Meet Rita, our Tuscan cookery holiday host with a twist

Chef Rita and her immersive Tuscan cookery holidays have been a massive hit with our solo travellers as well as friends and couples so we wanted to get to know more about the woman behind it all.

Rita really is a very distinctive person, not only in her charming personality and love of life (and singing!), but because when she opens her mouth a Glaswegian accent just tumbles out.

Find out how she ended up with the accent and her lovely cookery school just outside of Barga, in this quiet pocket of Tuscany.

Chef Rita making fresh pasta in Italian kitchen

Chef Rita

What brought you to where you are now?

I was born and brought up in Scotland by Italian parents from the Barga area. Every year we took a family holiday to Barga and stayed with my grandparents. I’d always wanted to live in Barga, so in 1986, my then husband and I finally made the move back to open a restaurant (he was also from the area).

Why did you decide to start hosting cookery holidays?

Being Italian and spending 30 years in the restaurant business with my family (they owned a chippy in Glasgow and I ran my own restaurant in Barga for many years), I’ve always had passion for cooking. My mum and dad were great cooks and have taught me everything I know.

Guest review: Read what Elaine thought of her cooking holiday with Rita

How long have you been running the cooking holidays now?

I’ve been doing the longer breaks for 4 years now but I also do just day classes for anyone who would like to pop in and cook for a day for about 14 years.

How did you come to find the cooking school you use now?

We came here in 1986 and began by opening a restaurant, then bought the property in 2001. Since then, we have slowly refurbished it to add small apartments and B&B rooms that work well for solo travellers, couples, friends or families. Guests stay right next to the restaurant and cooking school, as well as our winery.

Dinner table from above with fresh Italian pasta dishes ready to dine

Lunch is served

Please tell us a bit more about your location and local life.

I hate to brag but the town and surrounding landscape is stunning, overlooking the Apuan Alps.

We hope to make a vegetable garden this summer and are currently in the process of renovating the upstairs terrace into a sun terrace. The terrace will have sun loungers, tables and eventually a small Jacuzzi! It’ll be the perfect place for some antipasti and wine tastings while looking at the Alps.

As for the area, here’s a little known fact: Barga is the most Scottish town in Italy. Italians left this area following the demise of the silk industry during the early 1900s. Many of the Barga people were forced to emigrate to find better lives and more economic growth in North America and the UK. The majority of the Italians in the Glasgow area are from Barga, so I am not the only Italian with a Scottish accent!

You’ll love this area of Tuscany. There are lots of festivals throughout the year, and in the summer, there’s a great atmosphere. Nowadays, it is common for the younger generations of Italians in Glasgow to return to Barga. I will be happy to take you to a local pub for a bit of Scottish environment with a local Prosecco or macchiato.

What do you think makes your holiday stand out from the rest?

Rita (left) with guests

I enjoy my work, enjoy meeting new people and I thrive when entertaining and cooking.

Sharing my everyday experiences with guests is also something I love. Giving them a chance to experience the authentic Tuscan lifestyle.

One review I received recently sums it all up – “Your met at the airport as a stranger and you leave as one of the family!”

You can read more about Rita’s Italian cooking holiday here. Rita even caters for gluten-free guests on her special gluten-free cookery break.

Or feel free to browse our full range of Italian cookery holidays in Italy.