Cooking Class in Umbria: A Conversation with Liz Hall

July 7, 2016

This month, we’re interviewing women from all over the world and asking them about their experiences traveling to Italy. We had the privilege of speaking with Liz Hall about her experience traveling through Umbria. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.

Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What inspired you to travel to your destination?

My family and I live in Chicago, where I work part time for The International Kitchen, a cooking vacation tour operator who offers trips all over the world. When not traveling, I’m spending time with my husband, toddler daughter, and bulldog. I love to read and write. As for the destination, I’d long heard what an undiscovered gem Umbria was so my husband and I decided to take a late honeymoon to Norcia, where The International Kitchen offers a fabulous 4 and 6 night package.

What kind of cooking class did you take? How long was it, and where was it held?

While in Norcia for a Food Lover’s Paradise in Umbria, our itinerary included two cooking classes. One took place in the original family’s house (the hotel is run by a charming family), where we learned to make some of the sausages that the area is known for, as well as learned how to butcher a pig! The other class took place in the hotel’s kitchen, Ristorante Vespasia — which now has a Michelin Star. In the professional kitchen, we learned to cook with truffles, and make gnocchi — one of my favorite memories from the trip! Both classes lasted a couple hours, and ended with a tasting of what we had made!

Did the cooking class include any extra activities, such as a visit to a marketplace or a restaurant?

The cooking class itself didn’t include other activities, but the itinerary also had us visiting some local food producers, including a chocolate factory. But my favorite food excursion was going to the pig farm, where the farmer called to his pigs and they came running! (Other classes I’ve done with The International Kitchen – such as with Chef Dominique in Paris – did include a market visit).

What did you learn? What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?

In Norcia, I learned all about the specialties of the region, from truffles and sausages, to lentils and cheese. Everything was so delicious! It’d be hard to pick just one experience, although one thing not included in the itinerary really stood out for me and my husband. My husband loves fennel, and our host for the week made sure we could see it where it grew out in the wild! I think that was a big testament to how welcoming and friendly the whole staff were throughout the trip. Another favorite moment: walking in the Umbrian hills and going truffle hunting.

There were no disappointments! It’s a trip I wish I could relive again and again.

What do you wish you knew before you went?

I was pretty well prepared for the trip, and while there were things I didn’t know about or expect, I’m glad that I was able to discover them while there. Like, I had no idea that there were monks in the town’s chapel and that they did Gregorian chants at night. That was an unexpected and lovely experience.

Would you recommend other women travellers take this cooking class?

Yes, most definitely. It’s a memorable trip, and a great one to do with friends too. The International Kitchen also runs Women Only Weeks at other locations.

About Real Deal

On the Real Deal, women share the highlights and challenges from their recent trip–and what they wish they knew before going.

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