AUTHENTIC, GENUINE, REAL AND TRUE.
Go beyond being a tourist. Get to know the people. Let them get to know you. Experience the rhythm of life in this place.
C&K's Live in ITALY Vacation.
We offer an authentic experience.
We’ll help you feel confident exploring on your own. Get to really know this place. Meet and talk with local people. They’re curious about you, too.
Most of the local people deal with tourists - that is, they have a one-time business encounter with someone from another country. We, however, purposely settle in and spend time in one place. We see our barista, butcher and checker at the supermarket every day.
Over the years we’ve learned that most Italians don’t see as many Americans as we thought. Like everyone, they have their stereotypic images of us. We always enjoy surprising them. They enjoy getting to know us. And they appreciate that we settle in and adapt to their rhythm of life while we’re there.
Come along and let us show you how rich a vacation can be.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to join Tom and Fran on one of their inaugural trips to Italy. Understand, we are not world travelers, had never been to Italy before and were a little unsure of what the experience would be like. In retrospect, it was beyond our dreams!
First, Tuscany has to be one of the most beautiful, interesting and hospitable places on earth. Pictures can’t do it justice. Staying in an ancient villa just makes it more authentic. Fran’s Italian heritage, language skills and knowledge of the area gave us comfort exploring the countryside and small towns.
Food? OMG! The combination of local produce, Tom and Fran’s cooking-teaching skills and the joy of sharing these authentic meals made it the trip of a lifetime. Did I mention the WINE?
You can read their website and imagine what it might be like. I can tell you from experience, it’s all that and more! You shouldn’t miss this opportunity.
Scott and Kerri Forsythe, Centennial CO
Unpack, settle in and live in Chianti
Welcome to our Chianti home.
Make yourself at home and spend your vacation week doing as much or as little as you please.
Have as much food and wine at our home as you like everyday. The grounds are beautiful. Read, walk, sketch, take photos while you nibble and sip the day away. The village is a ten minute walk away.
Our greater local stomping grounds are about the size of Denver, so even though the roads winding through the forests are a little slower going, nothing is very far away. So if you enjoy driving, rent a car when you arrive in Florence and explore for part of each day.
Included in your stay are a tour of an 11th century abbey and its wine and olive oil production with lunch; a hands-on cooking class and lunch; a half-day tour with author and guide Dario Castagno to introduce you to the history and culture of this area, visiting another winery and lunch; and daily hands-on cooking in our kitchens featuring the local ingredients and cuisine. Cooking is not required of course, so if you'd prefer to simply observe and eat, we'll keep your glass filled.
8 days/7 Nights in Chianti
September 17 - 24 -- Full
September 26- October 3 -- Full
October 5 - 12 -- Full
October 14 - 21 -- Full
2023 DATES TBD
Please contact us to get on the "interested" list for 2023.
"I knew it was going to be fun but this was so much more than I ever expected! The food, the wine, the day trips... everything was just above and beyond perfect. Thank you, thank you!" -- MP
"You, Dean and Tom took such good care of us. Even with all the traveling we've done, we never could have done anything like this on our own. Walking into town and driving around on our own, getting to know the local "characters"... you made it all possible! Thank you so much for this remarkable experience." --VK & MG
“Thank you so much to Fran and Tom of Castles and Kitchens for delivering the best trip ever! You truly delivered a once in a lifetime experience, allowing us to join you in the charming villa in Gaiole in Chianti. It was more than a vacation, it was an immersive experience that allowed us a glimpse into the daily life and culture of Italy. Words cannot adequately describe what it was like for us to “live” as locals for a while. To experience the stunning countryside, to taste the delicious food and wine, to enjoy the hospitality of a gracious and welcoming community and to learn from the natives who were happy to share their knowledge and love of the region and its culture. But, most of all, we enjoyed the ability to share the experience with the group and return home having made good friends.
Jason and Christy Martin
So Much to Learn, Experience, Eat and Drink
If you decide to rent a car, visit nearby hill towns. We’ll point you in the right direction. You’ll soon learn your way around. There is art, history, food and wine everywhere. The people are open and friendly. Castellina in Chianti has museums, shops and markets. Nearby Radda in Chianti is the medieval seat of the Chianti League. Learn the story behind the black rooster, the symbol of the Chianti Classico consortium. Visit the Chianti Classico wineries, taste and learn the wines, the science and the history.
From hand-painted pottery to hand-spun cashmere scarves, our local friends and artisans welcome you to their studios to visit and shop.
Our town is the home of L'Eroica, a unique biking event featuring vintage (1980's and earlier) gear.
You might spend your days biking the area's "white roads" through vineyards and olive groves.
Bring a picnic lunch along on a hike the hills around our house to a lake. Or if you prefer, trek part of the famous Via Francigena pilgrim road that once led from Canterbury to Rome.
Be a shepherd for a day and get to know the Cashmere goats up close and personal. Gain appreciation for why cashmere is so special.
Tour castles and abbeys. You can experience monks singing Gregorian chants, filling every corner of the chapel commissioned by Charlemagne and said to have been erected overnight by fairies.
Visit Siena, a medieval city-state, rival of Florence. Here is a rich and proud history with unique Medieval traditions like The Palio, a bareback horserace run by the 17 "contrade" of the city. The Duomo with its striped facade was designed to be the largest cathedral in the world until that pesky Black Death created a change of plans. The inside is a marvel, with works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Pisano and don’t forget to look down. The floor is a masterpiece of mosaic. The famous sloped Campo is anchored by the Palazzo Pubblico with its tower and famous 14th century allegorical frescoes depicting good and bad government.
While you'll enjoy daily meals of the typical and traditional local cuisine, you might want to discover a typical dish or see how our cooking measures up by having lunch or dinner at an osteria in the village or a neighboring town.
Language and History
Tuscany is named for the Etruscans, who predated the Romans and cultivated grapes as early as the 7th century BCE. We are eager to share what we have learned about this area’s ancient history as well as the intense and not-altogether-resolved medieval city-state rivalries, Renaissance art and literature and the unification of Italy in the 19th century. The beautiful Italian language was a critical part of unifying Italy and learning about language in Italy is as interesting as learning to speak the language. Francesca speaks Italian and will teach you courtesy phrases and how to order coffee but if you like, as a retired World Languages teacher, she can hold daily Italian language lessons... by the pool ...with a glass of wine.
Our week in Chianti is dedicated to getting to know this unique area and its people. What better window into a culture than its kitchen table? Tuscan cuisine is as honest and down to earth as its people. Roasted and grilled meats, fresh vegetables, soups, and pastas are elevated by the sublime addition of the local olive oil. Francesca has been cooking this food since she was a kid and still enjoys learning the favorite hyper-local adaptations of local cooks and she especially loves being able to use the local varieties of vegetables, grains and meats. Every day you are invited to join her in one of our large country kitchens as we prepare the to spend the evening at the table just like our neighbors are doing!
We’ll be making the famous pastries and crostate for breakfasts. Our daily handmade pastas will be dressed with a variety of authentic local flavors, such as wild boar ragu, porcini mushrooms and walnuts from our own tree, cherry tomatoes and garlic and more. Our butcher, Lorenzo Chini, raises the esteemed Cinta Senese pigs, whose meat will grace our table grilled, roasted and in most remarkably flavored and textured sausages and salamis, which we serve with figs from our tree. Taste the flavor of truly free range poultry and beef. On Thursdays, our friends Jacopo and Cristina set up their fresh fish market at the edge of the village. Wednesdays and Saturdays the vegetable market offers an opportunity for culinary adventures.
Come with us to the local grocery store and area markets, and enjoy learning to shop differently. We’ll discover new vegetables and fruits and we’ll bring them home and play with them. You can choose the cheeses, salamis and meats. In a week’s time, you will have learned shopping and cooking techniques and recipes that will save you time and work in the kitchen even as you lay out truly outstanding meals. Tom will help you understand the wines and how they enhance food. He’ll be presenting Chianti Classico, Toscana and Riserva, the great wines of Chianti, right at the house and will help you appreciate their unique personalities.
"Cook with somebody in mind, even if just yourself. Otherwise you’re just preparing food. One way is a chore, the other is an act of love."
Converted in the late 20th century from a water-powered grain mill built in the 1000’s, the charming mill house has 2 bedrooms with private bathrooms. The south house has two bedrooms with private bathrooms.
The attached 10th century barn structure has been converted into 2 suites, each with kitchen, bedroom, and 2 bathrooms, the upper suite with a veranda overhung with fig trees.
Our estate has many gathering places indoors and out for reading, relaxing, conversation and leisurely meals. The grounds are spacious, quiet and private with two swimming pools, covered outdoor areas, 2 tuscan grilles and beautiful gardens
It’s an easy 10 minute walk to the village where you will find shops, espresso, gelato and friendly local people.
EVEN OUR HOUSE HAS A STORY.
•We suggest you fly into Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport.
• If you wish to explore the area freely and on your own for the week, a car rental is best. We can help with that if you like. Most cars are manual transmission, but automatics may be had. Most of the route from Florence to our place is highway driving. The roads for last several miles to our place are winding country roads. The drive is about an hour and ten minutes. A kilometer is .6 mile.
• We can arrange pickup at the airport.
Why Castles and Kitchens is Different
Standard tours abroad transport you from place to place for sightseeing, giving you a snapshot of a country or countries. You spend a day or less in particular cities. You see a lot but from a distance.
We’re different. We're about really experiencing a place.
Our focus is on introducing you to the people, having authentic and extended interactions. Get into rhythm of life, food, history and culture of a small area.
•We host 8 guests each week.
•Unpack, relax, make yourself at home. Help yourself to food, wine, figs and walnut on the trees, relax by the pool, take a walk or take a drive around the hills.
•Learn how to make friends with locals whether or not you know the language. But we'll teach you some of the language, too.
•You come to know your way around town and the surrounding area so you can go explore and discover on your own.
•What are those trees, those birds? What’s that growing in the field? What's on the supermarket shelves and how do you navigate the produce section?
These details make the difference between a tour and an authentic experience.
Ever after, a road on a map will evoke a picture in your mind of fields, woods, bridges, villages and people you've met.
We include three activities during your week ---
• Rooster Tour of Chianti • Winery and Abbey Tour • Off site cooking class with Chef Vito
The rest of the time is yours for the sweet Far' niente "do nothing" by the pool; walk or drive to explore on your own; cook, shop, & adventure with one of us.
CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE EACH DAY!
Get up when you want to.
Walk to your choice of village "bars" for your espresso and cornetto or have espresso, salami, cake, cookies or an egg in the kitchen.
• Come along shopping -- market/butcher/baker/ wine
Visit local ceramic shops, meet our artisan friends.
Sit in the piazza and make friends.
Cooking Lesson: Make fresh pasta, pastry, cake or ....
Rent a bike, take a hike, or drive to a nearby walled town for shopping and great views.
Lunch at home, picnic, discover a local osteria. Or eat in a castle.
Visit Chianti Classico wineries or a thousand year old abbey for tour and tasting
Language Lesson in the garden
Dinner Prep: hands-on or observe a cooking lesson in Tuscan cuisine
Aperitivo : Prosecco, Campari and nibbles
Dinner: antipasti, wine, primi, wine, secondi, wine, contorni, dolci... you get the idea.
Walk to town for gelato, play games, enjoy Tom's guitar and singing, share your day, plan the next day
HOW IT WORKS
Francesca, Dean, Tom and Joyce are your hosts in Chianti. We welcome 8 guests per vacation.
Vacations are 8 days/7 nights. Arrival and Departure at the villa are at your convenience on the scheduled days.
Fly in to Florence, or another airport of your choice.
Rent a car, hire a driver, or we can pick you up in Florence.
Arrive at the villa where food and wine will be waiting for you. Unpack your bags and hang up your clothes. Meet our friends at a nearby winery, take in the view and taste some olive oil and wine. Recharge from your flight and be ready for tomorrow.
For the next week, do as much or as little as you like, on your own schedule. All your food and wine at the house is included. We have also included a day tour of Chianti, winery tours, and an offsite cooking class. You are welcome to shop with us at the markets any or every day, explore with us or on your own, and cook with us, or sleep in every morning. Bike, hike, tour, taste, discover a mountain spring or an Etruscan tomb!
You will have many opportunities to get to know neighbors, butchers, bakers and purveyors.
• Extend your Tuscan experience with a few days in Florence before you fly home. See
Michelangelo's Prisoners and both his and Donatello's Davids, indulge yourself in the
magnificent paintings at the Uffizi Gallery including Botticelli's Birth of Venus and
Leonardo's Annunciation and so much more.
Bedroom and private bathroom, double occupancy OR cottage apartment w 1 bedroom, 2 baths + kitchen, double occupancy.
All meals, food and wine at the house are included.
Optional morning espresso + pastry in town is included.
Daily cooking classes and demonstrations with Fran and Tom at the house are included.
1 off-site cooking class with Chef Vito is included.
The Rooster Tour, a guided trip through Chianti, including a DOCG winery tour and lunch is included. See description below.
A tour of a castle or abbey and its vineyards, farm, winery and cellars, with lunch, is included.
Daily Italian language and culture lesson is included.
Learn about history, architecture, art as we experience opportunities.
8 days/7 Nights in Chianti:
$3770. per person
(Flight and optional expenses not included. See Exclusions.)
$500 single supplement
Air travel and travel to and from the estate are not included in the price of the vacation.
Car rental is not included.
Meals and wine outside the villa are not included except as included above.
30% due on booking. Balance due May 30, 2022.
You are welcome to make interim payments toward the balance at any time.
C&K hosts a minimum of 6 guests for our Tuscany vacations. If C&K has not booked our minimum number by 90 days out, the trip will be cancelled with a full refund.
In case of guest cancellation, no refund will be given. Therefore we strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance.
Please read our terms and conditions.
Contact our Conifer travel agent friend, Kathie Snyders for help with travel insurance and hotels for extended stay.
Your week with us includes....
THE CHIANTI ROOSTER DAY TOUR
An unforgettable day with pick up and return to your farmhouse. The goal is to make you enjoy the wonders of Chianti offering an off the beaten path itinerary that unwinds through the beauties and history of the area. The tour is designed to be a fun fascinating full immersion for anyone who wants to penetrate not only the history but even deeply into the soul of this ancient and civilized region.
This tour was designed by Dario Castagno, guide and best-selling author, to share his love of his home in the Chianti Hills and so visitors can more fully understand and appreciate the extraordinary place to which they have come.
A fully licensed English speaking guide will pick you up at your house at 9:45 am. At the first stop, Dario will greet you at a remote cypress forest and show you some Etruscan tombs dated around 400BC that he actually helped to uncover. He will explain all about this uncanny civilization and why they are considered to be the base of the Tuscan culture.
Next, we go to Fattoria Tregole a mother and daughter run business where Dario will guide you through the grounds of a property mentioned in a document dated as far back as 1003. While touring the grounds, chapel, and cellars he will introduce you with his engaging passion to all the products produced on its premises, at the same time he shall entertain you with plenty of fitting historical anecdotes and accounts regarding the home of the Chianti Classico.
Lunch is prepared on the premises and served on the terrace.