Guest review: Orla shares her Italian cooking break experience in Sorrento

Orla and her husband Pat are no strangers to holidays – they were in Italy just last year.

This year, Orla decided to take a new approach and learn some cooking skills and recipes to take home with her. Meanwhile, Pat wanted a holiday where he could simply relax. So, she typed ‘Italian cooking holidays’ into Google search, which led her to GoLearnTo, and ultimately, into Lucia’s kitchen in Sorrento:

What was your host, Lucia like?

host Lucia with guests

Host Lucia with two former guests

Lucia is amazing, warm and friendly, and she went above and beyond any expectations we had of a normal host.

Upon our arrival, she invited my husband and I to have dinner with her family, who live right next to the guest accommodation (the casa). We graciously accepted and sat outside for dinner with her and her family, who then invited us to a food and music festival in a nearby town – an opportunity we jumped on!

What did you experience on this trip that you wouldn’t have if you’d planned the holiday yourselves?

The food and music festival in nearby Sant’Agata was extraordinary and completely out of the blue – we didn’t even know about it, let alone expect an invite and a ride there!

A jazz band overlooked the food tents, which had an array of Michelin-star food to try. We felt so lucky that Lucia invited us during her personal down time… and what a bonus to find the food producers and suppliers that stock all of the best restaurants in the surrounding areas and abroad.

Who else did you meet you on your trip?

We met a couple from Argentina, one from France, and another couple from Germany, who all became an integral part of our holiday and my unique cooking experience!

Lucia makes sure every guest staying at her unique hotel is introduced to each other and gets to know each other – no one is a stranger here after an hour.

What makes this holiday special?

All producers are within 2 miles of where Lucia lives, so everything is fresh. We went to a cheese farm and got to see the cheese making process.

You taste every ingredient before you buy or use it, and Lucia explains the difference between cheeses, wines, oils – everything. I had my first fresh fig, (plucked ripe off of a tree), cheeses I’ve never heard of, as well as herbs fresh from her plot.

It should be known that Lucia is a very natural cook – everything is done by hand. There is no microwave or pasta machine; it is rolling pin only and very old school.

What cooking tips did you learn from this holiday?

I have learned the importance of tasting everything before you add it, and to taste as you cook to know what each ingredient is adding to your final product. It teaches you to thoroughly know and understand what you’re preparing and serving.

How would you describe the casa and location?

pool overlooking Italian coast on cooking holiday in Sorrento

There’s a separate courtyard away from the guest casa where Lucia and her family live. With this great set-up, Lucia is always on hand, easy to find, and there to help. She never stops working – you will find her up at 5:30am, doing laundry, preparing food, and keeping everything in order… and always smiling and joyful.

The casa was so authentic and exquisite, with antique furniture and vaulted ceilings. Because there are only six rooms (for accommodation – her restaurant is another story, and can get pretty booked up), there’s an intimacy between the guests that I have never experienced on holiday before.

Each room has a terrace or balcony, and as the weather was always beautiful, we would all dine together on an outside terrace.

What were the cooking classes like?

Out of all of those staying, I was the only one cooking, and I loved it! Lucia allowed me to choose when I wanted to cook, so I would use the morning for my pool time, and the hot afternoons to cook.

Lucia and I would also cook dinner for the restaurant, so not only was I learning 1-on-1, I was watching my skills improve and getting to eat and see how others responded to my new dishes.

The first night, I cooked for six other guests. The second night, there was a full house – and it was such a buzz! With Lucia’s patience and expertise, I learned more in two days than I could’ve imagined. My newfound friends helped me out, by rating (1-10) every course I prepared as we ate – though of course they gave great ratings, as they did not want to insult their new food supplier!

What was a typical evening schedule?

Dinners were long, and full of wine, whiskey, limoncello, great company and amazing food. We have all exchanged emails and numbers and continue to keep in touch.

I can’t say we did much after our amazing dinners – I was just shattered! We would slowly make our way from the dinner table to the pool, and relax with some music, drinks, and a continuation of good stories and laughter.

How does this holiday compare to your other travels?

Let me just say this – we went to Sicily last year and didn’t speak to anyone the entire trip. This holiday was a very unique, very different, and special experience. We left feeling like we all knew each other for years. Lucia brings that out in her guests and in her company.

What was your favourite dish to prepare and what did you cook each night?

Favourite dish: clam pasta dish with a tomato based sauce (Pat, who hated the idea of clams, pretty much licked the plate afterwards).

Night 1:

  • Calzone pizzas
  • Ravioli with tomato sauce
  • Roast chicken and roast potatoes in white wine and herbs
  • Apple and custard cake – but no one could face it because it was too much food – so my cake made its way into the breakfast spread the following morning.

Night 2:

  • Caprese salad
  • Clam pasta
  • Tiramisu
  • Homemade breads

Do you have any advice for future guests/travellers?

Travel while you can! If you asked me if I would like to go tomorrow, I would head straight back there. Every time you came or went you were given a hug and a kiss.

If Orla has persuaded you that a cooking short break in Sorrento might be for you, you can find more information by clicking the link to see everything that’s included, find out more about Lucia and plan your own trip.