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“Personal and excellent”
Review of The Spice Lab

The Spice Lab
Reviewed 5 February 2014

Melanie seemed prepared to give us her entire day! We made a lovely gnuddi, along with bruschetta and torte, and sat and talked over lunch. Not only did we learn a bit in the kitchen, we heard a bit about life in Italy from a personal view. Memorable! Recommended!

1  Thank nonamesforme
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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5 - 9 of 83 reviews

Reviewed 20 November 2013

It took too long for me to write this review. Melanie & Paolo are awesome hosts and truly make you feel apart of their family. Everything was perfect from the setting in the olive grove, to the amazing 3 course menu (very flexible), to the wine and most certainly the hospitality. My girlfriend and I are beginners but they made us feel like experts by the time we were done. The ingredients could not have been more fresh, STRAIGHT FROM THE GROVE!! If you speak English, don't worry about the language barrier both speak excellent English. If I ever visit Florence again I'll be sure to sign up for another class.

Thank You So much Melanie & Paolo,
Ian and Mackenzie

1  Thank Gideon04
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 November 2013

I have been fortunate enough to have taken cooking classes and market tours around the world (Nice, Lisbon, Seville, Prague, New Delhi, and several in the USA), and I was getting frustrated trying to plan something in Florence. Everything seemed to focus on making pasta/ravioli (I've taught that class), or making gelato, which I have down pat too. When I visited the Spice Lab web site, I was intrigued by a photo of a man who turned out to be Gilberto, Melanie's father in law, holding a rabbit. (It looked refreshingly non-cookie cutter and unabashedly authentic.) I emailed Melanie a brief cooking resume, and told her about my hopes and frustrations, and she planned and executed a truly amazing day for me while my husband attended his conference.

My arrival coincided with porcini season, so Melanie arranged a porcini hunt with Gilberto for me. Gilberto is a Tuscan treasure who's been hunting mushrooms in the hills of Chianti since he was five. After a brief visit to the family's coffee shop and a couple stops at some scenic overlooks, we began our hunt. We found several different kinds of edible mushrooms on the course of a great hike, in a place well off the beaten path. On the way, he also pointed out some WWII foxholes, told me about his own memories of the war, pointed out the foundation of an ancient refuge for women, was generous with his time and knowledge and was entirely delightful.

We stopped at the home of the woman who was Gilberto's mother's midwife and her son, and they stopped cutting and stacking firewood long enough to invite us in for Vin Santo and cookies. I had Vin Santo four times on my stay in Florence, and their homemade version was (by far) the best, though they were humorously over-generous with it.

After we said a (too soon!) goodbye to Gilberto, Melanie's husband Paulo joined us and we went to the family olive grove, where the family was just finishing up on the harvest. I regret that I didn't have more time to talk to Paulo's uncle Piero more about our mutual love of bird dogs and pheasant hunting, but totally understand why he and the extended family were exhausted after days of hand picking that year's harvest.

Paulo and Melanie cooked several dishes with me in the outdoor kitchen at the olive grove. Everything was fresh and simple, and I learned new things in the process. The meal was as delicious as the place was beautiful. My only complaint is that the (8+ hour) day seemed to end too soon!

I can't recommend Spice Lab highly enough. If you give Melanie adequate information about you or your group, she and her family will go out of there way to make it happen for you (when she's not busy making some truly amazing cakes: google "Melanie Secciani cake Florence" to see what I mean). My husband joined me for some other foodie-type outings on our ten-day stay in Florence, but this one was by far and away the best. If you're reading this and on the fence, or worrying that it might be a lot of money to spend, please do yourself a favor and book it if you can. It's worth it, and the memories will last a lifetime.

Thank MichellefromWI
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 October 2013

My fiancé and I would give this experience 6 stars if possible! Melanie and Paolo know their stuff. From our buying trip in the central market to the rustic but beautiful olive grove, the day was perfect. They both are knowledgeable and professional not to mention gracious. My guests at my next dinner party will be impressed with our new skills.

Thank Cheryl R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 July 2013

We just returned from our two week trip to italy. My wifes only request was to do a cooking class. I poured over the internet to find a class that would not be your typical class. the spice lab did not disappoint. It was one of the best days of our trip. We met Paolo at the market and began to shop for food. Needless to say this was an experience as we learned that they sell all the parts of the cow including certain anatomical parts both male and female there.Kinda gross. We really wanted to make artichoke ravioli but since artichokes were out of season we decided to make spinach stuffed ravioli with the most amazing mushroom sauce with a special ingredient that grew on the grove. It was a blast making the ravioli from scratch. paolo was very patient and explained everything and it was so much fun. I even got him to let me make a bean dish with canned beans which he said was the first time anyone ever asked to make that and in the end he agreed it was delicious. We also made tiramisu, stuffed zucchini flowers which were better that the ones from our favorite restaurant back home,and steak taglaitta. We used eggs that the chickens laid at the grove. The olive grove is set up on a hill not too far out and is very scenic. We loved spending the day with Paolo. Overall a great experience and we can't wait to make all the dishes we cooked at home.

Thank Ebdmd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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