Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Stories and Testimonials

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Piedmont

Cooking & Wine Adventure in Piedmont’s Barolo Wine Country

There are those things that you hold dearly as dreams and aspirations for your life. For Bill and Karen McGillivray, one of those dreams came true this past June. The McGillivrays celebrated their anniversary in the beautiful wine country of the Barolo Region in Italy. For seven days, they submersed themselves in the vibrant and rich history, the warmth and hospitality of the Barolo people and the passion and dedication to the wine and food of classic Italian tradition.

Accompanied by their incredibly knowledgeable and well-qualified tour guide, Ettore, Bill and Karen enjoyed personal vineyard and winery tours throughout the hillsides of the Barolo region. In addition, the McGillivrays had the pleasure of taking two hands-on private cooking classes. Everywhere they went, they found the people of these small countryside communities to be so exceptionally welcoming and hospitable.

Bill and Karen planned their Italy trip through Mama Margaret & Friends Cooking Adventures in Italy. Margaret Cowan’s agency, located in Canada, specializes in just these types of private or group tours throughout the countryside of Italy. From the very beginning, Margaret provided exceptional service and knowledgeable planning for a flexible and perfectly-customized trip for the pair. If you have ever entertained the idea of embarking on one of these types of adventures, the McGillivrays would highly recommend taking advantage of Margaret’s expertise and extensive tour-related network.

While this may have started out as a “once in a lifetime trip”, the Bill and Karen are focusing on making it a little more frequent affair! Until next time, ciao!

Karen & Bill McGillivray, owners of Dono Dal Cielo winery in California at donodalcielo.com in their newsletter

Wine Lovers’ Delights in Piedmont’s Barolo Wine Country

I heard about the Italy Cooking Schools through a couple of my friends, that had used Margaret Cowan to arrange their culinary trips. I contacted Italy Cooking Schools to inquire if they could make the arrangements for a wine trip to Piedmont.

I have just returned from my second incredible trip to Piedmont. Since getting interested in wine, I have traveled to Germany, France and Italy. The trips that Italy Cooking Schools and Margaret Cowan have planned have been the smoothest. She has arranged visits with some of Piedmont’s most famous winemakers. All of the people that Italy Cooking Schools and Margaret use are extremely professional.

One of my greatest experiences was when our driver stopped for lunch. The restaurant is owned by a mother and her son. She does all the cooking at her home every morning at 4 a.m. because there is no stove in her restaurant! We got one of the most flavorful meals of the entire trip, and it was the least expensive also! We were surrounded by locals, who recognize quality and value. I have fallen in love with Italy and Italy Cooking Schools and Margaret make going so easy.

Thank you, Elio and Heather for all your help in making my trips so enjoyable.

Tom Fraser, Atlanta GA USA

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Veneto

Italian Cooking & Amarone Wine Adventure Tour in the Veneto

I really felt and enjoyed the vibe of the area and the people. The atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant. Our activities were well chosen and well paced. No “long, hard days”. Free of tourists and crowds.

Our local Italy cooking school tour guide was knowledgeable and so personable. Really demonstrated the different wines and micro-regions.

Each chef and cooking lesson was delightfully different. I’m a serious cook but I learned a lot.

Our travel partners were very nice. We trust Margaret. She always has nice people.

The hotel was relaxed, comfortable with style. Gabriele (hotel manager) was so welcoming and helpful.

I’m so glad you came into our lives, Margaret! Such wonderful experiences.

Janet Walker, Vancouver, BC, Canada (on 5th Mama Margaret Italy cooking school & wine tour)

At our hotel when I saw the beautiful views of the vineyards and Lake Garda, I thought, “Margaret has hit the mark again”.

In our risotto class, we learned about risotto without stirring. The trick it seems is in the variety of rice. We learned a lot and ate a lot!

The osteria in Verona, chosen by our guide, was certainly off the tourist track. As we entered, a group of construction workers filled the first table, and a gaggle of girls from Rome sat next to us, laughing it up.

(Mama Margaret’s Italy cooking school tours are) the BEST cooking/hiking/wine tasting/exploring trips. Highly recommended to anyone who HATES “tours”. This is more like visiting family in Italy.

Pat Tufaro, New York City, USA (on 5th Mama Margaret Italy cooking school & wine tour)

Laura was a wonderful guide and so positive and cheerful. The bread making (class) was very informative and a great experience.

The rice cooking (class) and overall experience was unique and very interesting.

I can’t think of anything to remove or add to this wonderful program.

Of all your Italy cooking school tours, this one was the best for content!

Michael Walker, Vancouver, BC, Canada (on 5th Mama Margaret Italy cooking school & wine tour)

Our drivers were good and I enjoyed seeing the back country with (guide) Laura’s short cuts.

All our (cooking) teachers were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I could tell they enjoyed their craft.

Considering we had only one week to cover so much territory, it was wonderful. Seeing Lago di Garda when it was angry with big waves and white caps was quite the sight.

Meeting (guide) Laura’s family was most enjoyable as well as seeing her lovely home, enjoying (her family’s) wines and chocolate cake.

Stephen Tufaro, New York, USA

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Emilia-Romagna

Food Lovers’ Adventure in Italy’s Gastronomic Paradise

We had a wonderful time!  We laughed, ate, drank. Our local hosts were fabulous!

At the parmesan cheese factory, we watched the fascinating process of cheese making. Our host explained the different stages and how the wheels of cheese receive their “D.O.P. stamp.” We entered a huge storage room where I experienced a “David” moment.  I had the same feeling in my chest that I did when I first laid eyes on the statue of “David”. I couldn’t believe my eyes! For a brief moment, I thought I was in Costco where they sold nothing but Wheels of Cheese! This experience was one of the highlights of our trip.

We were excited to finally meet our tour host’s wife and daughter. We shopped at the local outdoor markets where we bought only the freshest ingredients for our cooking class later at their home. We put on our aprons and were ready to cook, drink, and laugh! I will say that we had the BEST TIME EVER. They know cooking!

In Ravenna, walking into the Basilica of San Vitale, we were speechless and overwhelmed by the beauty, essence, craftsmanship. Those of you who’ve been here know that it’s hard to describe the mosaics and unique Byzantine architecture. Being here and experiencing this exact moment; looking at the sparkling and amazing mosaics is a reminder that Italy never disappoints. There is always something new to take my breath away.

This Italy cooking school tour was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Worth every Euro. Our Italy cooking school tour host was a hoot! Vibrant! Delightful!

Mindy Smith, MA, USA

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Tuscany

Cooking & Brunello Wine in Southern Tuscany

“Wow…what a fabulous three-week trip from start to finish! Mama Margaret and her assistant, Heather, exceeded themselves in providing us with a customized Italy cooking school tour of Tuscany that meet all our requirements. How so? First, this was our Italy cooking school tour! Designed and executed in a manner to deliver what we wanted—not the tour director, the bus driver (there was no bus driver) or the others on the Italy cooking school tour (there were none). We were the Italy cooking school tour and Margaret and Heather offered us a program that was designed to please us. Second, Ettore, our tour guide was outstanding—thoughtful, kind, knowledgeable, a real pleasure to be with and he possessed excellent English. Third, the hotels— Hotel Metropole in Venice; Villa Cicolina in Montepulciano in Tuscany; the tower suite at The Brunelleschi Hotel in Florence; and the farm house at Torraccia di Chiusi outside of San Gimignano—were very different and lovely and very appropriate to our needs at that stage of the tour. Fourth, and most spectacular, the chefs and the cooking program—Massimo, Andrea, Alberto and Roberto—made our Italy cooking school tour a total delight. Fifth, September in Tuscany…I need say no more! We are already planning our next trip to Italy and we’ll certainly have Mama Margaret and Heather arrange the trip for us. Arrivederci, Dan M.”

Dan and Nancy, De, USA

This trip was my second with Mama Margaret. One year earlier 3 girlfriends and myself did a similar cooking tour in Tuscany and I was keen to share my favourite experiences with my husband Peter to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

The Italy cooking school tour went exceptionally well – this was my second Italy cooking school tour with Claudia. She proved once again to be a most competent and informative guide, and was flexible as needed yet kept Peter and I on track with our Italy cooking school tour itinerary.

The accommodation at Hotel Relais Il Chiostro was just so lovely. We had a valley view room and I still remember the pleasant outlook. This must be one of the nicest place I have stayed in. The breakfasts were very good and the staff friendly and helpful.

We managed 3 wine tastings on this trip, Innocenti at Montefollonico, Crocianis shop at Montepulciano and a Brunello tasting in the Medici fortress at Montalcino. Our favourite was with Innocenti. He was just so interesting and a lovely gentleman as well. We sipped his beautiful wines out the back in the garden overlooking a picturesque valley and chatted thanks to Claudia who translated. We felt like honoured guests and old friends and the whole experience was just so relaxed. The winery itself was amazingly old and rustic, we loved this place!

I enjoyed revisiting the olive oil mill and Bagno Vignoni, and we did a day trip to San Gimignano. I was especially keen to visit San Gimignano, and you managed to include it in our tour, but in hindsight it was a bit out of area and took most of the day and compared with the other places we visited seemed touristy and not so authentic. Still we had a lovely lunch there at a restaurant that Claudia had recommended, and enjoyed the views from the tower.

We visited the Etruscan museum and for the second time I was fascinated with the incredible history and artifacts. I could easily visit there again!

We had two special cooking lessons. The first was with Sandra and Ulisses at their farm – a most interesting place. We made chestnut flour pasta with ricotta, a roast meat, vegetable dishes and Sandra’s famous tiramisu. Yum! Peter and loved that afternoon in that big kitchen, learning about the slow food movement and the way their farm is managed. They are lovely people indeed.

The second lesson was with Roberto in his restaurant in the hill. What a fantastic location and what a fantastic restaurant! Roberto was just so professional and I loved the modern restaurant kitchen. I was especially taken with the bread oven that sprayed a water mist over the bread as it was baking to bring out the sugars and give it a glaze. We made, amongst other dishes, a memorable mushroom risotto, but the lunch we had after our lesson, in his restaurant, was just magnificent!

So all in all we had a wonderful Italy cooking and wine tasting tour!

I often wonder how I can get to Italy once again, it is a very special place on this earth and I have so many wonderful memories of my two Mama Margaret visits there.

Lynne Bennett, Sydney, Australia

Cooking with a Family in the Chianti Hills. Three and five nights.

Our two cooking teachers and hosts) gave my cousin Judith and I a culinary experience to remember ! They warmly welcomed us to stay in their lovely 13th century farmhouse perched on a hilltop overlooking Chianti olive trees and vineyards. They taught us to prepare a variety of dishes including pici and gnocchi and a fabulous tiramisu. The recipes are simple, easy to prepare with few ingredients and I continue to make some of them over and over. I highly recommend this personalized cooking course where you share life, abeit briefly, in the cosy home of Italians who know how to share their love of cooking and how to live the “dolce vita”.

Karen Begemann, BC, Canada

Cooking with Four Chefs and Exploring Tuscan Towns. Five nights.

“Our tour was nothing short of amazing! The hotel was the best. Susanna was so friendly and welcoming and made us feel at home. The cooking lessons were really

good. The winery visits were awesome. We saw the cellars, bottling area and learned about the wine making process. The towns we visited were beautiful and

didn’t feel too touristy.

Our guide knew his stuff, the history, the best routes, the people. I really enjoyed his company–very friendly. The Benz with the very professional driver was a nice touch.

Our tour was beautiful! Thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Laura D,  ON, Canada

“Where we stayed was breathtakingly beautiful. Chef Stefania let us do all sorts of things in our cooking lesson. At the farm, it was amazing they let us into their house to cook with them.

Our guide was amazing. He knew everyone! He was very knowledgeable and took us on the scenic routes. We went to small, out of the way towns, quaint, less touristy like Volterra. The driver stopped at scenic views. I was not a huge wine fan but now I am! I learned a lot. “

Laura L , ON, Canada

Dear Margaret,

We had a great time with Pi. It’s hard to think of the highlights because it was all so good but we’ll try…

  • Pi’s guiding – he was friendly, helpful and always available with good advice and ideas (but not too obtrusive) He also adjusted aspects of the tour as we went along and he found out what we enjoyed.
  • Danielle and her home – simply best villa we have stayed in (and we have had villas in Italy, France and Spain)
  • our favourite cooking day was Luigi in Chianti Rufino and we learned lots from him. We have tried some of his recipes and they have worked well.
  • we also enjoyed Manuela and the time we spent with her and her family in San Gimignano.

We found the Italy cooking school tour met our requirements really well. Andrew and I had been to Italy a few times, and had also previously done an Italy cooking school tour. Our friends had not been to Italy at all. The Italy cooking school tour was perfect for giving us enough cooking but also time to see the highlights of different places in Tuscany. We liked having quiet evenings in the villa to discuss the day’s events and relax and think about the next day. We enjoyed the pace of the Italy cooking school tour, the local cooks, and the local guides.

We would (and have) recommended your website and the Italy cooking school tour to others.

Thank you for a wonderful holiday.

Ciao – Sally and Andrew Gilbert, New Zealand

Cooking, Wine and Tuscan Life at a 13th Century Florentine Villa. Seven nights.

I was really happy with my experience! The program was well organized, but I never felt like we were on too fixed a schedule. We decided as a group where we wanted to go during our free time, and one of the villa’s drivers would take us there (our group split the cost of transportation).

The cooking lessons were excellent. The teachers were great teachers, fun, and spoke great English. The food was great.

My accommodation was spacious and comfortable.

I took part in a good combination of culturally enlightening excursions, including some off the beaten track suggested by our driver. Our food-related sightseeing brought us to a winery, a Florentine food market, and a farm that makes goat cheese. I know one day doesn’t do Florence justice but our local guide was very good. We took a walking tour and I enjoyed my visits to the Accademia and the Uffizi.

The staff was very friendly and I was greeted as soon as I arrived.

I can’t think of any improvements. The whole experience couldn’t have been better.

Thanks to you, Heather and the villa staff for making my first trip to Italy stress-free and enjoyable experience!

J. T., Saskatchewan, Canada

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Campania

Neapolitan Cooking, Culture and Delights With A Family In Sorrento

Hi Heather and Margaret

We really want to thank you for arranging our Italy Cooking School excursion to Mami Camilla. What a great experience! Starting from being met at the Naples Airport by Chef Biagio himself, our week was full of new experiences. It’s hard to choose our favorite excursion but the olive grove and lemon orchard /wine tasting day rates at the top. Annetta and her family were very hospitable and even gave Syl and I huge lemons to take back home. Who knew that we would actually be making cheese in the cheese factory and then taking it back to the B and B to be served with supper? Gmil, our guide to both Postitano and Naples showed us sights that most tourists might miss and the Amalfi Coast was breathtaking as expected. Francisco’s speedboat tour of Capri was amazing; he captained and catered all day. Our final day at Pompei made us realize just how much history Europe has in comparison with North America.

When we first booked our cooking classes, I didn’t understand why we could start any day of the week. But then we arrived and met the Cordon Blu chefs from Chicago who were taking a 90 day Neapolitan elective and also some chef students from Atlanta who were touring and cooking with their guide. Other guests dropped in to cook for a single lesson or specific pizza and gelato courses.

Between all of us we made quite an impression in the kitchen. Sylvia and I got the hang of making pasta and using the pastry bag as we filled cannolis and (our personal favorite) – squash blossoms, yum!! The breakfasts and four course evening meals were delicious and will send us back to the gym now that we are home. Chef Biagio was both warm and temperamental just the way a chef should be.

There was one evening at supper that fully illustrated our Sorrento experience. A full table of relative strangers sat enjoying their meal, laughing and chatting naturally like old friends. The complete family style experience that will stay with us forever.

Thanks again

Fran Govier and Sylvia Getschel, Alberta, Canada

Cooking, Wine & Pampering At A Lovely Villa Near The Amalfi Coast

I don’t know how (she) Carmen could have made it any better. You can give it as many stars as you want.

We’ve been cooking her recipes at home and they taste just like with Carmen. The meals were simple and consistently good. We went to Carmen’s mum’s restaurant—wonderful.

We took an excursion to a home, a small outfit that made mozzarella cheese and bottled olive oil. They showed us how they make mozzarella and where they process the oil. We had a nice lunch of their antipasti.

She arranged a chocolate shop visit to see how they made it. Incredible chocolates!

We visited Capri on our own but she gave us lots of tips.

In all our travels, this hotel staff was one of the best. They couldn’t do enough for you.

For foodies, this was a wonderful experience!

Jim and Maria, Virginia, USA

Mama Margaret Italy Cooking School Tours Sicily

Cooking, Wine, Walking and Volcanoes in Sicily: Mount Etna & Stromboli

A magical experience, one you have to live because it is impossible to describe.

Stromboli is a wonderful island with an incredible volcano and people with big hearts who welcome you to their kitchen to cook, drink their wines and enjoy their stories as you dine on your own cooking.

Memories and recipes I’ll have forever. Chefs who are as eager to teach you as you are to learn. Each lesson filled with fresh local ingredients and lots of laughs!

I had no idea how beautiful Sicily is. Beaches, volcanoes, ancient ruins and endless vineyards and olive groves. If you eat Italian food, the ingredients are growing in Sicily.

If it’s about the food, wine and people of Sicily, this is the trip. Informative guides who became part of your family and made you feel well informed and always at ease. Food, food, food, wine, culture and shopping—what more could you ask for?

Ron Lasofsky, NJ, USA

Cooking & Culture Journey in Sicily’s Baroque Towns

Ciao Margaret,

Sicily seemed somewhere out there for me an unknown….

After reading from the detailed itinerary you prepared I felt confident that I was working with a knowledgeable person. So I was ready to proceed.

But the moment that I arrived at my hotel in Palermo I thought wow this is a different …….. Margaret actually listened!

And your suggestions based on your own recent experience in Sicily also provided me with better options than I could have foreseen. ……like the amazing B&B in Agrigento that had a view of the sea and Valle dei Templi. In addition all of the info you provided on the public transportation available was accurate and timely.

I don’t know how you managed to map out my itinerary to allow for the independent travel that I so enjoy and also arrange a wonderful week at a unique and delightful cooking school in Baroque Modica …..

I wish I could return to Modica tomorrow….. With the guidance of the lovely and gracious host and her staff, there was no need to do anything but enjoy the experience. (Our cooking teacher and host) was a joy to observe as she prepared dishes and explained the historical significance of the recipes.

My suite was super comfortable and included stunning views of Monica Alta. (Our guide) provided so much more than the typical guide. His knowledge of the customs, Culture, history and art/architecture of Baroque Sicily added so much to each unique tour.

Mille Grazie…….as you can see i enjoyed every moment!

Toni Callahan, FL, USA