European Food Vacations
Prices from $1,180 to £1,655
Why choose a food vacation?
There are plenty of travel companies offering food vacations to Europe.
So why choose a food vacation with us? Here are three perfect reasons.
Packed with gourmet experiences
Many travel companies offering food vacations include just one or two hands-on experiences, whereas our short breaks include unforgettable activities, excursions, and visits every single day. There are cooking classes, some with acclaimed organizations such as Provence Gourmet and the LaChef Levi, others rooted in 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 shepherd in the mountains to discover why Zeri lamb is so prized for its taste, and make marzipan fruits with San Franciscan monks. You’ll learn how to better appreciate olive oil and balsamic vinegar, how to make gloriously smooth gelato, and bake an array of breads. Further, you can lose yourself in the colors, 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 cheesemakers, specializing in Parmigiano-Reggiano, Ragusano, and mozzarella, while sampling 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 while filming as a host of food TV shows . Furthermore, these vacations will be accompanied by engaging local experts, eager to share their enthusiasm and their ‘inside-knowledge’, helping you to understand every step of the way, explaining not only the ‘what’ of European food, but also, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, putting regional cuisines into their historical and cultural contexts.
Beautifully located, quality hotels
All of our destinations are known for their rich cultural heritage, as well as for their cuisine, and these vacations invite you to appreciate some magical towns and cities. We will be staying in luxury (generally 3*-4*) hotels in the historic heart of Parma, Palermo, Catania, Bologna, Aulla, Seville, Cavaillon, and Thessaloniki with elegant plazas , grand cathedrals and churches, bustling cafés 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 vacation and there is always some free time to relax, to explore on your own, 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 $1,180 per person, you can’t go wrong!
September 15 2020
September 20 2020
September 27 2020
October 6 2020
October 11 2020
October 4 2020
October 19 2020
Icons of European gastronomy
There are countless legendary specialties of Europe. Some have transcended national boundaries to become gastronomic favorites worldwide, while others are ‘best-kept secrets’ appreciated only by locals and inquisitive travelers. Showcased here are 10 undoubted icons of European food, all of which appear in this collection of food vacations.
‘protected origin’ cheeses
Italy’s most famous cheese deserves its renown. Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) is a true labor of love – to carry its DOP designation, the cheese must be made in selected provinces, using time-honored techniques, and slow maturation. The result, of course, is a granular texture and a distinctive concentrated flavor, making it the perfect accompaniment to pasta and risotto. We visit one of the great dairies to see how it is produced and to 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 flavor. The resulting wines are deep red or even purple in color, 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? – These earthy nuggets grow hidden 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. It is no wonder that truffles are so expensive and the very best are reserved for the world-famous auctions and markets of Alba. Our Bologna short break includes a truffle-hunting experience that you won’t soon forget!
Just a few strands of saffron can transform a risotto or bouillabaisse, conferring a slightly floral note and a rich, golden color. But even those few strands can be an extravagant addition, as it can take more than 150,000 crocus flowers to create one kilogram of saffron, making it the most expensive culinary ingredient in the world. Greek saffron is regarded as the ‘gold standard’ and you can see it made on our short break to Thessaloniki.
(Prosciutto di Parma)
Hams have been air-dried in Parma since Roman sandals walked the city streets – and, since 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 3,000 feet 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 hint of chestnuts and the sea upon this sweet, tender meat. Our Parma stay includes a visit to a ham-maker along with a 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, as we will see when we visit the Gelato University during our Bologna stay, where four weeks of intensive training is offered to budding ‘gelatieri’. Sicily is said to have the best ice cream in the world and is also noted for its refreshing granita, a flavorful sorbet-like dessert served with a sweet brioche bun. Free time during our Sicily short breaks will allow you to discover 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-honored 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 appetizer in its own right, or the centerpiece of a ‘tapa’. The opportunity to taste fresh Ibérico ham at one of the most renowned farms during the Seville short break is a must!
Tagliatelle al ragù
Spaghetti Bolognese may be the world’s favorite 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, in a pinch, 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 cooking class to learn how to make the authentic 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, and savory flavor. They grow in September and October in protected 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 scenic – 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 flavor 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 shepherd, we get to see lamb cooked in the traditional way in cast-iron pots over coals, and, finally, we get to taste it for ourselves.