A Sensual Experience of Food

DATES: 06/01/2019 - 06/08/2019
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Giovanni d'Asso
PRICE: $2,850.00

Linda Mironti is a graduate of The Art Institute of New York formerly The New York Restaurant School. She was co owner and chef of 2 Diva`s catering company and has been working as professional chef for various companies for the last 12 years. However Linda`s real passion and experience first began in her grandma`s kitchen when she was a little girl. Then at age 11, she traveled to Italy for the first time – to her parent`s birthplace Morolo, a small mountain town about 1 hour south of Rome. There she was like an Italian Heidi. She loved the idea of living off the land. She constantly followed her aunt around, watching and helping her make fresh pasta, gnocchi and polenta. She foraged for chestnuts and mushrooms with her cousins and picked and prepared treasures from her grandfather`s garden. The abundance of fruit and nut trees, some of which she had never seen before gave her an appreciation for what the Italian soil had to offer, not to mention her first love affair – figs!

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Linda learned that taking the time to make food a loving and special experience can bring joy and warmth to peoples lives. “Some of the best times in my life have been in a kitchen or around a table sharing good food with friends.”As the chef at Il Chiostro for the last 20 years she has had the opportunity to be in Italy and take advantage of the finest fresh seasonal ingredients. This, combined with a creative sense of adventure has made cooking an art form for her, second only to her love of singing.

Understanding food from the sensory to the sensual

Come experience food in a way you never have before. Italians are known the world over for their long lasting contributions to the art world and when it comes to food their artistry is no exception.  I believe this is because they understand the sensuality of creating a culinary experience, not just food. There is a saying in Italian Si mangia prima con gli occhi – We eat first with our eyes.  And it goes from there!

Sensory – relating to sensation or the physical senses; transmitted or perceived by the senses.

Sensual – of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical pleasure.

Most of the time we eat something and we either love it or hate it or “eh, whatever”. Why is that?  I think Italy is a great place to explore this because the Italian philosophy of food was built over centuries of using what is local and natural, pairing and complementing flavors, textures and aromas.

Our 5 basic tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami (savory) and sometimes oleogustus (“fattiness”) are universally recognized.  The number of ways to construct a meal around these tastes is limitless.  But what makes some meals more successful than others?  Flavor.  Creating flavor is the art of combining these tastes with all the other sensations that your brain can experience, such as aroma, texture, juiciness, mouthfeel and color. All these things make up flavor, and flavor is what Italians are passionate about.

We all know what we like and what tastes good to us.  In this week, we will discover why and how to create that in all the dishes we make. This is not a week of recipes; it is a week of discovery and honing the tools to make it possible to create a food experience in everything we eat all the time.  We will cook together and follow our senses and explore all that Tuscany has to offer to help us create the most exquisite dishes.

The adventure lies in the unknowns and unpredictable factors: the season, what’s at the market when we arrive, our knowledge, the passion of our group and even the weather.  All the while we will be following our senses trying to decipher what makes a good meal great.  Come on this adventure with me and we will explore:

  • How to use our senses to create flavor
  • What is a flavor profile and how does it help us build a dish?
  • How do we find the perfect balance?
  • How do we get the full experience of the food we eat?
  • How to use all of our senses to fully appreciate food and recognize what is personally important to us

We will be in Tuscany, the home of cucina povera, where we will have fresh seasonal ingredients, olive oil, grains, salumi and wine.  To help us achieve our culinary goals and have a sensual experience we will:

  • Visit open air market as well as supermarkets (see how the Italian philosophy of food affects their modern supermarkets)
  • Wine tasting in the Val D’Orcia – comprised of Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino and the lesser known Orcia
  • Truffle hunting, discussion, tasting and dinner – San Giovanni d’Asso is the center of truffle hunting in Tuscany.  There is even a truffle museum near our villa!
  • 3 hands-on cooking classes in our kitchen
  • Pizza Pizza Pizza! – it is different in every area of Italy
  • Pecorino cheese tasting – nearby Pienza is one of the most important pecorino producers in Italy
  • Artisanal gelato – made in the way of my childhood

Other Activities:

  • Journaling your cooking week:  As an option, our friend and artist Barbara Sklar will show interested participants how to create their personal journal with food notes, images, scrap book memorabilia chronicling this food experience in Tuscany.  No pressure, just a fun way to have a keepsake of your week, whether you are an artist or not. We will provide the physical journal
  • optional walk to nearby botanical gardens Il Bosco della Ragnaia created by an American artist who turned his talents from painting and sculpture to designing and maintaining this beautiful space

Price: $2,850 p/p

Supplement:  $450 for single room, limited availability


  • Shared double room with private bathroom in villa – see Accommodations tab above (single room available for a supplement)
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, (including wine) prepared by our personal chef
  • Daily cooking classes or excursions with Linda
  • Excursions to nearby towns like Montalcino and Pienza
  • Transportation for all local excursions
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to train station in Buonconvento on final day (not Florence) for connections to Rome or Florence

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Some lunches
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by April 15th, 2019.  Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Contact us for more information: info@ilchiostro.com or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

Come, join us at the table!

San Giovanni d’Asso

SAN_GIOVANNI_D'ASSO-Gilbert RiosWhere We’ll Stay: This is part of our new Il Chiostro Nobile series. We will be hosted for a week in an authentic, elegantly appointed villa that was at one time home to a noble Italian family. The palazzo includes a formal garden, private swimming pool with inspiring vistas. Inside there are 8 twin, double or single bedrooms in the villa, each with a private bathroom. The rooms are decorated in authentic, elegant family antiques.

Common spaces include 2 elegant living rooms, a terrace overlooking the garden, large fireplace, kitchen and formal dining room.

The villa is across the street from a castle and within easy walking distance of the small town.  You can easily be independent to meet and interact with the locals.

Single rooms are available for a supplement of $450.

The villa from the garden

The Villa: a 13th century manor house situated on a hillside in a small town with views of the Val d’Orcia. Owned by the current family for 102 years, it was gracefully restored in the 19th century with comfortable period furnishings. The rooms are bright and airy with high ceilings and beautiful views out to the gardens and the valley beyond. Bedrooms are elegantly appointed each with a private, modern bathroom. Because we will be the exclusive residents at the villa during the program, the experience will be intimate, like living in our own Italian mansion. Our meals will be shared in the formal dining room, on the terrace or in the garden. All living quarters of the villa are on the second floor, accessible only via a staircase.

Dinner table
Dining Room and Living Room in the Villa

View from our window, photo by Linda Mironti

The Grounds: the setting is extraordinary overlooking the valley towards the Brunello wine country. There is a formal garden with a pool, lounge chairs, a shade arbor and plenty of seating for outdoor meals. The Villa is an easy walk through the facing castle (now the museum of truffles) to the quiet village of San Giovanni d’Asso.
The villa and grounds consist of:

  • 8 twin or double bedrooms, each with bathroom either ensuite or next door.
  • A dining room and breakfast area
  • Large terrace with tables
  • 2 sitting rooms
  • Wi-fi internet access
  • Heat or air conditioning as necessary
  • A large private formal garden area with fountains and, seating area
  • A private pool at garden edge with a valley view
  • There is a changing room near the pool with WC
  • Air conditioning or ceiling fans in bedrooms
  • Very quiet setting in small village

SGA-Bathroom2 SGA-Bedroom3
Double bedroom and bathroom

SGA-Bedroom Twin2Twin bedroom

The Town: San Giovanni d’Asso is in the Siena section of Tuscany. It is famous throughout Italy for its production of truffles. Small and quiet with fewer than 1,000 residents, the town has a café, grocery store, 2 restaurants, several historic churches and a weekly outdoor market. A very special addition is the beautiful botanical gardens “Il Bosco della Ragnaia” (http://www.laragnaia.com/EN/) created by an artist who chose to turn his talents from painting and sculpture to designing and maintaining this beautiful space that is open free to the public.

The Area: San Giovanni d’Asso is 30 km southeast of Siena in the area known as the Crete Senese (see photo below). Pienza and Montalcino and the famous Brunello wine country are easy day trips.

Garden View-Gilbert Rios-sm

Garden View by Gilbert Rios


Florence will be our meeting point on the first day of the workshop. A van will pick up the group at the train station at about 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon.

We recommend that you fly into either Florence, Pisa or Rome (Milan is a bit too far away). Florence is closer but it doesn`t have an intercontinental airport, so there are no direct flights from the US. You would have to change planes in a larger European city. From the Florence airport you must take a shuttle bus (Volainbus) into the center (20 minutes).  

There are more scheduled flights from the US to Rome, many of them direct. From Rome, you will need to take a train to Florence (about 2 1/2 hours).

Important! In making your return flight arrangements, if you are flying home on Saturday after the workshop, try not to book a flight too early. From our location allow 1½ hours to get to the Florence airport or 3 ½ hours to get to the Rome airport.

For suggestions about getting to Rome or Florence, accommodations or other logistics, please consult our Traveling to Italy link in the main menu bar above. Renting a car from all the major rental agencies is possible if you prefer to be more independent during the week.

If you have time, it is a nice treat to stay in Florence before the workshop starts.  It gives you a chance to get over jet-lag while at the same time allows you to see this incredible Renaissance City.  It is filled with incomparable artwork, architecture and history – not to mention great shopping.  Why not stop in for a few days.  (Look at our Travel to Italy tab above for accommodations suggestions.)


Florence: Sunrise Over City, photo by Anne Benvenuto


Linda at SF-ESThe Food: For us at Il Chiostro, helping our guests experience the food in one of the earth`s richest, most sensual areas is our pleasure. This area is part of Italy`s famous wine and olive oil producing region, but is specifically famous for truffles. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking. Linda, a director and founder of Il Chiostro, will be your personal chef.  She uses seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops.  She creates her own twist on pasta dishes, shops in local markets for fresh mozarella and peccorino for our dinner tables. Tuscan cuisine is a simple art that has been refined over the centuries to surprise our palates while the wine comforts our souls. Come explore what food can really be all about.

Terrace Lunch2-AH 2013 Terrace Lunch-AH 2013

An excerpt from a recent article in the NY Times (February, 2013):

The diet that seems so valuable is our old friend the “Mediterranean” diet. It’s as straightforward as it is un-American: low in red meat, low in sugar and hyperprocessed carbs, low in junk. High in just about everything else — healthful fat (especially olive oil), vegetables, fruits, legumes and what the people who designed the diet determined to be beneficial, or at least less-harmful, animal products; in this case eggs and low-fat dairy. This is real food, delicious food, mostly easy-to-make food. You can eat this way without guilt and be happy and healthy.

Linda-Michael with glasses-smallAbout Your Il Chiostro Hosts:  Linda and  Michael, Il Chiostro’s directors, will be hosting you at San Giovanni d`Asso.  Linda will be our chef while Michael will coordinate our excursions.  They have been organizing workshops in Italy since 1995. You can read more about them by following the About Il Chiostro link. For this week the owners of the palazzo will turn their home over to us so we can live like a noble Italian family ourselves.

In addition to your workshop, optional activities offered with this program will focus on the cultural, gastronomic, historical and artistic heritage of Tuscany. This area has been an inspiration to countless people for centuries. What Tuscany offers its visitors is truly astounding:

Art – San Giovanni d`Asso is located near the cities of Medieval Siena and Renaissance Florence packed with some of the most famous masterpieces in the world.

Wine -You are in the heart of the wine growing region, synonomous with the most famous wine that Italy produces – Chianti. But the innovative Tuscan vintners are also producing Super Tuscans, red varietals that are quickly ascending the ranks of world-class wine.

History – this area was settled by the Etruscans centuries before the Romans were a civilized society. Their necropoli dot the fields throughout the area. Nearby towns like Radda, Vagliagli and Castellina date from the early Middle Ages. Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. San Fedele witnessed most of this from its panoramic perch atop the hillside.

Foodcucina povera is the typical Tuscan cuisine that has become popular around the world. The recipes are simple, emphasizing local and seasonal products: porcini mushrooms, salumi, legumes, vegetables, pasta, bread and game meats. Visiting an outdoor food market, you will understand the wisdom of this very healthy cuisine.

Crafts – perhaps the harmony of the landscape has been the inspiration for many local craftsmen. Exquisite hand-painted ceramics are the prime example, closely followed by mosaics, leather, woodworking, and textiles.


Montalcino by Michael Ferris