One of the most enjoyable days out I had last year was a one-day cooking class near Rome, among the beautiful hills of Sabina. Sabina is a wonderful part of Italy, a little-explored area of countryside immediately outside of Rome made of green hills and medieval villages.
I used to go to Sabina often when I was a child, but that until last year I had never visited as an adult. It’s almost as if I had forgotten about it for a few years, but I am now happy to have rediscovered it. It has a really beautiful landscape, green and hilly, and despite the proximity to the big city, it feels miles away from it, quiet and remote.
The cooking class was organised by Convivio Rome, a family run school that organises cooking lessons, food tours and cooking holidays in Sabina since 2001.
I had a fabulous time: the class was enjoyable and easy to follow, informative and made me learn some great dishes that I can now easily replicate at home.
Guido and Sally, the owner of the school and my hosts for the day, live in hilltop Toffia, a charming medieval village dating back to the 10th century. Guido is from Rome, Sally is Australian, but they elected Toffia as their home about 9 years ago and are now truly part of the local community.
They are a wealth of information about Sabina and Italian cooking and the class with them is not only relaxing but truly informative and inspiring. It’s a perfect mix of professionalism and friendliness and their food is so tasty you wish the class would go on forever!
Practical info: how to get there. Toffia is only a 40-minute train ride from Roma Tiburtina station and the connection from the city is easy. Roma Tiburtina is well organised and there are trains to Fara Sabina, your destination, every 15 minutes. Guido or sally will collect you from the station and will drive you straight to Toffia and then back to the station at the end of your day.
I went to the class on my own (my kids making the most of the day with their granny) and after an enjoyable train journey met my class mates at Toffia train station. The group was made of an American family of four (two adults, one teenager, and one college student) and two slightly o
lder couples again from the US: it was a pleasant bunch and we soon started talking about… food! I guess it was inevitable, in a minivan driven by a cook and full of cooking students, but the conversation soon wetted our appetite and once in Toffia we were ready to get to work!
Sally met us in front of the ancient village gate and on the way to her house, just a five minute walk away, she told us about the history of the place: built in the X century, for most of its history Toffia lived under the influence of the Farfa Abbey, the powerful religious entity dominating this area. When the Abbey’s power declined, after vicious fighting with the Dukes of Spoleto, Toffia was taken under the wings of two important Roman families, gli Orsini and i Colonna who, in their race for dominance, gave the city some of its most impressive buildings such as Palazzo Orsini (1400 a.D. now the town council) and casa Oddoni (1300 a.D.)
Nowadays Toffia is a quiet village made of charming winding streets forbidden to cars. It’s a lovely place and offers to the visitors what many consider a quintessential Italian scene: groups of elderly quietly sitting outside their homes, watching life go by!
Time for the lesson: we started cooking!
After the tour, we made our way to Guido and Sally’s home and got stuck into making our 3-course meal. We learned how to make homemade pasta, a meat and tomato based sauce, saltimbocca alla romana and a delicious ricotta and chocolate cake – all of this of course accompanied by gorgeous fresh bread and olive oil (plus local wine over lunch). We had a great time: Guido is quite and professional and taught of a lot of little tricks to make our dishes successful. We took turns stirring, mixing, rolling, we tasted and tried and eventually all enjoyed the fruit of our labour with a well deserved social lunch. Guido and Sally have a modern kitchen but an atmospheric dining room in the ancient cellar: it’s the perfect place for a satisfying meal and the thick walls offer efficient shelter from the smoldering heat of the Italian summer.
After lunch we dared the rain (it was lashing!) and Guido brought us to beautiful Farfa, the ancient abbey nearby. Farfa is wonderful and while it is now often used for weddings and has partially lost its authentic charm, it is still a beautiful place to visit. As well as the abbey, Guido brought us to some local craft shops: here is a sample of what they create.
It was a fabulous day out: the class, the tour, and the commute made the day interesting and varied, without making it too tiring or rushed. I highly recommend this cooking class I am sure you will not regret it!
- Do I need a car? No, you can reach Toffia by train from Rome and Guido and Sally will collection you from the station
- Is the class suitable for families with children? The class is not geared towards children but is a lovely activity for families travelling with teenagers or older children. If you are travelling with very young children, I suggest you contact Guido and Sally and share with them your needs: they are sure to go above and beyond to accommodate you!
- Do I need any cooking ability? Absolutely not! Guido will lead you step by step and even novice cooks are guaranteed to make a lovely meal!