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Featured Review

November 2015

Gluten Free Getaway at Villa in Tuscany, Italy

4.0 Palms
Tuscan Villa in Lucca, Italy
Review Type: Other
Location: Lucca, Italy
Phone: 877-642-0644

Contact: Heidi Gordon at the phone number above
Date Visited: October 2015
Review Posted: October 27, 2015
Summary Jovial Foods hosts wonderful week-long gluten free culinary getaway at a villa in the heart of Tuscany, Italy

This month we are featuring a review of a special "Gluten Free Getaway" sponsored twice per year by Jovial Foods, maker of fine Italian foods, including a line of gluten free pastas, sauces, and cookies. Their week of hands-on gluten free cooking classes, mixed with relaxation and free time, is held at an 18th century villa in the heart of Tuscany. You've often heard us mention this particular travel opportunity, and now we wanted to showcase this fantastic and detailed review from a gluten free traveler who just returned from the October getaway.


If there exists a gluten free heaven-on-earth, I'm pretty sure I've found it.

After receiving a celiac disease diagnosis three years ago, I was afraid my international travel days were over until, here on, I spotted information about a gluten free culinary getaway in Italy. This seemed like the chance to travel to Europe with relative confidence in food safety, so my husband and I flew to Italy. Here is our story of the gluten free cooking school. What an exceptional experience!


The week-long cooking school unfolded in a gorgeous villa, built in 1729 near the historic walled city of Lucca in northern Tuscany. The magical week was a dream-come-true for persons with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten allergy. All food and cooking ingredients in the villa complex were gluten-free. All pans, utensils, and toasters were dedicated to gluten free cooking and baking.

The week was sponsored by Jovial Foods, a small Italian pasta, olive oil, and tomato company dedicated to producing fine-quality products. Jovial products can be found in the U.S. or online. Jovial Foods founder, Carla Bartalucci, taught the cooking classes, which included theory and history of Italian cooking and baking, modified for gluten free flours and ingredients. Participants made pasta, pastries (e.g. Torta della Nonna), breads (e.g. sourdough and focaccia), pizza, desserts, and rolls. After cooking classes, the fruits of our labors were served for dinner, complete with red and white vino (including a delicious Solgirato Mulerna rosso) and mineral water, desserts, coffee, and cappuccino.


Breakfast at the villa was a smorgasbord of gluten free offerings including breads, rolls, cereals, muesli, eggs, prosciutto, pecorino cheeses, fruit, jams, Nutella, yogurt, coffee, espresso, cappuccino, blood orange juice, milk and a special dish each day -- such as frittata or caramelized potatoes prepared by Carla.

The villa was built at a time when it was customary for wealthy families to retreat to the countryside on holidays. The complex sits on many hillside acres lush with vegetation, including herb gardens and many fruit trees such as lemons, oranges, persimmon and pomegranate. Olive trees are plentiful and vineyards are interspersed. Rose or grapevine covered gazebos and pergolas abound and flowers are everywhere. The villa's owners raise their own chickens and maintain two swimming pools. The villa itself is luxurious, complete with ballroom, library, multiple living rooms, enormous kitchen, pantry, huge dining rooms, and at least two floors of bedrooms, all with private baths. Three vine-covered guest houses offer additional sleeping space.


Carla was aided by a staff of assistants who were knowledgeable, fun, and very helpful with classes and meal preparation as well as useful resources regarding local foods, food preparation, travel, and Italian customs. They made recommendations for safe dining senza glutine (without gluten) in restaurants on free days and helped with dinner reservations. The week also included plenty of free time to explore Lucca, the Garfagnano region, Cinque Terra, Pisa, Florence or other cities, villages, and landscapes in northern Tuscany.


Indeed, we are still in awe of the experience. Bellissimo! Contact Heidi Gordon from Jovial Foods at the number above or visit Jovial's website to learn of future dates for their Gluten Free Getaways. They usually happen twice per year -- Spring and Fall.

You can read a couple more of this reviewers' restaurant reviews from Italy -- and almost 100 other gluten free dining reviews from all over Italy -- on this page of our site.

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Karen Broussard, Founder and President of GlutenFreeTravelSite

Karen Broussard is the Founder and President of GlutenFreeTravelSite. Karen launched GlutenFreeTravelSite in 2008 after her son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at a very young age. She and her family found that dining out and traveling could be a real challenge for people following gluten free diets, and she wanted to provide a place where the gluten free community could go to share their experiences first-hand with others.

In addition to heading up GlutenFreeTravelSite, the DINE GLUTEN FREE Mobile App, and the Gluten Free Travel Blog Karen is an Associate Editor of Simply Gluten Free Magazine and volunteers each summer at Camp Celiac in Rhode Island. A graduate of Georgetown University with a degree and career in Marketing, Karen resides with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC area.

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