his hometown, his career truly began in Ristorante Don Alfonso, the famed Amalfi restaurant that won its third Michelin star. Besides helping them curate tasty picnic lunches, Magistris will also show share his cooking techniques for guests at his family home in Candida.
2. A Real-Deal Pasta-Making Academy
Awaiting Table, a passionately-run cooking school in southeastern Italy, allows participants to choose their level of immersion. The school offers a daylong class for the passersby, a weeklong food and culture course at the owner’s home in Lecce, or courses that focus solely on olive oil and tomato sauce. From the sounds of it, students spend their days traipsing through local markets and meeting wizened vendors, and their evenings drinking local wine and learning the history of each dish they cook.
3. Learn How to Make OG Pizza
In, yes, Naples. Nonprofit Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana teaches traditional pizza-making to anyone with a passion for the pie. Under the watchful eyes of some of Italy’s finest pizzaiolos, students discover proper technique—from dough elasticity and mozzarella placement, to the importance of using San Marzano tomatoes. Serious chefs can sign up for weeklong intensives (which culminate in a practical and written exam), or you can just sign up for a one-day intro.
4. R and R and Bolognese
If you’d rather leave the cooking to the professionals, then consider Osteria Francescana in Modena, about 20 miles from Bologna in Northern Italy. The three-Michelin-star establishment was named the second best restaurant in the world last year, thanks to visionary chef Massimo Bottura. This isn’t your classic pasta-and-Bolognese kind of place. Bottura has created a poetic experience for diners, who open their menus to dishes like “an eel swimming up the Po River,” and “the crunchy part of the lasagna.” In other words, dishes are inspired by the essence of traditional Italian foods; the latter layers crisp, baked pasta triangles with bechamel and ragu to emulate, well, the crunchy part of the lasagna. There are only 12 tables at Francescana and reservations open three months in advance, so plan ahead.