Culina Romana, Antiqua Modernaque: A Gastronomer’s Tour of Southern Italy


July 26 - August 7, 2016

During this 12 day tour of southern Italy, our group will study, view, recreate (and taste!) authentic Italian cuisine through both ancient and modern lenses. Ancient accounts (both Greek and Roman) will provide authentic information regarding food preparation and consumption by the Romans of the ancient world, from modest households to the exotic foods of the wealthy. Modern scholarly sources will supplement our understanding of the processes and matters concerning ancient food production and preparation. We will tour ancient sites – including the best-preserved Roman farms and villas that survive – to discover what they reveal about food from everyday staples to imported and luxury cuisine. In the kitchen of the Villa Vergiliana, we will attempt to reproduce some “authentic” ancient recipes (based on Apicius). Tours of local markets and producers such as wineries and liquor-makers, cheese producers, and fisheries, will round out our survey of how the local cuisine has both expanded through modern production and technological advantages and remained rooted in the natural resources and crops both native and easily-adapted to the climate of this extraordinary region of Italy. Many of the establishments we will visit, which have been run as family businesses for generations, will help us learn about the traditions and innovations in production and cultivation.


We shall do our best to adhere to the following itinerary, although adjustments may have to be made:

July 26 Tuesday

We will assemble by 11am in Napoli. Our first day will find us browsing through a local marketplace and finding a “typical” Neapolitan lunch in town. On the way to the Villa, we will stop to tour a local garden/farm and visit a local winery with vineyards overlooking Lake Avernus. After our arrival at the Villa Vergiliana, we will assemble for dinner and our illustrated orientation, which will provide a survey of the foods available to the ancient Romans, and an introduction to the remarkable landscape and climate of the region.

July 27 Wednesday

As we consider food preparation and consumption in the Roman world, we will journey to Pompeii to explore extraordinary houses and villas such as the House of the Ship Europa and the Villa of the Mysteries, which were production centers as well as places to prepare and enjoy food. Along our path the Garden of the Fugitives with its open air dining space, a mill/bakery, an ancient snack shop/wine bar, and other similar sites will illuminate ancient foodways. And since no discussion of ancient Roman cuisine would be complete without a hint of garum, we will make sure to pay our respects at the tomb of Umbricius Scaurus, the garum king.

July 28 Thursday

A consideration of the influences of both colonization and trade to the south of Italy leads us to discovering the evocative site of Cumae and discussing the foods that were brought to the peninsula from Greece as well as those that were locally cultivated. With our background from the ancient cities we will spend some time in the kitchen of our villa reproducing recipes from Apicius, which will be our dinner.

July 29 Friday

This day in Puteoli and Napoli will find us experiencing a significant mainstay of the ancient Italian diet: seafood. We will survey the ancient fishmarket and visit a modern one. As markets abound in Napoli, we will crawl through the old city soaking in the sounds, sights, aromas, and tastes of everything from its famous pizza to gourmet chocolate to its historic coffee culture.

July 30 Saturday

Today’s excursion will take us to a renowned buffalo mozzarella farm, where we will learn about the processes of making this signature regional delight, husbandry, animal management, and leathermaking. After a tasty lunch there, as we continue our journey to Paestum we will consider the crops native to the region or those that flourish in its climate, and round off our visit with some cool and zingy gelato at the award winning Bar Museo. The best preserved temples and the best gelato in Italy all in one day!

July 31 Sunday

Athena may have given the olive to Athens in order to become the patroness of that city, but nobody makes olive oil like the Italians. After a visit to the lovely villas set along the stunning cliffs of Stabia, we will find ourselves touring a traditional olive oil producer in Sorrento. And if olive oil is too commonplace to tickle your tastebuds, perhaps some local honey or vinegar will make your mouth water. A trip to a local family-run cheesemaking facility will round out this day of deliciousness.

August 1 Monday

Too much eating out – even in enchanting establishments – can get boring, so this day at the Villa will include reproducing some ancient recipes in our own Villa cucina. However, in the morning, though, we’ll pop out to Baiae and the shellfish farms on Lago del Fusaro.

August 2 Tuesday

Although it would probably be smart for us to walk or bicycle (since our waistlines may well have expanded by this point), today we will have to settle for a magic carpet ride. In the province of Salerno, we will encounter the triple treasury of wine, pasta, and pastries – not all at one facility, of course, but certainly of the caliber to make us swoon.

August 3 Wednesday

Can you imagine a gastronomer’s tour of southern Italy without either limoncello or the Amalfi coast? Neither could we…..

August 4 Thursday

And what made yesterday’s lemons so potent? Volcanic ash from Vesuvius, of course! A trip to the volcano and a discussion of the local soil and its fertility will be capped (no, Vesuvio, don’t blow your top!) by a stop at a local cantina for cheese, cured meats and wines made from grapes grown on the slopes of the volcano. We end the afternoon with a visit to the remains of an ancient winery on the slopes of Vesuvius.

August 5 Friday

A look at the rustic and the luxurious will find us at both a modest, ancient farm and a sprawling Imperial villa this morning. In the afternoon we visit the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, the greatest archaeological museum in Europe to view spectacular material from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

August 6 Saturday

An ancient breakfast; departure

Price: $2795

Two Day Extension: Want to see and do more? An optional two-day extension is available! Travel north via high-speed train to Bologna where on the first day we will visit local markets and shops, explore local and regional ingredients, and sample northern cuisine. The second day will be spent with trips to Parma and Modena experiencing the creation of aceto balsamico at a traditional maker such as Acetaia di Giorgio (, prosciutto, and a Parmigiano Reggiano dairy, all with tastings of course! Concludes with dinner and a second night in Bologna. Cost: $590