Travel & Cook: Morning with the Chef at Villa San Michele

  I spent a month in Italy this summer and now it's time to share.  I will be posting my favorite  cooking experiences that will rock your world (and recipes, too).

Today, I have another jewel to share with you from the hills of Fiesole.


You are finally in Italy and you've got yourself a jam packed schedule.  You have already tried to squeeze too many museums and sights into your day or two in Florence, but you realize how cooking in Italy might be an even more moving experience than seeing the David.  So you get yourself into an easy to find shuttle off of the busy Piazza della Repubblica and you are whisked into Fiesole, a 15 minute drive into the hills above Florence.  You wind your way up and suddenly you get dropped off here...

I suggest arriving a little early because it is going to take you awhile to adjust to being in this magical place.

While you are having a coffee on the terrace, the executive chef of 30 years greets you and takes you down to your kitchen for the day.  Along with an assistant chef, you get settled into your personal work station.


You find out you are making a traditional Italian meal with a few secrets, and you are soon busy pulling out silver trays from your personal kitchen with all of your ingredients perfectly portioned.

There's a traditional panzanella salad...
where you even learn a fancy way of plating.
There's gnocchi...
with a fresh tomato sauce.
And then, are you sitting down for this?  You will learn the secrets behind the restaurant's tiramisu.  Traditional, with a twist.

At this point, I had enjoyed myself immensely and thought it was a wonderful experience.   There was only one odd thing... after we made the panzanella, we took a couple of bites of our own creation and then the chef discarded the rest.  Same with the gnocchi.  We made quite a few and we only cooked a couple to taste.  Then, the chef gathered up the rest of our gnocchi and whisked it away to the kitchen.  I briefly thought... surely we are not making gnocchi for them to serve their dinner guests tonight.  Surely we are not a part of their assembly line (not that I would be too sad about that).  But then, when we finished the tiramisu and they whisked it away, I realized we would actually be eating a sit down version of this meal together on the patio.

  And let me tell you, I could live on this patio.

So now, it's time to walk around and soak up this amazing property.  Villa San Michele was a monastery that dates back to the 15th century.  The villa's facade is attributed to Michaelangelo and is still intact.  The rest of the property has kept its amazing Tuscan charm while being transformed into a dreamy getaway overlooking Florence.  While you are waiting on lunch to be served, you've got a couple of options.

You could relax in the gardens overlooking Florence.
You could go smell the lemon trees. Is that weird? I couldn't stop myself. And you don't see lemons like this everyday.
Or you could head up to the pool area for the absolute best views.

Now let's not forget about lunch. Time to head back through the flower adorned paths to the dining room.

Time to sit down on the patio with our new best friends from our morning of cooking and enjoy our lunch... mostly prepared by us, but fancied up by the great chefs at the restaurant.
First, is the fancily plated panzanella salad.
Next, gnocchi with a fresh tomato and basil sauce.

And then, you eat your own creation of this special tiramisu recipe.
And in case you have any room left at all, help yourself to a few cookies and an espresso. 
So there it is.  A Morning with the Chef cooking class that has left you full and happy from all the wonderful sights and sounds you have taken in.  A huge perk to this class is that it will fit into any schedule.  You arrive around 9:45 am and arrive back in Florence by 2:00 pm.

The cooking school is worth the splurge.  Eating dinner on this terrace is also worth the splurge.  But if you are looking for luxury, you can stay at the hotel with very easy access to Florence during the day.  I was lucky enough to peak into a few rooms just to give you an idea of what it would be like to stay here.  Each suite is like a little bungalow tucked into these gardens bursting with lemon trees and hydrangeas.
villa san

villa san

villa san
 It might just be the most quiet and relaxing place I've ever found myself.  What a perfect little retreat after a long day of touring.  The only problem I could find with staying here is you might miss seeing Florence altogether.  Trust me, it's hard to leave.

Put this on your list for your next trip to Italy, but in case you won't be finding yourself in Fiesole any time soon, I will be bringing you the recipes.


  1. Unbelievable! I have to get myself to Florence next summer!!!

  2. Cinde @ CooksAlotJuly 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Amazing photos. I would just die to have that experience.

  3. AH. I am SO JEALOUS. Everything looks amazing.

  4. Villa San Michele is probably one of the most amazing hotels we have in Florence and I was not aware of the cooking- morning with the chef thing...I love it, and think that if they're as exact with the ingredients as they were with you it's certainly a great opportunity!