Meet Oli & Flo, the team behind our Italian gastronomic adventures in Tuscany
Oli & Flo make a great team. Their previous careers and skills have blended perfectly to create everything great holiday hosts need. Add to that their love of food and passion for locally sourced produce and you get the ultimate foodie getaway off the tourist trail in Tuscany.
But how exactly did they go from living and working in central London to organising their own cookery holidays deep in the Tuscan countryside? We spoke to Oli about how spending his childhood in Italy developed into a passionate career.
What did you do before running your cookery holidays?
I have pretty much always worked in food – either as a chef or a food writer. Most recently I worked for an Italian fresh pasta shop and restaurant in London, where I was a professional pasta maker. There I made around 10kg of fresh handmade pasta every day! Before that I was working as a private chef in a villa in Italy – also in Tuscany.
Why did you decide to start your own cooking holiday?
It all came together quite naturally somehow! Through chef work, I had developed my knowledge and passion for Italian, and particularly Tuscan, food, wine and cooking in recent years. Also, I had spent a lot of time in a particular village in southern Tuscany growing up, and as an adult as my family had a holiday house there. I therefore had lots of contacts in the area and a real love for the place, as well as a passion for and a good understanding of the food of the region.
My partner Flo is an experienced events professional and planner and together we felt we had the skills to do something like this. The idea came together to host foodie holidays here and it took off from there!
Great! So when did you get started?
We have been running for around a year and a half, but I have spent most of my life exploring Italy and learning about its cuisine!
Where are your trips based?
Our village is called Roccatederighi (bit of a tongue twister!) and it’s a dramatic medieval hill town literally carved into volcanic rock about 600m above sea level. It has incredible views down from the hills, onto the plains and out to the sea. You can even see the islands of Elba and Corsica on a clear day.
Our region is called the Maremma – it’s a an undiscovered part of southern Tuscany which is dominated by national parks and beautiful nature and wildlife. It’s more sparsely populated than other areas of Tuscany, so you really feel like you are somewhere peaceful and beautiful – we are surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and beautiful woodland. The sea and beautiful Mediterranean beaches are also only half an hour away.
What are the locals like?
The local people are very warm and welcoming, and fortunately I have had some good friends and contacts there since I was a child.
There is a real love for food there – you can buy all your meat, bread, oil, wine, vegetables etc in the village sourced from the local area. Since there is this level of pride for their food, people were really happy we had chosen to showcase it to their guests. I think people also recognise that we are contributing to the local economy. We both have enough Italian to communicate well and we really enjoy being there!
What makes your holiday a unique experience?
Our cooking classes are always in small intimate groups, chef-lead and focused on providing in-depth skills in pasta/pizza/risotto making that will take our guests’ cooking to the next level and that will stay with them for a lifetime.
Also, partly due to an amazing assortment of passionate food and wine producers in our area, and partly due to the contacts we have developed and our knowledge of the area, I think our guests feel like they have amazing and unique access to the passionate artisans, skills and careful processes behind some of Italy’s best foods.
We don’t want to just scratch the surface, we want our customers to have a fully immersive foodie experience here, and they really go behind the scenes to learn all about things like pecorino and mozzarella making, wine production, honey making, sustainable fishing, rice farming and much more.
We also focus on introducing our guests to food and wine producers who care about the planet and do things in harmony with nature – that means they’re all organic and/or involved in some kind of sustainability project or renewable energy. We want to reconnect people with where their food comes from and the people who make the most amazing food with care and passion.