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Ecco La Cucina

Siena, Italy
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About Ecco La Cucina
We are a culinary tour company offering small group immersions into the Italian way of life, via the discovery of its amazing food, wine, culture and history. Please see our website for dates and pricing Gina no longer offers single day cooking classes in Tuscany.
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Ecco La Cucina
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Kim B wrote a review Oct 11
Columbia, Missouri3 contributions
Gina and Mary made my visit to Italy a trip to remember! Everything was perfect; the accomodations, the amazing meals, the tours, the cooking class, the transportation and the friends I made with the other tour members. I learned a lot about Puglia and its history, food and wine. We traveled under the challenges of Covid19 and Gina and Mary made it as painless as possible. I look forward to visiting other areas of Italy with them in the future!
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Date of experience: October 2021
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Laurie B wrote a review Oct 3
1 contribution
Amazing! Wonderful! Gina and Mary made travel in this complicated time a pleasure. They walked us through all Covid requirements including getting in/out of the country, they made it easy. Their knowledge of Puglia makes all the fabulous tours even more interesting! I am thrilled with all my experiences
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Date of experience: October 2021
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Barry L wrote a review Nov 2019
Louisville, Kentucky186 contributions91 helpful votes
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Gina, Mary and Mike take several small groups to different regions each year, including Piiedmont, Puglia and Tuscany that I know of. Gina Stip operates a small Italian restaurant here in Louisville called "At the Italian Table" where she serves up great authentic Italian cuisine "family style" four nights a week. She plans the dinner, you reserve your "seat at the table" and dine with friends or make new ones. The restaurant seats about 20 folks so it's you truly feel like your at a real Italian meal. Gina was a chef in the Tuscany region for I think about 15 years, and it's obvious she spent that time learning the cuisine, the culture and history of many regions of Italy. This background is important because if you're going to go on a "culinary tour" you need to know the person leading it "knows their stuff" and Gina does! This was our first trip to Italy, Tuscany has been on our bucket list for as long as I can remember, so when Gina told us of the tour a few years ago, we began saving and saving and finally pulled the trigger this fall. One of the great things that happened is that as we told friends of our plans, they kept asking to join us...so of the 14 people on this small tour, we were friends with 10 of them. TIP: if you book, tell your friends and try to bring as many as you can, with you. We went into Florence for three days prior and enjoyed cannoli's, art, the beauty of Florence, more cannoli's (man, they are the best there), great food and wine, cannoli's and gelato. I won't review my three days in Florence here, but if you want tips, you can contact me directly After three glorious, fun filled days in Florence, Mary (Gina's sister) made arrangements for a van to pick us up at our hotel for the hour or so trip to the Villa Pippistrelli in the heart of Tuscany. The villa is several hundred years old, but you wouldn't know it. It's been renovated is spacious and even with all the people there, it never felt crowded. The view off the back of the infinity pool overlooking the Tuscan countryside is something off a post card. It sits on top of a hill on the Estate of Montestigliano, a centuries-old estate that is still worked by the family. There is no real phone service at the villa since it sits atop a hill in the middle of essentially nowhere, at least with my carrier, Sprint. You will likely have to drive a mile or so down the hill to make any calls, unless you can make WiFi calls. The villa does have internet connection. Our day were packed with trips to wineries, ancient castles, truffle hunts, then meals prepared with truffles (so delish). Shopping and tours in the city of Sienna including a tour of the Duomo (cathederal) there. You'll learn a LOT of history as Gina will explain the history of the food, region and city, and arrange guided tours by certified tour guides, so this trip is about a LOT more than just food and wine. You'll learn about Sienna's 17 Contrada's, and a horse race called the Palio, which I had never heard of, but I learned that, that horse race means more to Siennians, than the Kentucky Derby does to Kentuckians! You'll just have to experience it for yourself. You'll learn about the ongoing feud between Florence and Sienna that has lasted centuries. I learned that it's hard for some folks to just "let it go, man" LOL Visited a Pecorino farm and learned that Pecorino means "sheeps milk" and the cheese we sampled there, paired local wines was amazing...so I bought some and packed it home...yes, it made it just fine, they vacuum seal it. You'll visit the local market in Sienna and experience how locals pick up their fresh meat, cheeses and vegetables, among other things. We visited several regions there did wine tastings at many wineries. Be prepared to drink wine, lots of it...and I mean it. We typically start at lunch and it pretty much goes into the evening, where the meals last a few hours and are so good I can put it into words. You'll learn real Italian food isn't laced with 15 spices and doctored up. It's plain, simple, fresh foods, including pasta, which you'll learn to make for yourself in the cooking classes we had. One was at an old mill that was almost 900 years old, and another on the estate where Gina lived and cooked for many years. Tip: you do NOT need to bring any wine to the villa, or with you, it is all provided by Gina...and you will NOT run out don't worry, trust me.LOL I questioned to myself if she knew what she was getting into with my friends, but this apparently this is not her "first rodeo" with ardent wine drinkers.... You will have plenty of opportunities at wine tastings to have wine shipped home. We purchased a few cases and it arrived home in the states in a few weeks of our return, no problems. You'll learn a LOT about Chianti's what DOCG means on the label and why it's important. I learned that Chianti's can be fantastic wines and not just that cheap bottle with the wicker base you might associate with a cheap pizza parlor. This region's wines are simply amazing. We wrapped up the trip with a pizza party on the estates main house, hosted by the estates owners. They fired up the wood oven and kept bringing pizza out, we sampled probably 6 or so different pizzas, each amazin, thin crust, with that smoky taste you expect from a wood-fired oven...wine flowed, we laughed, and shared memories of our week in Tuscany...then the owner, I can't remember his name, took the mic and started serenading us to tunes like Amore' and other classics. Truly a great way to wrap up an amazing week. So the bottom line is, you won't have to give anything a thought on this tour. It's all planned professionally by Gina, Mary and Mike, and if you've never been to Tuscany, or Italy, this is a great way to completely immerse yourself in the culture with minimal effort on your part. We've already decided we're going to do another tour with them to either Puglia or Piedmont, maybe both...just a matter of time and getting all our friends together to join us.
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Date of experience: October 2019
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Response from ginastipo, Owner at Ecco La Cucina
Responded Nov 12, 2019
Barry, you crack me UP!! I remember laughing when you sent me an email before the trip and asked if you needed to bring wine with you to the villa because you "didn't want to run out"! Believe me, in the middle of Tuscany with no way to get to a store and they're all closed anyway, you do NOT want to run out of wine. But after so many years living there, I know that's right and we've got you covered! We had such a lovely time with the two of you, thank you for bringing such a great group of your friends to share the experience! We enjoyed meeting them all and getting to know you better. We can't wait to show you Puglia and Piedmont!! Damiano is the owner of the estate and he loves to do karaoke sing-a-longs, it's always the best way to round out a fabulous week in the Siena province! Big hugs to you both and thank you for such a wonderful, detailed review! Gina, Mary and Michael
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JZK96 wrote a review Nov 2019
Bowling Green, Kentucky8 contributions11 helpful votes
This was my second tour with Gina and Mary and every bit as much fun as the first. These trips are well planned, accommodations are top notch, food and wine is sublime, and meeting people with similar tastes in travel experiences is so much fun. I really enjoy learning about the region we are in and the foods/wine grown there. This trip we learned about olive oil since olive trees were everywhere. We even stayed at a Masseria where there was a 3,000 year old olive tree still producing. You lean so much on these tours with Gina and Mary plus the cooking experience is always a delight. Everything is already thought of before you go so unless something unforeseen occurs you’ll have a delightful time. Can’t wait to go again!
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Date of experience: September 2019
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Response from ginastipo, Owner at Ecco La Cucina
Responded Nov 12, 2019
Thank you so much for coming with us to Puglia! It was lovely to see you again and to share this amazing region, full of history and beautiful sites. We love sharing these experiences with like-minded travelers. We have more planned for future areas in Italy and I hope you'll join us again! Gina & Mary
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Kackie104 wrote a review Jul 2019
Murphy, Texas2 contributions1 helpful vote
Having just returned from a fabulous trip to the Piedmont region of Italy,l I have to say it was Top Notch in my book!! The majority of our group was returning customers from previous trips with Gina, Mary and Michael..thats speaks volumes! As soon as I signed up with a friend ( who had been with them before) it was 18 months out from departure, they began staying in touch with me with flight info, helped with planning a side trip before meeting group to go to villa and were helpful with any and all questions. Before the trip I enjoyed looking at all the their trips on Facebook and now looking back on our photos and the fun we had. Our group became fast friends, enjoying our tours to a cheese factory, hazelnut farm, wineries, fabulous meals, beautiful villa, truffle hunting with Dora the dog, (it was so helpful that Gina spoke Italian and at times had to interpret for us), had a Vermouth tasting, cooking our lunch in a kitchen together and traveling around the countryside in comfort. Each day Mary would help us all with your Italian with a useful word of the day....I wrote each down to help me when needed. Thank you Chef Gina, Mary and Michael for showing me this area of Italy and explaining the region to me, sharing their foods/regions specialities with me and enjoying their wines... I have already started planning my next trip with y'all.
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Date of experience: June 2019
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