Cooking on Puglia’s Salento Peninsula

Find the Italy of years past. Romantic and pristine, where time seems to stand still, in the best sense; not trampled by tourists. Framed by the Adriatic to the east and the Ionian Sea to the west, located at the “Southern Heel of the Boot”, Puglia has the cleanest water, the most delicious food and the people are as open as the sky. The local fragrance made up of oregano, rosemary and juniper perfumes the air. Puglia is one of Italy’s most prolific producers of olive oil and wine and you will experience and taste the abundance. The hands-on cooking classes are created with authentic local recipes, most handed down from “Nonna Tetta” to Paola and Antonella, your hosts and owners. This cooking vacation includes VIP meeting at airport or train station with transfer to hotel, all sightseeing and cultural tours, 6 nights’ accommodations, all meals and wine, 5 hands-on cooking classes, and 5 sightseeing activities. This culinary experience begins from Brindisi Airport or Lecce Train station. These locations can be easily reached from US departure points with an easy connection in Rome or Milan. We can arrange pre- or post- travel stay in Rome or Milan to see the cities. The high speed train offers great service from Rome, Florence or Milan. We are happy to arrange extensions into other parts of Italy at your request.


Il Tabacchificio Hotel – For One (Dbl Occ)

II Tabacchificio is a family owned and operated 4-star hotel that began life as a century-old tobacco factory. Two sisters, Paola and Antonella, since childhood longed to discover their origins. They knew it was time to exit the corporate world, when on vacation they found the ruins of an old tobacco factory, where their grandmother had worked. The renovation began with focus on the recovery of the original structure of the building, materials and furnishings. Francesco Spada, a master of design, who lives and works in Lecce was chosen to spearhead the renovation project. All rooms have private bathrooms, heating, air-conditioning, mini-bar, TV with international channels, phone and safe. Rooms are available for those with disabilities. This TripAdvisor rated (4.5 stars) hotel experience features an outdoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi offering a shaded relaxation area surrounded by tropical plants. The restaurant, Dalla Nonna Tabacchina, offers a large expanse with its famous vaulted ceiling and an outdoor area near the swimming pool to enjoy the pleasant evening breeze of Salento.


Welcome Drinks | Dinner | Cucina Pugliese Class

With a personal welcome and transportation from either Brindisi Airport or Lecce Train Station, you will be escorted through the beautiful scenic countryside with stunning coastal views to II Tabacchificio, an ancient tobacco factory beautifully transformed into an authentic but modern destination for both relaxation and adventure. Upon your arrival, you will be warmly greeted by the owners with a welcome drink and snack.There is time to relax, settle into your room and go for a swim before dinner. Enjoy a typical southern Italian dinner with an abundant round of starters (up to ten tasty cooked vegetables, cheese and typical local hams), orecchiette con cime di rapa (orecchiette with greens), mozzarella in carrozza (local mozzarella fried in a crispy shell of bread and fresh eggs) and dessert. After dinner over dessert there will be a briefing on the week’s activities and a short lesson on the Cucina Pugliese.


Discover Natural Mediterranean Fiord and Spices

After breakfast, enjoy a short easy walk to the hotel’s private natural fiord Ciolo. There are many Mediterranean spices that grow wild along the path, and Paola will give you a briefing, explanation and help you harvest these jewels for the cooking lesson . This beautiful trail winds along the Adriatic Sea and ends in an the extraordinary cave. On very clear days you are able to see Greece and Albania. Lunch will be served at the hotel and there is leisure time to rest by the pool or go for an extended hike.


Mediterranean Cooking Class | Pizzica Dance

This hands-on cooking class will feature the Mediterranean style of cooking with nothing but seasonal ingredients. Fave e cicoria (greens, fava beans and chicory with a drizzle of olive oil) ,Pittule (typical dish of Lecce,smalls balls of fried dough plain or full of vegetables), Pipi Cunzati (fried pepper with capers and bread crumble) These vegetarian items will be an easy and delightful addition to your next party. On tonight’s dinner menu (in addition to what you prepared) is one of the restaurant’s specialty dishes, ravioli of fresh fish with olives and cherry tomatoes with dessert, all accompanied by wine. There will be a fun lesson of pizzica dance. Pizzica is a popular Italian folk dance, originally from the Salento peninsula. It is part of the larger family of tarantella dances.


Market Shopping Tour | Lecce-Style Cooking Class

After breakfast, is a trip to the local “Green Grocer”. Vito will explain the variety of fruits and vegetables of the region and how to choose the very best and freshest produce for your table. Next you stop at the Fishmonger to pick up fresh fish for the cooking class. Fish here is a fraction of the price of any US city but with a hundred times the flavor. Enjoy a coffee in the town before heading back for the cooking class…everything has to be fresh! This class will feature Taiedda alla Leccese, a traditional dish originating in Puglia (its name comes from the tin container in the crock in which it is prepared with rice, potato and mussels) and Vegetables Stufato, a vegetable ragu that is one of those sublime one-dish meals that captures all the goodness of Italian food and it particularly fantastic with pasta. Following the class, enjoy the fruits of your hands and lovely regional wine.


Lecce, The Florence of the South | Dinner and Wine

Lecce, with its lovely historic center, picturesque little lanes and Baroque churches has earned the name of “Florence of the South”. Be sure to have your camera close, as there is a photo opportunity at every corner. Lecce has a true southern Italy vibe. The parade of locals begins as smartly dressed young lovers, families with small children and the still young at heart, promenade the streets as the town comes to life in the later afternoon. There is no rush, enjoy a nice aperitivo as the sunset colors the pink buildings built of Pietra Leccese (a particular local stone). Lecce has a buzzing bar scene with many wine bars and the nearby beaches are filled with sun-bronzed bodies. Dinner and wine is served at the hotel, Involtini di pasta con le melanzane (rolls of spaghetti with eggplant) and the typical Polpette alla leccese with pipi scattarisciati (the tastiest and softest meatballs you ever tasted with pepper fried with tomatoes). The chef will share with you the secrets of preparation from tonight’s dinner.


The Final Point of Italy, Seaside Spectacle Santa Maria di Leuca Tour

After breakfast the day begins by the sea with a visit to nearby Santa Maria di Leuca located at the extreme point of the heel of the boot! This is the meeting point of the waters from the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea and it is particularly gorgeous. This view is available from literally any point of the town and along the coast of Southern Puglia. You will see the lighthouse, the Basilica and discover magnificent villas of the 18th century in arabesque style that overlook the sea. Leuca with its simple lines is quite a contast to over the top Lecce. Lunch will be enjoyed back at the hotel with some afternoon leisure time. The lunch menu will be starters of locals hams and fresh cheese with jams, orecchiette alla crudaiola (pasta and fresh sauce with the most succulent tomatoes and basil you have ever tasted) , fresh fruit and of course WINE.


Ciceri e Tria Handmade Pasta Cooking Class

Ciceri are chickpeas and Tria is tagliatelle, in the dialect of Puglia. Combined, they make Ciceri e Tria a distinctive dish from the baroque city of Lecce. You will be learning the traditional and best ways to create pasta and the sauces that make it unique. The dish Orecchiette e Minchiareddi is certainly among the most popular and renowned, while combining the Salento tradition with the more typical Italian homemade pasta. In Salento, this dish is a must! It can be enjoyed in many different ways: with tomato sauce, pesto, with cottage cheese and other variations are topped with fresh tomato sauce and grated ricotta cheese. After all this work, a relaxing dinner follows with entertainment of Pizzica dance—you have to keep moving with all this wonderful food!


Parmigiana di Melanzane Cooking Class

Right after breakfast a very special cooking class is waiting for you. One the best known specialties of the Italian kitchen is Eggplant Parmigiana. It takes a good long time to make, but the results are mouth-watering and worth the effort. Tender loving care goes into each step of the preparation. The “Green Grocer” supplies the class with the best eggplant of the season for this master main course. You will prepare a fresh tomato sauce, and use the freshest mozzarella in town. The final secret for this dish is to taste it 3 or 4 hours after cooking it. The various flavors of the ingredients get mixed and “sit” together. Good things take time!


Masseria Lunch | Wine Tasting

A masseria is a fortified farm house or county house estate found in Puglia in the countryside. We will have lunch here. This farm is located in the center of the heel of Salento. It originated in the sixteenth century and was the point of reference of the agricultural activities in the area. It was renovated in a very suggestive way to represent all the ancient crafts of the period. There’s an old olive mill, an example of the ancient cultivation of tobacco, the preservation of the tomatoes to the pendulum, and more. Visiting it is like taking a trip back in time and the path continues over lunch with many samples of local products. The countryside is a perfect place for a rest or as the Italians call it a pennichella. The sun, the sea, the food, the wine and a bit of relaxing. A visit to an ancient winery where we taste and discover the origin of the celebrated local wine Negramaro and Rosato.


The Potato Secret Hands on Cooking Class

The Pitta di Patate is a typical dish of Salento, a cake bread baked in the oven made of two layers of dough made from potatoes, cheese, bread crumbs and eggs with a filling made of onion fried in olive oil, olives, oregano and capers. It can be eaten hot or cold. Purpu a Pignata is the very rich Mediterranean octopus cooked in its own water..pure and simple with potatoes. The oldest method of cooking it is precisely in the “Pignata”, a typical terracotta container, with the addition of potato and various herbs and spices. Enjoy the lunch you have just prepared with great wines.


Gallipoli Tour | Oil Mill | Fish Auction

“Gallipoli”, meaning beautiful town in Greek fills an island in the Ionian Sea and is connected by a bridge to the mainland and modern city. The island heart of Gallipoli is home to numerous impressive Baroque churches and aristocratic palizzi, testament to the town’s former wealth as a trading port. A visit to an ancient oil mill takes us back into history as there are many underground presses in Salento. This land has always been a mine of liquid gold. Since ancient times much oil has been produced that was exported throughout Europe and used as fuel for lighting and for making soap. Today, some of the underground mills that survived over the years have been restored and opened to the public to raise awareness of this historical and cultural heritage that Salento possesses. The port comes alive as all the boats come in laden with their catch for the daily fish auction. This fresh ” just caught” fish will be part of your farewell dinner tonight.


Seafood Farewell Dinner and Entertainment

For our last dinner together we will cook the fish bought at Gallipoli’s market in the most traditional way: il grande Fritto di mare (Fried seafood with vegetables) and you will learn the secret in order to cook at home this great dish. Taste Tubetti Fagioli e Cozze (Pasta with beans and mussels), which is an exceptional dish that sums up the secret of healthy Mediterranean cuisine: fish, pasta and legumes. A last toast with good wine and music to celebrate with all the staff this past week together.