The original Montefollonico cooking school since 2000

Tuscan Women Cook—Montefollonico, Tuscany Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Iolanda Marcocci, an eighty-nine-year-old nonna, has been making pici, the thick spaghetti specialty of southern Tuscany, since she could stand up. To watch her expertly roll out dough on the wooden board her mother once used is a marvel. The moment comes in your Tuscan Women Cook class when you’re invited to “give a hand” at rolling pici and you may feel like it’s someone handing you a chisel and asking you to “give a hand” at sculpting the David. Iolanda inevitably moves in to redo your attempts.

She’s just one of the three teachers at this cooking school where local grandmas reign. While Iolanda’s a rough-around-the-edges type who prowls her five-foot stocky frame around the kitchen holding on to her paring knife she calls “mi amore,” you’ll also get a lesson with Dania Masati, a flirty blonde who flits about in stiletto heels and Prada ensembles like an Italian movie starlet. Dania’s a Michelin-starred chef and cookbook author who owns and operates La Chiusa, a luxury hotel and restaurant that was once an olive press. She takes you strolling through her herb garden and then back to her restaurant’s kitchen where you’ll learn to prepare her signature exquisite ragu. To round out the instructor trio, there’s Bruna, trim and precise, who turns a mound of flour and egg into delicate strands of tagliatelle, like a demure magician. Each class has a family party vibe, with wine flowing while Christina, the local pharmacist’s daughter, translates.

Tuscan Women Cook was created by Bill and Patty Sutherland, charming Texans who fell in love with the small town of Montefollonico in the 1980s, and ended up buying and renovating a farmhouse there. Wanting to share their discoveries of the wonderful chefs, winemakers, and craftsmen they’d come to know, they got this school up and running in 2003. It’s a week-long program that winds up fulfilling every aspect of a traveler’s Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy.

The Montefollonico location is ideal: smack in the middle of the Chiana Valley, where rolling hills of olive groves and vineyards present a landscape right out of the Florence galleries. Along with three morning classes followed by lunch, there are visits to nearby towns of Pienza, Montepulciano, Bagno Vignoni, a full-day excursion to Florence, and a tasting with one of the region’s most good-looking winemakers.

Dinners are relaxed affairs that stretch late into the evenings, at restaurants where the bounty of the surrounding farmlands is transformed to flavorful dishes--from simple grilled Chiana beef to rich duck spiced with wild fennel.

You stay at Hotel La Costa, a former farmhouse that’s now a Montefollonico landmark, where you can relax on the terrace with views of Lake Trasimeno and Cortona in the distance or cool off with a dip in the hotel pool.

The two-via village of Montefollonico (population 700), where the school is based, is so charming you may want to extend your stay after classes are over. This is the kind of place where faces become familiar after only a few days and you’ll be greeted with cordial buona seras by the signoras who gossip on stone benches in the tiny square.

If you do stay longer and want to experience life on an organic working farm, head to Agriturismo Reniella (, where hardworking, fun-loving British transplants Bob and Elfride Vaughan offer a large apartment or B&B accommodations. Or to get pampered in luxe surroundings with gourmet food, check into La Chiusa, (
















NEWSLETTERS from Tuscan Women Cook.

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Tuscan Women Cook Interviews Guest
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Our Tuscan Sweetheart Daria Cappelli
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PRESS about Tuscan Women Cook

AARP “Your Life Calling” with Jane Pauley
Shown on NBC Today Show, November 17, 2011

Under the Wooden Spoon of a Tuscan Nonna
Susan Van Allen, The Providence Journal

A Jewel of a Cooking School in Tuscany
Mary Redmayne, Dream of Italy

Stirring the Tuscan Soul
Robin Davis, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Specialita della Casa
Miki Turner, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Cooking Abroad
Dale Curry, The Times-Picayune Food Editor

Making the most of second chances
Kathleen Green / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News January 31, 2010

Tuscan Women Cook—Montefollonico, Tuscany
Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

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