Thursday 16 September 2010

Culinary Interludes launches Italian Cooking School


Australians with a passion for all things Italian can now enjoy the country in style with Culinary Interludes, a new boutique holiday experience in the hills of Tuscany that will completely immerse participants in the rich traditions and culture of Italy. Led by Marrickville local Tony Carter ('Chef Antonio') and Italian-teacher Serena Vecchiet, a Culinary Interludes holiday will include meals at secret restaurants known only to locals, selecting fresh produce at lively markets, meeting cheese artisans and olive growers, visits to wineries and vineyards and learning to cook in the vast farm-style kitchen of Villa Aquilea, located in the rolling hills of Lucca.

Tony, with his partner Julie and friends Serena and Robert have spent months finding the best producers, most colourful markets, most authentic local trattorias and pizzerias (sometimes so secret they don't even have a name) and discovering the most picturesque regional villages to create a range of itineraries that celebrate and showcase the true local treasures of this spectacular region.

Culinary Interludes will be based in the gorgeous Villa Aquilea – an historic agriturismo or farmhouse hotel, which for centuries has produced wine and olive oil and now provides a perfect base in one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. With five double bedrooms, two fully equipped kitchens and a sundrenched terrace, the villa boasts exposed 16th century beams, terracotta floors and the rich Tuscan colours of burnt siena and cobalt blue. Offering the charm of yesterday along with modern comforts including wireless internet, the villa is decorated in antiques and offers a sparkling outdoor pool to cool down in after a visit to the nearby markets or a cycle through the hills. The views from its prime position are beyond compare: spectacular sunrises, rolling vineyards and olive groves and starry nights with the lights of Lucca and the local villages glowing in the distance.

In the kitchen you will learn to prepare traditional Tuscan courses – antipasto, primi, secondi and dolci under the masterful eye of Chef Antonio and then dine with new friends in the elegant and spacious dining room or out on the terrace under a starlit sky. During the days you will be led to quaint, rural villages, local markets, providores and wineries, with Serena in tow to help you pick up or hone your Italian language skills.

Culinary Interludes will allow you to meet regional providores and cook alongside local legends including Chef Marco Ribechini, with a lesson in the kitchens of his acclaimed Villa Bongi. In the afternoons you might indulge in a swim before aperitifs and antipasto on the terrace, after which you will enjoy magnificent dinners prepared by yourself or by Chef Antonio and his team.

Tony Carter began his career in cooking under the tutelage of renowned Italian chef Claudio Magris and has worked in restaurants around the world including in Italy, Spain, Canada, Vietnam, Morocco and South Africa. For more than a decade he was Executive Director of Food & Beverage for Accor, the largest hotel group in Australia and New Zealand where he was responsible for training young chefs, sourcing the best ingredients and devising creative menus for more than 150 hotels and resorts and now derives his greatest enjoyment cooking with friends followed by long, lazy lunches.

Italian-born Serena grew up in the region of Venezia Giulia in Italy and her fondest memories involve friends and family gathering on weekends to celebrate at a table groaning under the weight of food prepared with love. She has travelled extensively through Italy and has come to appreciate the traditional recipes and methods of her childhood.  As well as imbuing participants with her love of Italy, she can also help to teach guests some Italian so that they can converse with the locals.

They are joined on the tours by Julie Carter, the organiser, and Robert Clarke, whose specialty is ensuring guests are warmly welcomed and looked after during their stay.

Each Culinary Interludes experience lasts for a week and includes all cooking lessons, accommodation, vini di casa and excursions. Prices on request.

For more information go to

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