Learn Italian skills

Take a class in some typically "Italian" skills, from Italian language to Italian cooking, painting frescoes to driving gondolas

Cooking class Italy
Duration: Half-day to full-day
Cost: From $99 per person
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Cooking Classes (Everywhere)

Rather than just taking home from your next trip tales of that fantastic tagliatelle alla bolognese, why not return with the skills to recreate all those great Italian meals in your own kitchen? Cooking schools and cooking lessons are a phenomenal way to while an afternoon—or even for a full week. You get the kind of genuine cultural insight no number of museums and monuments could ever give, you can engage locals on a subject about which they are truly passionate, and you will gain a new skill (or at least new recipes to add to your repertoire). And, of course, you get to eat all your mistakes (mmmm...mistakes)..

Duration: 3 hours
Cost: $99 per person
Private: $448 per party
Book: Reserve with Context Travel  

Fresco Workshop (Florence)

This fresco workshop provides a hands-on experience in the studio of an accomplished fresco artist, who will guide you through the steps of preparing a surface, drawing and transferring a drawing, and finally applying the paint. At end, you get to take home your own fresco...

Duration: Half-day to multi-week
Cost: From $95 per day, $210 per week
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Italian Lessons (Everywhere)

Parla Italiano? No problem! With a little bit of training you can be—well, if not fluent then at least better able to make yourself understood and able to understand others. Italians love it when you even try to speak a bit of their language, and are very encourgaing to help you learn more. So whether for a day of basic words and phrases or a week-long intensive course to learn some converstational Italian, why not imparare à parlare italiano in Italia?...

Duration: 2 hours
Cost: $106 per person

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Gondola Driving Lessons (Venice)

Learn to row gondola-style in an exclusive very small group (maximum 4) with a great English-speaking guide. Glide through Venice's prettiest canals and out into the Venetian lagoon as you learn how to be a Gondolier!..

Duration: 2 hours
Cost: $73 per person
Book: Reserve with Viator  

Roman Gladiator School (Rome)

Master the basics of hand-to-hand combat at a genuine gladiator school on the ancient Appian Way. You'll get hands-on with ancient Roman history as your gladiator instructor teaches you how to fight with authentic weapons used by the gladiators of ancient Rome....

Duration: 1.5 hours
Private: From $186 per person 
Book: Reserve it

The Craft of Mask-Making (Venice)

You probably know that masks are worn during Venice's Carnevale, but have you ever bothered to scratch the surface and learn about the intriguing and mysterious legends behind Venetian masks? In this 1 1/2 hour hands-on workshop, you will learn the craft of mask making from a real Mascareri, one of the skilled artisans who, for hundreds of years, have made original Venetian masks in their ateliers located all over Venice...

Duration: 3 hours
Cost: $90 per person 
Private: $390 per group 
Book: Reserve it

Plein-Air Drawing in Rome

or centuries artists from around the world have flocked to Rome to wander its shadowy medieval streets and climb through its ruins, looking for that perfect vista. In this three-hour hands-on experience we'll pick up our pencils and join this illustrious group as we use the art of sketching to capture, frame, and ultimately understand better Rome in her many forms. Our guide will be an accomplished artist and art teacher who will take us to several hidden-away spots that we could never find on our own for that perfect perspective or vista. Plein Air Drawing in Rome is set up to accommodate all levels of artist, from experienced drawers to complete neophytes....

Duration: 4 hours
Private: $515 per group 
Book: Reserve it

Mosaic-Making Workshop (Naples)

Mosaic is an art form that has a long history in the Campania region around Naples, dating from the Greek period and blossoming during the age of the Roman Empire. During this hands-on workshop, visitors learn this ancient art in the company of a professor of medieval art and critically-acclaimed mosaic artist. This is a fun, immersive experience in which participants learn not only about the history and aesthetics of mosaics, but the actual technique of making one. This program takes place in the artist's studio, set in the lovely countryside of Salerno...

Duration: 5 hours
Cost: $138 per person
Book: Reserve with Viator  

Self-Drive Vintage Fiat 500 Tour: Tuscan Villa and Picnic Lunch and Grape-stomping (Florence)

Drive a vintage Fiat 500 to a gorgeous 15th-century Renaissance villa nestled in the picturesque Tuscan hills just outside of Florence. Traveling in a convoy behind an expert guide, you’ll drive along quiet private roads and then enjoy 2.5 hours at leisure. Swim in the villa’s pool, indulge in a picnic lunch with wine tasting, or upgrade to include a winemaking session in which, yes, they will let you stomp the grapes. (No one actually makes wine this way anymore, but c'mon: Who doesn't want to try it? Lucille Ball impressions are optional.)...

Tips & links

Useful links & resources
Book ahead

While for some activities you can just show up, this is one travel item you really should try to reserve in advance.

Popular activities like cooking classes can sell out.

Many are available only on certain days of the week, so it pays to know that you'll have to set aside, say, Tuesday morning for that guided market walk with a local cookbook author.

Many of the best activities are available by advance booking or appointment only—particularly wineries. Some vineyards welcome walk-ins, true, but many more will give you a cellar tour and wine tasting only if you call ahead a few days (and those tend to be the ones most liberal with the free samples).

If you have your heart set on dining in a particular restaurant, go ahead and call ahead,even if it's just earlier on the same day—though a day ahead is preferable. I have found that a corrollary of Muphy's Law applies to this aspect of travel. Any restaurant I am particularly keen on but blithely assume I can just waltz into will inevitably be filled to the brim: no tables available. However, half the time when I do book a table in advance I'll end up being the only guy in the place (nor near enough for my advance booking to feel like overkill). Still, better safe than sorry. Reserving a table is quick and painless; getting turned away at the door can be crushing.

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