European Food Holidays
Prices from £995 to £1,375
Why choose a food holiday?
There are plenty of travel companies offering food holidays to Europe.
So why choose a food holiday with us? Here are three perfect reasons.
Packed with gourmet experiences
Many travel companies offering food holidays include just one or two hands-on experiences, whereas our short breaks include unforgettable activities, excursions and visits every single day.
There are cookery classes, some with acclaimed organisations such as Provence Gourmet and the LaChef Levi, others based around paella or street food, and others still in more rural areas with talented local cooks. You can hunt for truffles and porcini mushrooms, walk with a shepherdess in the mountains to discover why Zeri lamb is so prized for its taste, and make marzipan fruits with the monks of San Francesco. You’ll learn how to better appreciate olive oil and balsamic vinegar, how to make gloriously smooth gelato, and bake breads galore. And you can lose yourself in the colours, scents and sounds of food markets, bursting with the freshest produce.
There are familiar tastes, but never better presented than here, as you visit the most prestigious makers of cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Ragusano and mozzarella, and cured meats from Parma ham and Ibérico ham, to the sinfully delicious Lardo di Colonnata. But there are also some surprising tastes – the candied fruits of Provence for example, chestnut bread, offal-rich bollito misto, granular Modica chocolate still made according to Aztec methods, the pancake-like ‘peasant pasta’ testaroli, and the bitter liqueur, China Clementi.
Inspired by experts, led by experts
These tours have been designed by Authentic Adventures experts, in partnership with MasterChef presenter, Gregg Wallace, who brings a valuable insight derived from his own travels, both with his wife and filming for a host of food programmes. Furthermore, the holidays will be accompanied by engaging local experts, keen to share their enthusiasm and ‘inside knowledge’, helping you to understand every step of the way not just the ‘what’ of European food, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, putting regional cuisine into its historical and cultural context.
Beautifully located, quality hotels
All of our destinations are known for their rich, cultural heritage, as well as their cuisine, and these holidays invite you to appreciate some magical towns and cities. We will be staying in high quality (generally 3*-4*) hotels in the historic heart of Parma, Palermo, Catania, Bologna, Aulla, Seville, Cavaillon and Thessaloniki with elegant squares, grand cathedrals and churches, bustling cafes and restaurants and outstanding food shops within easy walking distance. Though the itineraries are packed with foodie experiences, we never forget that this is a holiday – there is some free time to relax or make your own explorations, and plenty of independent meals to sample your own choice of dining venue.
Impeccably tasteful ‘foodie’ short breaks in 2020
One of the great pleasures of a European short break is the food. Our continent is home to myriad towns and cities which bring together not only enthralling history and scenic splendour, but also fresh produce of exceptional quality and culinary traditions shaped over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
This brand new collection of ‘foodie’ short breaks for 2020 features eight such places. Italy, a country which holds a very special place in my heart, is well represented, but Greece, Spain and France also take pride of place. Will you elect to sample delicious Parma ham in the beautiful city that gave it its name, or highly prized Ibérico ham in sultry Seville? Will you join us to discover why Bologna and Thessaloniki are considered gastronomic capitals of their countries? Would you prefer to get away from it all in rural Provence, or the enchanting Lunigiana region of Northern Tuscany? We’ve combined my experience of a life in food with the special interest holiday expertise of Authentic Adventures to ensure that whichever of these short breaks you choose, an unforgettable culinary adventure awaits. And with prices from an amazing £995 per person, you can’t go wrong!
15 September 2020
20 September 2020
27 September 2020
6 October 2020
11 October 2020
4 October 2020
19 October 2020
2 November 2020
Icons of European gastronomy
There are countless legendary foodstuffs of Europe – some have transcended national boundaries to become gastronomic favourites worldwide, others are ‘best-kept secrets’ appreciated only by locals and inquisitive travellers. Showcased here are 10 undoubted icons of European food, all of which appear in this collection of food holidays.
‘protected origin’ cheeses
Italy’s most famous cheese deserves its renown. Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) is a true labour of love – to carry its DOP designation, the cheese must be made in selected provinces, using time-honoured techniques and slow maturation. The result, of course, is a granular texture and distinctive concentrated flavour, making it the perfect accompaniment to pasta and risotto. We visit one of the great dairies to see it produced and taste various ‘vintages’. But Europe has numerous other DOP cheeses, including Sicily’s ‘stretched curd’ Ragusano and the deliciously creamy mozzarella of Palermo, and goat’s cheese plays an essential part in the cuisines of Provence and Andalucia.
The vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which fringe the scenic Rhône river north of Avignon, produce AOC-accredited wines of reliable excellence. The terroir here is close to unique – the large ‘pudding stones’ placed among the vines retain heat during the cold nights, leading to quicker maturation of grapes, and the mistral (that roiling, maddening wind that blows through the Rhône Valley) prevents frosts, keeps insect pests at bay and dries the grapes to intensify the flavour. The resulting wines are deep red or even purple in colour, complex and full-bodied, tannic but well-rounded, with notes of ripe blackberries, spices and even leather.
Black and white truffles
An ingredient 20 times more valuable than silver? No wonder truffles are so costly – these earthy nuggets grow invisibly below ground only in very specific areas of woodland and at a very specific time of year. Dogs or pigs, belonging to the tartufaio (truffle-hunter), use their finely-honed sense of smell to locate them and then the buried treasure is carefully extracted, the very best bound for the world-famous auctions and markets of Alba. Our Bologna short break includes a truffle-hunting experience.
Just a few strands of saffron can transform a risotto or bouillabaisse, conferring a slightly floral note and a rich golden colour. But even those few strands can be an extravagant addition, as it can take more than 150,000 crocus flowers to create one kilogramme of saffron, making it the most expensive culinary ingredient. Greek saffron is regarded as the ‘gold standard’ – see it made on the Thessaloniki short break.
(Prosciutto di Parma)
Hams have been air-dried in Parma since Roman sandals walked the city streets – and, because the micro-climate here is so conducive to ham production, ‘true’ Prosciutto di Parma is DOP-protected, with production permitted only in a limited area of the Parma hills between the Enza and Stirone rivers at a height less than 900m above sea level. The curing process of at least 12 months requires skill and patience, allowing the only additives – salt and air – to confer a whisper of chestnuts and the sea upon this sweet, tender meat. Our Parma stay includes a visit to a ham-maker and tasting.
Gelato and granita
Italian gelato is generally lower in fat than other ice cream styles – handy when you’re persuading yourself to have another scoop. It is a serious business throughout the country; indeed, we visit the Gelato University during our Bologna stay, where four weeks of intensive training is offered to budding gelatieri. Sicily is often said to have the best ice cream in the world, and is also noted for its refreshing granita, a flavourful sorbet-like dessert served with a sweet brioche bun. Free time during our Sicily short breaks invites discovery of both.
Like Parma ham, Ibérico ham enjoys a worldwide reputation for exceptional quality derived from strict controls on the breed, diet and welfare of the pigs, the region of production and the time-honoured curing process, which can take as long as four years. The result is an aromatic, intensely rich-tasting ham, which holds its own against the most robust wines and sherries of Andalucia – an appetiser in its own right, or the centrepiece of a ‘tapa’. The opportunity to taste fresh Ibérico ham at one of the most renowned farms during the Seville short break is unmissable.
Tagliatelle al ragù
Spaghetti Bolognese may be the world’s favourite Italian dish, but it is nowhere to be found in Italy. In Bologna, the residents are adamant that their famous ragù (slow-cooked meat sauce) should be served with the ribbon-like tagliatelle or, at a push, tortellini or gnocchi: substantial pasta types considered more suitable vehicles for the rich, chunky sauce. During our stay in Bologna, we not only taste tagliatelle al ragù, the ‘real’ Bolognese dish, we actually have a cookery class to learn how to make the perfect version ourselves.
Wild porcini mushrooms
Not quite as elusive as truffles, but by no means abundant, wild porcini mushrooms are beloved by chefs and gourmands for their transformative meaty, nutty, savoury flavour. They grow in September and October in jealously guarded woodland areas, often around conifer trunks. Not only do we set out in the Apennine woods with an expert in search of porcini mushrooms, we also enjoy a lunch where they play a starring role.
The Zeri region of Northern Tuscany is Italy at its most bucolic – rugged mountains, picturesque villages, and wild pastures perfect for grazing Zerasca sheep. The hardiness of this Lunigiana breed, pastured for more of the year than any other, and the pristine flora on which they feed, bestows a unique flavour on Zeri lamb, considered the finest in Italy, if not the world. During our Tuscany stay, we spend time in the mountains with a Zeri shepherdess, see lamb cooked in the traditional way in cast-iron pots over coals, and, of course, taste it for ourselves.