Where can you meet a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary, a CERN physicist, an American running a food truck in Switzerland, honeymooners, a high school senior celebrating her graduation, or other interesting people when traveling??
You probably won’t.
That’s why taking cooking classes abroad. They bring people together to learn from each other (and create something delicious). When the hard work is done, you can share stories over a delicious meal.
We enjoy experiences when we travel and taking different Florence cooking classes has definitely become one of my favorite challenges on my 101 in 1001 list. This is going to be a photo heavy post because I want you to see how hands on these tours can be!
I took my first cooking class in Florence in 2010, and we’ve taken classes in Paris, Salzburg, Cinque Terre, Rome, and Florence. Given that we’ve now taken multiple Florence cooking classes, it’s safe to say cooking in Florence is definitely a mainstay on our Italian itineraries now.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Tips for Florence Cooking Classes
As we walked across the bridge to our cooking class, I started to feel nervous. I couldn’t remember the last time I made anything from scratch. I felt like an imposter when I was handed a plastic apron, but I dutifully suited up. Will everyone be a master chef? What if I forget an ingredient? Will I look like an amateur? How do they decide what we are going to make? Why didn’t I check on that ahead of time? These fears weren’t exactly quelled when I found out our cooking partner had her own food truck.
But, she kept her camera out… so I kept mine out, too.
Tip #1: Don’t be nervous. Everyone is there because they want to learn something.
Fresh Pasta Cooking Class
This is the first fresh pasta class we took in Florence. It is absolutely delightful and a great introduction to easy recipes that you can make it home. It takes place in a culinary school in the Oltrarno on a small street that is easy to miss. This small group cooking class is limited to 12 students and taught by a master chef.
In this particular class, we learned to make three pastas and three sauces. We learned to make an egg pasta, a water pasta, and a potato tortelli, which is a very specific type of ravioli from the Mugello region outside of Florence. In addition to the pastas, we learned to make panna cotta, which takes less than 10 minutes to prep.
This cooking class takes about 3 hours. Both water-based pasta and egg-based pastas must rest, but there is never any down time. While pastas rest, you will learn to make the sauces. What I loved about this class is that all sauces were very light and fresh. Everything started with olive oil and were enhanced by tomatoes, herbs, or mushrooms. Once the sauces were ready to simmer, we learned to roll the pasta using hand-cranked pasta machines. We used a hand tool to make and shape the tortelli. (I’ve never been so glad for my Kitchenaid pasta attachments!)
Fresh pasta cooks extremely fast. By the time we were settled in the basement dining room, our fresh pasta creations were plated and served family style. Sharing a meal with people from all over the world is such a gift. The cooking school provides all the recipes, so you’ll have the perfect souvenir to celebrate at home.
BOOK THIS: Oltrarno Fresh Pasta Cooking Class
Pizza & Gelato Cooking Class in Florence
My mom and I took this pizza and gelato class in Florence in 2010 – and it’s still going strong! (Should I give her credit for helping me realize that this is the best travel experience ever? Probably so.) This class is taught at the same cooking school in Oltrarno as the pasta making class above. It is also limited to 12 students, so you get plenty of hands-on time cooking.
Similar to pasta making, the master chef will teach you how to make pizza dough from scratch. While the dough rests, you make the gelato. Like any good tips for eating in Italy, we used seasonal ingredients. As such, we made a peach sorbetto and a cream gelato. Once the gelato in the freezer, you return to the pizza. We used market fresh ingredients to finish off the pizzas before putting them in a wood-fired oven. (They say that’s the mark of a truly good Italian pizza.)
Fun Fact: My mom was a natural at pizza tossing. I, however, was not as confident. Like the pasta class, we headed to a community table to enjoy wine and conversation with our fellow travelers devouring our dinner together.
Pro Tip: If you wanted to create your own one day cooking school immersive experience, you could book the fresh pasta class for the morning and the pizza and gelato class for the evening. You would have a slight break between the classes, which would give you a chance to wander the Oltrarno and walk off your meal. If you’re really into learning more about Italian cooking, I would recommend this!
BOOK THIS: Oltrarno Pizza and Gelato Class
Gnocchi and Fresh Pasta Cooking Class in Florence
Once you start getting the basics of Italian food and cooking down, it’s time to level up! Tom, my mom and I spent Thanksgiving in Florence in 2019. It was a trip of a lifetime for my mom and we celebrated by taking multiple Florence cooking classes.
This gourmet fresh pasta class goes beyond the basics of pasta making and truly celebrates the use of seasonal ingredients. If you’re an adventurous eater and enjoy trying authentic Italian cuisine, this class is perfect for you. The recipes are less rote with interesting ingredients and flavors.
In addition to gnocchi, we made egg-based fettuccine and pumpkin ravioli. You will make the pasta dough by hand before rolling it out using a manual pasta machine. It’s a great workout since it is a four-hour cooking class. My mom was very into throwing the gnocchi dough. She told another woman in our group to “throw it like you mean it.” (Absolutely hilarious.) We made a meat sauce for the gnocchi, an eggplant sauce for the fettuccine, and butter-sage sauce for the ravioli.
Dessert was an easy recipe for individual cups of tiramisu.
We were fortunate to be in a group where everyone enjoyed flavor. The other group had someone who didn’t like garlic. Literally. Someone was talking a cooking class in Italy and didn’t want to use garlic in the food! (Imagine our disappointment when they mixed all of our pasta and sauces together.)
There was a couple that couldn’t use coffee in their tiramisu, so the instructor showed us how to use a berry substitute. (I should have said I couldn’t do coffee!) The cooking school staff was incredibly adept and resourceful in how they were able to navigate different dietary requirements on the fly! I was really impressed!
Tom and my mom liked the gnocchi the best. I preferred the pumpkin ravioli, because honestly, when am I going to eat fresh pumpkin at home?! (Butter sage ravioli is a Florentine specialty, too.)
The red wine served with our meal was delicious.
This cooking class is a little outside of the city center. You can certainly walk there, but give yourself enough time to get there!
Florence Central Market Tour & Cooking Class
I highly recommend taking a Florence market tour and cooking class as part of your Italian itinerary. Despite having been to Florence multiple times (and studied there), this tour allowed me to try new things in the Mercato Centrale, and the recipes we made after the market tour were absolutely incredible. (I’ve used them at home more than any of the others.)
Our guide introduced us to many of the most popular market stalls in Florence. We learned more about how to order meats and cheeses (and have been back to purchase), but we were also able to try a few new things, too. (Who knew wild boar and truffle could be so good together? Scratch that – who knew wild boar could be so good?)
After visiting the market, we had a short walk to the cooking school. The chef explained that we would be making a bolognese sauce and a tomato sauce to complement our pastas. This class was less hands on than the others, particularly in preparing the sauces, but we were able to take video and photos while the chef prepared the sauce.
Once he was done prepping the sauces, we returned to our workstations (6 people together) to start making the tiramisu. The chef led us through the steps and walked around to critique and praise our form. (He was quite feisty.) Once the tiramisu was chilling in the refrigerator, we enjoyed a light appetizer of bread and cheese with various pestos, balsamic vinegars, and olive oils. The chef took this opportunity to show us how to make the pasta dough. Again, he made the rounds to check the dough and show people what they were doing wrong. (It was in good spirits, but he did want us to learn correctly.)
Unlike previously classes, we rolled out our dough entirely by hand in this class. (Maybe I could get some definition in my arms if I start making fresh pasta by hand as a workout.) We made a fettuccine and a cheese ravioli in this class. The fettuccine was served with bolognese sauce and the ravioli was served with the tomato sauce. Both were absolutely delicious and I made both recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2020.
This class is larger than the others, so it would be great for groups or families. We had a couple of kids in our class and they seemed to really enjoy it.
BOOK THIS: Florence Market Tour and Cooking Class
Other Florence Cooking Classes & Food Tours
There’s never shortage of things to do in Florence and enjoying the culinary delights are some of our favorite things to do. There are still quite a few things on our food list, beyond preparing a delicious Italian meal.
- Take a Florence Food Tour – We’ve done the sunset food tour in Florence (and the Rome Trastevere tour. Both of those were amazing, and I’m excited to try the Oltrarno food tour, or maybe even the truffle hunt!
- Curious Appetite’s Florence Cocktail Tours – I know anything Coral hosts is going to be good, so sign us up for any and all of her tours in Florence and Tuscany (and Bologna).
- Olive Oil Tasting – We’ve done this at San Gimignano winery, but my mom and I took a class in Florence in 2010. I’m still trying to find the place where we did it in the Oltrarno.
While I know there are a lot of tours for wine tasting and Tuscan farmhouse cooking classes, I think your Italian itinerary should include some time (read: a couple of nights) dedicated to Tuscany. You can find plenty of Tuscany content to convince you on this blog.