Tuscany, Italy – home of Rhode School of Cuisine’s Italian cooking school

Our Italian cooking school in Tuscany
Villa Michaela in Tuscany

The Rhode School of Cuisine is delighted to present the home of our renowned Italian cooking school, Villa Michaela. Situated in the charming village of Vorno and nestled in the lush Tuscan countryside with panoramic views of Monte Zano to the south and the towers of Lucca and the Alpe Alpuane to the north our superb Tuscan villa estate is surrounded by fifty acres of pine forests and olive groves all within its private walled gardens.

The original structure of Villa Michaela (previously Villa Nottolini) dates back to the 15th Century. Recently featured in a book of elegant Lucchesi villas and formal Italianate gardens, the walled garden of the Villa Michaela estate will delight you with its exquisite Chapel, extensive grapevine pergola, ancient waterfalls, swimming pool and tennis court.

The limonia kitchen is used for demonstrations, breakfast and informal dining. The villa is decorated to the highest standards. There are 18 bedrooms including the 6 in the spectacular Casa Una. The tasteful renovation includes wonderful antique furniture and the curtains and bedspreads are of specially selected designer fabrics.

Our Italian cooking school courses are held in the limonaia, which has been converted to create a magnificent open-plan demonstration kitchen and dining-room.

Villa Michaela will serve as your “home base” for exploring one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. The wooded foothills and meadows are carpeted with wild flowers in the spring and filled with magnificent colour and fungi in the autumn. Pisa and Florence are less than an hour away.

Our Italian cooking vacations include interesting cultural excursions. Golf, riding, truffle hunting and the nearby amazing coast line are all close by. Explore Lucca’s maze of pedestrian streets within its walls, stopping in unique shops selling food, trinkets and clothing, interspersed among the churches and other medieval buildings with their striped marble Romanesque façades. Visit Florence, where the displays of cheeses, salamis, vegetables, and fruit are works of art in of themselves. You can discover Vinci with a visit to the Home of Leonardo and a private tour of the Taccini Brothers’ studio, well-recognized ceramic artists, as featured in Bon Appetit.

We hope to see you soon for another season at our beautiful Italian cooking school!

Here is a brief summary of your week at Villa Michaela:


SATURDAY - Arrival

The Rhode School of Cuisine will collect you from either Pisa airport (25 minutes) or Lucca train station (10 minutes).

Just e mail us your flight or train times and we will be there to swoop you up into the magical Lucchese hills. Drinks and canapes on arrival at Villa Michaela.

Settle in, unpack and acquaint yourself with the villa and grounds - anyone feeling energetic can take a turn around the charming, historic village of Vorno with one of the Rhode School of Cuisine staff.

5 p.m.

Introduction to your chefs for the week - meet your hosts and tell us what would make your week totally perfect and if we can, we will make the arrangements.

Our huge Tuscan kitchen used to be the Limonaia, which is where the ancient lemon trees in their original terracotta pots were kept in winter to protect them from the frost it has now been transformed into a vast kitchen with a La Cornue oven and dining for 20 - breakfast and lunches are often eaten here with grand dinners being held in the stunningly beautiful Villa Michaela dining room. The magnificently long table seats 36 with its three crystal antique chandeliers and frescoed walls. Dancing in both places of course !

At 7.30 p.m. - Early buffet dinner prepared by your chef - 6 antipasti , 2 primi and 2 main courses served with local Lucchese wines - Fresh fruit , home made gelato and Tuscan patisseries to follow.

Of course, if you are not too tired after your journey, you are very welcome to join in the preparation of this Tuscan feast.


After breakfast and a walk round the village there is a 2 hour cooking demonstration and tuition followed by lunch at the villa.

Depart for Lucca 2.45 p.m. - take an afternoon tour with an English speaking guide in this jewel of a city. Lucca's mercato antiquariato the antique market, spills into all the little alleyways and piazzas everything from wrought iron gates to monogrammed silk sheets! Only every third weekend of the month!

Lucca was voted by Forbes magazine as one of the best places in the world to live and to visit.

Regarded as the undiscovered jewel in the Tuscan crown and of course immortalised by Tolstoy in the opening sentence of War and Peace, the city is also famous for the perfectly fortified walls which surround the city, affording wonderful walking and bicycling.

Famous also for its churches, with one hundred in existence at the end of the Middle Ages, the city became a colony of ancient Rome in 180BC. The survival of the Anfiteatro from these Roman times is due to Lorenzo Nottolini, 1787-1851, court architect to Lucca, who designed the aqueduct between Lucca and the hills. He was also responsible for our chapel at Villa Michaela and various other aspects of the villa which was owned by the Nottolini family in the 1800s.

At 6.30 meet at the bar opposite the Chiesa San Giovanni for aperitivi and canapes before attending the (perfectly timed at only one hour!) Puccini/Verdi opera recital in the San Giovanni church a different programme every night - a tenor, soprano and a pianist with wonderful acoustics!

Of course, Puccini is Lucca's most famous son and his best arias are forefront in these wonderful performances. Mozart, Verdi and others also feature but Giacomo Puccini is the star!

Dinner after the concert at one of Lucca's many fabulous restaurants which we will select according to the season. Client's suggestions are earnestly appreciated!

Musicians, celebrated and acknowledged or not, please come forward. Our villa is a perfect backdrop for any potential Pavarotti, who, by the way, gave his first ever concert in Lucca. We have villa guitars and it doesn't have to be opera - Dylan and Springsteen are also acceptable ! Also we have an excellent grand piano in our chapel and we love to hear our guests play!


Breakfast 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

After breakfast we will be leaving for the coast  to visit Puccini s house and museum at Torre del Lago on the beautiful Lago (lake) di Massaciuccoli.

Here you will see his house as he left it with the original piano upon which he composed Madame Butterfly and the unfinished Turandot. You can also inspect all his hunting guns and even his boots!

From there we will go for lunch at a seafood restaurant in Viareggio, admire its renowned Liberty architecture and also admire the world famous yacht construction boatyards of Perini Navi and Benetti. We will also pay a short visit to the amazing architectural salvage yard in Forte dei Marmi. (recuperando.com )

Return to Villa Michaela for 5.30 cooking lesson.

Dinner 8 p.m.


Breakfast 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Hike up the hill for its amazing views or go for a hit on the tennis court and then take a dip in the Villa's beautiful pool! Please let us know in advance if you would like a private lesson with our private tennis coach Matteo. He charges 40 euros per hour.

Leave at 11a.m. for a wine tasting at our local Enoteca in Guamo classic followed by lunch at La Cecca in Coselli which has been written up by the Sunday Times as one of  the best restaurants in Tuscany. Pigeon risotto is their speciality!

Afternoon cooking lesson and demonstration followed by dinner at 8 p.m.


At 8.15 - Early breakfast and departure for the famous Pistoia food market - a wonderful photographic opportunity as this magnificent cornucopia of plenty unfolds against the backdrop of this ancient city. Early lunch in Montecatini Terme a famous spa town with great shopping. After lunch return to the villa for an afternoon Hills of the North cooking session, using the wonderful fresh ingredients purchased in the market.

8 p.m. Dinner at Villa Michaela.


At 9.45 am departure for a trip to la Tenuta di Valgiano for wine, olive and vinegar tasting followed by a delightful lunch. The villa is situated 250 metres above sea level on a hillside 10 kms north east of Lucca. The tenuta's 16 hectares of vineyards stand on a terrace of pebbles and clayey, albarese rocks.

The Sangiovese grapes are grown along the edge of the Albarese soil which allows them to maintain their aromatic properties.

The Merlot grape is cultivated in the clayey soil where they can maintain their fineness and elegance.

Only the Syrah grape can achieve structure and perfume among the sandstone pebbles.

Traditional methods are used in the cellars and technological interference is kept to a minimum.

Afternoon Cooking lesson at the villa with a New World Theme.

8 p.m. Dinner


Leave after breakfast for a visit to the magnificent rococo Villa Torrigiani with its celebrated garden attributed to le Notre.

Lunch and shopping in Lucca.

Home for gala dinner prepared by a mystery visiting chef.


Farewell breakfast and departure.

Click here to check the dates of our cooking courses in Tuscany

Click here to check out our prices and book your place at our Italian cooking school.

Rhode School of Cuisine
Italian cooking school courses in Tuscany

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