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Meet an Italian family around the kitchen table

Assisi B&B offers cooking classes for two to six guests

"The essence of Italian family life is found in cooking," says Letizia Mattiacci, owner of B&B Alla Madonna del Piatto, a restored ancient farmhouse spectacularly located in the hills of Assisi, Umbria, in Central Italy.

"I spent my childhood in the kitchen helping my mother make not only our everyday meals, but also the elaborate holiday dishes she would prepare for the large groups of relatives who would gather in our dining room throughout the year. My mother's brothers and sisters would do the same, because if Christmas was celebrated at our house, Boxing Day would be with Aunt Ida, and New Year’s Eve with Uncle Armando."

Letizia explains that much of the social life in Italy revolves around the dining table. School friends and professional colleagues alike often meet for home-cooked dinners, during which they will proudly present their new recipes and comment on a wine from their favorite winery. Individual budget might limit the choice of food and beverage, but everyone shares the same enthusiasm for the national cuisine and has strong opinions regarding its preparation.

Cooking with an Italian family

As a traveler, you can sample Italy’s famed cuisine in various great restaurants, but cooking at someone’s home offers you a unique opportunity to savor the true Italian flavors and traditions. "When Ruurd, my husband, and I opened our B&B in the Assisi countryside, we wanted to share our enthusiasm for Italy’s culinary culture with others. This is why we offer family-style cooking classes," says Letizia. "Guests who participate in the class will learn how to select the best local ingredients in the narrow streets of an Umbrian village. They will then use these delicacies--chosen from local small shops or picked up in our own vegetable and herb garden--to prepare an authentic Italian meal."

The program

Hands-on cooking classes are available daily for two to maximum six participants. The class lasts half a day and includes a visit to local food shops where guests can sample a variety of the freshest traditional local cheeses and cured meats and learn about regional specialties such as black truffle and the finest olive oils. Wines, sweets, pastas and balsamic vinegars are available for purchase and make lovely gifts.

The hands-on portion of the lesson might include the preparation of ravioli, tagliatelle, or lasagne and their wonderful sauces followed, for example, by panna cotta with orange infused dates. Alternatively, winter might bring inspiration for a risotto or vegetable soup and summer for an eggplant parmigiana and a cantaloupe melon mousse as a dessert.

For more information on cooking classes and/or accommodations at Alla Madonna del Piatto. The converted farmhouse has affordable but comfortable accommodation in six double rooms, all with a marvelous view of Assisi. Prices range from 35 to 58 Euro/person per night for guest rooms; cooking-class rates are available on request.

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