Our cooking class experience in Florence didn’t start off very well. I had made reservations with Florencetown tours online before leaving Egypt. The directions provided in the email were a little vague, so my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to try to find where we were supposed to meet ahead of time. After 20 minutes or so of wandering around trying to identify the correct street we finally found a sign for Florencetown. Good news, right? It was except for the fact that the sign stated anyone signing up for tonight’s “Pizza & Gelato” class would get 25% off. The online reservations I made required full payment upfront – and it wasn’t cheap (45 euros pp). To find out had I waited until the day of the class to register, I would’ve paid only 33.75 euros pp! I was pissed. I went inside the office to plead my case but the staff was unwilling to offer any sort of reimbursement, claiming the offer mentioned on the sign was only a “last minute deal”. The guy even had the audacity to try to sell me on other tours/classes Florencetown offers so I could take advantage of discounts you get when you book multiple tours. Seriously? No thank you. I felt ripped off and the class hadn’t even begun yet.
So as you might imagine by the time wet met for our class my attitude was a little sour. But I tried to push those feelings aside and enjoy the class for what it was. And I’m glad I did. Despite the initial pricing issues, this was a pretty great cooking class.
It started with our instructor, Julio. As tends to be the case with these types of classes he was great. He provided a good mix of instruction and humor into his lesson. Julio also happened to be of Italian/Peruvian descent and had spent several years recently living/working in Peru, so we were able to reminisce a little about our amazing time in that country.
The class was also a perfect size. Six others joined us – a couple from the UK, and 4 others from the US to make 8 students total. We were told that the class can have up to 24 students, which would have been extremely crammed in that space, but as it was we had plenty of room to work to prepare our meal.
We started the class by making our pizza dough. Pizza is something I make pretty regularly at home so I was curious to see how their crust recipe varied from mine. The differences were subtle (no sugar, kneeding for longer and letting the dough rise longer), but it was still worth it to get little tricks to make my dough a home a little more authentic.
One of the things about traditional Italian pizza that’s much different than most pizzas back home is that it’s very simple. Italians let the raw ingredients speak for themselves and tend to add very little spices to their cooking. For example, the sauce we used was only a mixture of crushed tomatoes and salt. There are also rarely more than a few toppings used on a pizza. This night we used a spicy salami, mozzerella cheese and basil.
As for the gelato, Julio opted for a simple chocolate gelato. Again, very few ingredients – sugar, cocoa powder, cream and milk. I’d love to make it at home, but without a gelato machine it’s not really possible.
What was really great about this class was that it was so hands on. It’s something that many classes by-pass in favour of efficiency and the quality of end-products. We got to make our pizzas from start to finish ourselves – even sliding the pizza into the oven. It’s probably at least partly because pizza and gelato are also fairly easy to make, but there’s no substitute for getting in there and doing it all yourself. And I must say it was all delicious. We even managed a few glasses of wine with our meal, which always makes things better!
So, if you’re in Florence and you’re tiring of admiring all the renaissance art, I’d definitely recommend Florencetown’s Pizza & Gelato cooking class, with one caveat. If you’ve got a couple of days in town, wait until you arrive before booking, especially if it’s in the off-season. That way, you’ll be able to save yourself a few bucks and still have a great experience.
*EDIT…. and here are the pizza & gelato recipes