Cheesemaker controls the seasoning of the Parmesan cheese
Cheesemaker controls the seasoning of the Parmesan cheese

The Icons Of European Gastronomy

If you're dreaming of a holiday where food is the focus, we've got you covered. Our tantalising new range of food holidays, which start from just £995pp, put cuisine at the heart of your experience through visits to producers, tastings, tours of vineyards and factories, and personal encounters with local people who have made traditional dishes for generations. 

The destinations we visit are considered to be the icons of European gastronomy and were chosen for the authentic flavours, dishes and histories associated with them. So, where can we take you? Let us give you a taste of what's to come in 2020. 

Bologna, Italy

The hometown of tortellini, ragù and mortadella (among other delicacies), Bologna is a charming Italian city that packs a punch where cuisine is concerned. Here, you'll find maze-like streets lined with market vendors, artisanal cheese shops, butchers, fishmongers, and enotecas. 

During our four-day foodie short break to Bologna, you'll be treated to an array of delicious encounters. These range from a pasta cookery class at an acclaimed agriturismo and a truffle hunt in the woods, to a visit to a special brandy house and a tour of a Parmigiano-Reggiano producers, where you'll be able to taste a selection of different vintages of this cheese. Elsewhere, you'll explore the process of making balsamic vinegar, you'll attend a workshop at the city's Gelato University and you'll be treated to a traditional bollito misto dinner – which will challenge your understanding of Italian cuisine!

Thessaloniki, Greece

A true paradise of flavour awaits in the destination of Thessaloniki. From its vibrant ouzo bars to its traditional taverns, and from its gyros to its saffron, this place is a haven for foodies. Known as Greece's 'second city', it really stands alone in terms of its gastronomic credentials. Here, you'll explore millennia of history, experience its colourful culture and sample its amazing delicacies. 

Join our five-day tour of Thessaloniki and you'll pay a visit to Yanni's, one of Europe's foremost olive oil producers, where a special tasting awaits. You'll take a walk around the city's open food market, Modiano. And, you'll learn the secrets of the world's most expensive ingredient at a saffron farm. There will be a Greek culinary masterclass at LaChef Levi (the country's first private chef school), a tour of a red florina pepper farm where you'll discover the incredible versatility of this spicy fruit, and a wine-tasting experience at the renowned Gerovassiliou Estate. What's more, a little free time will give you the chance to indulge in some of Thessaloniki's fantastic street food offerings.

Parma, Italy

A city that needs no introduction, Parma has been on the gastronomic map for centuries thanks to its world-famous ham. However, this isn't all it's known for. This truly legendary part of Italy, known as Emilia Romagna, is also home to the delicious fried bread pockets known as torta fritta, the incredible chilled red Lambrusco wine and woodland that gives birth to the most fragrant porcini mushrooms. 

Experience it for yourself on our four-day Parma food tour, which offers the chance to watch Parmigiano-Reggiano being made as well as to join a hunt for the delicious porcini mushrooms. You will also visit a family-run maker of prosciutto di Parma, enjoy a hands-on cookery class at the acclaimed Commanderia del Gusto and savour a traditional bomba di riso dinner at a quality restaurant frequented by hungry locals. There will also be a visit to a balsamic vinegar producer, where you'll taste different vintages - none of which will bear a resemblance to what you know as balsamic!

Seville, Spain

No visit to Spain is complete without a tour of Seville. Why? Well, its narrow streets, buzzing little bars and stunning architecture make for a fabulous visit – and then there's the food. Where do we start? The culinary scene here, in the self-professed tapas capital of the world, is truly unrivalled. 

On our five-day tour of Seville, we have included plenty of free time to ensure you can make the most of your time here as there is quite simply so much to discover (and, of course, eat). The highlights of what we've included range from a paella cookery class at a local olive farm, a chance to indulge in the world-renowned Ibérico ham at one of the drying houses and a visit to the Manzanilla sherry cellars of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where there will be a memorable tasting experience. Elsewhere, we will take you on a walking tour around one of the city's great food markets and you'll get to try a taste of the freshest goat's cheese at a local dairy. With your free time, we'd recommend you seek out salmorejo soup and the pringá pork sandwich!

Palermo, Sicily

A trip to Sicily is made especially memorable by the cuisine you'll find there. Different from what we recognise as typically Italian and perhaps more defined by its street food scene, Sicily has a wealth of flavours, textures and ingredients to offer – all of which offer a window into the island's varied history. Here, echoes of Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Carthaginian, Moorish, Norman, Spanish and Italian conquerors can be heard among the architecture, dialect, culture, and food. 

Join us for five amazing days in the island's capital, Palermo. We'll take you on a walk around the city's streets, where you'll explore the vibrant markets and can enjoy a few tastes of what's on offer. The monks of San Francesco will invite you to learn the treasured art of making traditional marzipan fruits, you'll savour the freshest mozzarella at a renowned cheese-maker and there will be a limoncello workshop – complete with tasting. There will also be an authentic Sicilian cookery class, which is bound to excite and surprise. 

Provence, France

If you think of Provence, you'll probably picture its gentle, rolling hills blanketed by lilac hues of its world-famous lavender. This is just one of the highlights of this wonderful part of France.

Spend five days in glorious Provence with us in 2020 and you will, of course, get a delicious introduction to its lavender with a fragrant visit to its charming Lavender Museum of Cabrières d'Avignon. Other experiences included on this short foodie break range from a visit to the traditional makers of the calisson (where you'll get to taste this sweet treat) and a chance to taste freshly made goat's cheese at a local dairy farm, to a wine-tasting at a fabulous Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard – Domaine Mousset. We couldn't bring you to Provence without giving you the opportunity to roll your sleeves up and enjoy a cookery class, and where better to do so than at the outstanding Provence Gourmet in Aix-en-Provence. 

Catania, Sicily

Another incredible destination in Sicily awaits – Catania. On the eastern side of the island, this area is both wildly beautiful and rich in history, and its melting-pot culture is reflected in its gastronomy. Here, you'll find what are considered to be the world's best pistachios from Bronte, chocolate still made from Aztec methods that date back to the Spanish occupation and amazing Sicilian wines. 

Experience five foodie days in Catania with us next September. On this tour, you'll explore the area's vibrant food markets, you'll learn to make both cannoli and arancini at a cookery class, and there will be a chance to taste the 'green gold' of Sicily – the famed pistachios of Bronte. Elsewhere, you can sample stretched cheese in the Baroque town of Ragusa, you'll savour superb wine on the slopes of Mt. Etna and you'll visit one of the great Modica chocolatiers. 

Tuscany, Italy

The rolling hills of Tuscany are what dream holidays are made of and a food tour here is something that should be on every gourmand's bucket list. This region is home to both celebrated food products and those lesser-known, and a visit here should include them all. 

Enjoy five days in Tuscany with us next year and experience it for yourself. This short break is filled with unique experiences, from the chance to follow a shepherdess as she herds her prized flock to a tasting of the surprising Lardo di Colonnata – thinly sliced pork fat cured in Carrara marble. If you're a bread-lover, you're in for a treat because we will watch chestnut and panigaccio bread being made (and taste them freshly baked, of course). There will be a visit to the Olio Moro olive grove, where you'll see olives being pressed to make the famous oil, and we will also take you to the Clementi China liquor factory for a tour and tasting of this bitter alcoholic beverage. Your base for this tour is in the historic village of Aulla and you'll be perfectly placed to make the most of your free time. There is much to see and do here. 

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The Icons Of European Gastronomy was published on 23 October 2019