I've dreamt of visiting Tuscany for years, specifically for a cooking type vacation, but thought I would have to put it off until my little one was a little older. My wonderful husband encouraged me to go with my sister, who also enjoys cooking. So I got on the internet and what popped up - Culture Discovery Vacations. I was intrigued and read through the whole site. When I watched the video, my eyes started to well up with tears. I knew this was the experience I was meant to have. I contacted my sister right away and we made our plans to go in June on the "Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan & Umbrian Sun" trip. I wish there was a rating for "over the top" because seriously, that is what this experience was. Being the curious type, I had a few questions in advance of the trip and both Michael and Rocky were so responsive, even before meeting them! When we arrived in Rome, Rocky met us at the airport. Fantastic person and made you feel like family right from the get go. We travelled into Soriano on a luxury bus and the driver, Sergio was fantastic. In fact everyone we met was wonderful! Rocky escorted us to our apartment which was great – overlooked Umbria! Soriano is an incredible town filled with beautiful people. Each morning as we made our way to breakfast at Bar Roma, we saw several of the same residents who greeted us with “buon guorno!”. And the piazza was abuzz in the evenings, especially with the soccer finals on tv. The cobblestone streets were neat and I especially loved the different style doors to all the apartments. The group of 13 people all seemed to gel nicely and with a common interest (cooking), friendships were made. The cooking classes were amazing! Carla, Pierina and Rita were so fun and delightful but so very organized. They taught us how to make biscotti, lemoncello, panna cotta, pasta, pizza and so much more. The pizza is like nothing I have ever tasted. I have since been disappointed with so-called pizza at home! The food, wine and company was over the top wonderful! The excursions were eye opening. We saw fields of sunflowers as we drove to the various towns and beautiful cypress trees amid winding roads - just like photos you see in books. A few times I got emotional; like I’ve been there before (I know that sounds hokey, but I really felt a connection with Tuscany). I loved the small wineries and the olive mill we went to. They treated us like family there with a multi course lunch complete with wine. The food was always so fresh – a tomato actually tasted like a tomato (unlike Canadian ones!). In Deruta, we were able to purchase beautiful Deruta pottery which I shipped home (got it yesterday!!). One of my favorite villages was Civita di Bagnoregio, the Dying City. Perched high on a hill, no words can describe how beautiful is. Now to the CDV family. We had Linda, Rocky, Ian and Peta accompanying us on some of the tours/events. They were all so welcoming, informative and fun. And family is the only way I can describe them because they treated us like that. Michael and Paola, the owners of Culture Discovery Vacations – a note to you. You two have made my Tuscan dreams come true. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for this experience. I will treasure these memories for years to come and I consider you my extended Italian family (I’m sure I must have Italian in my background :) ). I will be back on another CDV trip - I can guarantee it!
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