Cooking holidays and wine / Guest reviews / Over 50s / Solo travellers

“You meet great people when you go places and cook things”

Pizza_making_course_in_Sorrento_Italy_Sorrento_viewCynthia, a teacher from the USA now living in the UAE, is what we call a super learner. She has a passion for inspired travel. She loves to try new things and is bored by the tired beach holiday.

“I’m not a beach holiday person – unless there is scuba involved. I generally travel connected to one of my interests, such as cooking or diving, or I take city/culture breaks.”

“I think that when you travel alone, especially when you have a theme or a goal you’re travelling for, you are going to have a good time even alone, and you are likely to run into like-minded people.”

She has just returned from her second vacation with us, this time swapping French pastry and baking near Bordeaux for pizza making in Sorrento.

“Your class in Bordeaux was exactly what I’d been looking for – relaxed but busy, fun, and full of new things to cook – that when I had another spring vacation to plan, I went straight to you.”

So we wanted to know, could this cooking holiday possibly live up to the last?

When asked what her favourite pizza making holiday moment was, Cynthia’s first words were: “What wasn’t?”

“This course was perfect in so many ways.”

The endless cooking. The delicious food. The hands-on teaching and the skills she brought home. And of course the anticipation of more delicious holidays to come.

Pizza_making_course_in_Sorrento_Italy_accommodation_diningCook and cook and cook all week

Cynthia’s passion for cooking endeared her to our chef, who let Cynthia join him in the kitchen for the evening work, either in a class or with his apprentices – making sweets for the café! Between her pizza making classes and her extra time helping around in the kitchen, Cynthia was kept busy cooking all week!

“The whole week was fun. Since Biaggio [chef] lives at the B&B, his family was in and out all day. They were a typical, lively Italian family, and I felt right at home. And they also loved my pizzas!”

Pizza – a free-form food with a casual attitude

Chef Baggio’s a very … tactile cook. No recipes, just ‘here, you do it like this until it looks and feels like that and then you know you’re right.’ Most of what we did was pretty look-feel-taste. I took copious notes, and kept reaching for my camera to capture the steps. The only thing I wished for was a set of recipes for the pastries we made, since pastry is a more exact endeavour. But with research and a bit of experimentation, I’ve done pretty well recreating those fabulous almond cookies we made…”

Pizza_making_course_in_Sorrento_Italy_pizzaA holiday that you can share with your friends

Cynthia’s friends back home also enjoy the fruits of this holiday.

“I get phone calls from friends ‘Are you making pizza this weekend? I can bring some cheese…’ Really good homemade pizza is a great excuse for a party. I also do a pretty good job keeping myself and my friends in fresh lasagna noodles and fettucine, and then there’s Biaggio’s Sicilian eggplant antipasto (caponata), which has been a hit at the barbecues all summer.”

Much better than posting selfies of yourself lying on a beach!

Top pizza making tips

  • There’s more than 1 kind of pizza dough
  • The standard dough can be made about 4 hours before you want to eat it
  • For true Napolitan pizza, use a lump of “old dough” that has soured in the fridge for a day or 2 – this is used as a “biga”, almost like a sourdough starter, for your finished pizza dough. It makes that absolutely soft, chewy, slightly tangy crust that Naples is famous for.

Try it. Now you have a great excuse for a party too!

To learn more pizza making tips, visit Chef Baggio for yourself.

What’s next?

“Well, Chef Biaggio did hint that I might be able to talk him into a week of Italian pastry making next spring, and I am still hoping that GoLearnTo will finally post a strudel and viennoise course in Vienna or Budapest, =), but until then, both the Greek and the Turkish week long cooking holidays look good to me. Spring Break 2014 is coming up!”

Why travel solo?

As a teacher, Cynthia has more holidays than her husband or friends do. She has been travelling solo for years.

“The only thing that made me apprehensive at all was how I was going to carry my own luggage back after the trip. I made Chef Biaggio take me kitchen supply shopping and ended up carrying back an electric pasta machine – plus attachments – and six kilos of flour!”

“I think that when you travel alone, especially when you have a theme or a goal you’re travelling for, you are going to have a good time even alone, and you are likely to run into like-minded people.”

She’s kept in touch with these like-minded people.

“Marlene from my last cooking holiday and I are still in touch more than two years later, and I’m also still in contact with two of Chef Biaggio’s American apprentices.”

There’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Solo travel is a refreshing experience that opens your eyes. It becomes a way of travel that you’ll never want to give up.

“You meet great people when you go places and cook things.”

Tips for those considering this holiday

  • First and foremost, leave enough room in your luggage for all the great Italian kitchen gadgets you will no doubt acquire
  • Be prepared to – quite joyfully – get run off your feet in the kitchen
  • Bring a notebook and a camera to help you remember everything you’ve learned in the kitchen

And here are some photographs right out of Cynthia’s camera:

Pizza making in Sorrento - Cynthia's first pizza of the week

Her first pizza of the week

Pizza making in Sorrento - first Neopolitan style pizza in the oven

Her first Neopolitan style pizza in the oven…

Pizza making in Sorrento - first Neopolitan style pizza out of the oven

…And out of the oven!

Pizza making in Sorrento - Chef Biaggio explaining how to put together a lasagne

Chef Biaggio explaining how to put together a lasagne properly.
“Notice how he talks with his hands!”

Pizza making in Sorrento - Cynthia making pizzas back home

Cynthia back home, in her own back garden, stretching the dough and then saucing her pizza margheritas to go into her own oven. What a treat it must be for her friends!

That is a mark of a holiday. They last. You remember the holiday. You take it home to share with your friends. Not like that last beach holiday that you had, the one that you forgot the moment you shook the sand out of your shoes. This is a holiday that will continue to warm Cynthia’s heart and (her friends’) stomach(s) forever.

Visit to find more holidays that last a lifetime.


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