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My Cooking Holiday in Italy: New Tastes, New Friends and New Perspectives

By Margaret Manning October 18, 2015 Travel

There are some memories from my childhood that I find particularly strong and emotional. One is watching my mom prepare mince pies at the holidays. They always tasted delicious and I would sometimes burn my tongue on the hot filling in my eagerness to take that first bite. She was a great cook!

When I watched my mom in the kitchen, I could see that cooking was about more than just preparing food – it was her way of showing her love for the family.

I lost my mom to cancer when I was a teenager and I subconsciously avoided spending time in the kitchen from that point on. As a result, I never learned to cook for myself. I used to joke about my lack of cooking skills with my sons and they kindly responded that I made a mean tuna fish melt. I guess that’s a start.

My Cooking Adventure in Italy Was a New Beginning

Due to my associations with cooking, I was apprehensive when I found myself on a Flavours Holidays adventure in Puglia, Italy.

For starters, I was sure that everyone on the program would be an expert chef. I hardly knew the language of cooking – let alone the practice. As it turned out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about!

Flavours Holidays is based in Scotland and they have been offering experience programs in Italy for 15 years. It would be an understatement to say that they love Italy. Taking men and women like me on life-changing adventures is their specialty. They offer trips focused on Pilates, learning the Italian language, painting and cooking.

Since the women in our community love to learn and explore, I jumped at the opportunity to join Flavours on a cooking adventure. My trip took place in Salento, Puglia, which is a region on the “boot” of Italy.

Our villa, called Casino Pisanelli, was simply stunning. The formal gardens were peaceful and eclectic – and I spent many hours there, reading, writing, listening to music, and sipping Prosecco. It was heavenly.

The sun was shining when I arrived at the villa and I quickly realized I was not in Switzerland anymore! There is a unique character to Italy. The country is wonderfully open, expressive and fun loving. Here are a few pictures of the villa.

Flavours Holidays - 1

Cooking Was Just the Beginning

Amazing food was at the heart of my Flavours Holidays adventure. Our chef, Antonio and our guide, Anna, were wonderful people. They took the 5 women on the course under their wing and helped us to feel comfortable.

Over the course of several days, we learned how to produce dishes like Mousse Alle Fragole o Al Limon, Lasagne con Polpettine and Crostata Alla Frutta Fresca di Stagione. They tasted just as good as they sound!

We learned 3 new recipes every day and enjoyed eating our creations on another outside terrace. There was also a generous amount of local wine on hand and, on the last day, we visited the Duca di Salve winery for a tasting and tour. Fabulous!

Flavours Holidays - 2

Italy Offers Way More than Just Amazing Food

If my trip had been limited to amazing food, it would have been worth it. In reality, it was filled with so much more than just tasty dishes!

We visited a nearby town every other day. On one trip, we went to Lecce, a city filled with spectacular baroque churches and historic cobble stone streets.

We also made it to St. Maria de Leuca, where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet. The sunset was breathtaking as we sat in a local café, sipping some mysterious aperitif, whose name I did not need to know. The water crashing on the beach, combined with the crowds on the promenade, made me feel a part of a beautiful tradition celebrating the magic of the sea.

Flavours Holidays - 3

Dealing with the Past and Planning for the Future

Parts of this trip were hugely emotional for me. On the second day, as I was rolling short crust pastry for a custard tart, my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I remembered my mom and came face-to-face with the emotions of missing her in my life. She loved to cook. Would she have been proud of my pastry creation? I dried my eyes, put a little heart on the pastry and smiled. I know that she would have been proud of me. I was proud of myself too.

If you are looking for your next travel adventure, I highly encourage you to take a look at Flavours Holidays. Their team is wonderful they handle every detail with meticulous care and attention. Their prices are all-inclusive, so, you know exactly what you are getting into. The solo travelers in our community will love the fact that Flavours doesn’t charge a single supplement. Oh, and the Italian men aren’t bad looking either!

Flavours Holidays - 4

All in all, this was a wonderful adventure and I’m glad that I took part. It helped me to come to terms with my past and plan for my future.

What is the most amazing trip that you have ever taken? Where did you go and how did it change your life? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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