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Tuscan villa in Lucca, Italy
1470 Squires Beach Road
Lucca, 55100
Italy

2.0 Palms
2.0 Palms
Disappointed for the Price Nov 07, 2016
reviewer: Glutenfreeadventurer

The Jovial Foods Gluten-Free Getaway looked like a dream come true and a trip of a lifetime. It is advertised as an intensive culinary experience. Unfortunately, we did not receive the full value of what was promised. I did hear similar sentiments from other guests as well. It seemed as though Carla and her staff had good intentions but had difficulty executing things well. I heard some great things about it in the past, but I think something may have changed with it. It seemed like perhaps Carla was too busy to devote her full attention to the getaway, and appeared somewhat apathetic about making sure people enjoyed themselves. They never asked for our feedback, throughout the trip, or even after it was over. I did contact them with my feedback and received a polite response, but no offer to compensate us for the poor experience. Other guests plan to contact them as well. I didn't speak to a single guest on our getaway who was satisfied. Italy? Wonderful! But the getaway? Not worth the cost.

-THE GOOD-
The villa and its grounds are beautiful, and the choice to set it in the Tuscany region of Italy was great. The food, which was all strictly gluten-free was consistently delicious, and it was nice that wine was also provided. I appreciated several tips from Carla about working with gluten-free flour and about some of the Italian philosophies about food and cooking.

-THE BAD-
Cooking Classes:
The website boasted the wealth of cooking lessons we would learn. However, there was very limited meal instruction -- we mostly stood around her in a crowd and watched her- we did not get the opportunity to follow along and do it ourselves start to finish. In addition, one of the 4 classes was cancelled. Of the 3 we received, the pastry "lesson" did not involve any instruction- it was a team baking challenge. Guests ranged from beginner cooks to restaurateurs and chefs - unfortunately, no one felt they learned much. It is now 1 month after the getaway and we still haven't received the written recipes!

Dinners Provided:
The itinerary promised 5 dinners. However, when one cooking class was canceled on Thursday, dinner was also dropped from the schedule. See my comment about the stocked kitchen below. This incurred additional cost to guests, who have to provide their own meal on a day they planned to receive a formal meal.

Aside from gluten-free food provided, other food sensitivities were not sufficiently respected. Several guests reported some level of lactose intolerance at the start. However, no accommodations or adjustments were made for anyone.

Stocked Kitchen for Guests to Use:
Jovial promised to have a kitchen they would restock "daily" with fresh produce, dairy, and breads. Although leftovers were available, the kitchen was not stocked for us. On the day they cancelled dinner, about half of the guests planned to stay in and cook. Carla brought over a box of tomatoes, some boxed pasta, and jars of tuna. No apologies, no offer to order food for us or bring in groceries. Then she left with her staff to go to dinner. There was also no working microwave for reheating leftovers.

Location:
The website describes the villa as very accessible, located in Lucca, Italy. "The villa is a short walk to town..." However, the actual location is in the mountains above Ponte a Moriano, a 15 min drive or train ride from Lucca. It is up a very steep hill with no lighting or sidewalk. You really must be willing to rent a car or hire a driver for the week.

Internet:
There was no internet functionality for at least 2 full days. Then, the internet was very slow and cut out frequently. The Wi-Fi signal did not work in bedrooms at all. This cost us money for roaming fees on our phones, and made planning tours and things very difficult.

Other Amenities:
The weather was unseasonably cold. The much-needed heat was not turned on for 1 day, and some rooms continued to be without heat. Our room was also missing a set of towels as well as a shower curtain. Several rooms did not have keys for a couple of days. The groundskeeper was slow to respond to issues.

OVERALL:
This is a pricey getaway that didn't deliver all it promised. I suggest you skip the getaway and save your money for better activities- Italy is INCREDIBLY gluten-free friendly. You can enjoy the plentiful restaurants and groceries with the best gluten-free foods you will ever eat! You can find gluten-free cooking classes in Italy elsewhere too. Go enjoy Tuscany and forget this organized getaway. That's my plan for next time.

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