Monday, 30 April 2012

An Interview with Flavours host: Livia

Hi Livia,
Many thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 36, Italian and live in the city of Faenza, quite close to Bologna.I’ve been a host with Flavours Holidays for six years. I still live with my parents (like a lot of Italians at my age!) and have lunch and dinner with my parents every day - my father loves to cook!

What attracted you to hosting groups on cooking holidays?

My love of Italy, people and cooking. I’m a cook – an interest I’ve had since I was very young. Cooking is part of a lot of Italians life; we grow up watching our grandmothers in the kitchen, smelling all the great perfumes…. like “brodo” - broth with Tortellini floating in it. Like every Italian, I simply love cooking the traditional dishes of our different regions.

So, you’ve been with Flavours Holidays for 6 years now. Have you seen the company change much in this time?

Flavours has always been a very familiar and friendly company; in this sense, it’s never changed! It is like being part of a family. I love to see the same guests coming back every year, trusting us and following our suggestions. In 6 years I’ve seen Flavours growing a lot, doubling the number of guests every year but still being a very “personal” little company!

What do you enjoy most about your job as a host?

I enjoy being able to share the love and the passion that Italians have for food, seeing guests appreciate Italian food and getting to know them as people. I enjoy eating and socialising with guests: we eat, we drink, we talk and share time together. I enjoy the people I meet and, even in a short time, we become friends. I love being a host and making sure that my guests are relaxed and enjoying their holiday.

And what do you like best about living in Italy?
I like to take time to do things slowly: I like to enjoy my lunch sitting at the table - and not a sandwich in front of a computer - or to cook for friends at my house. Here, we love long dinners with a lot of wine and conversation. In Italy everyone is very attached to their traditions and we could fight for them – we’re very proud of our roots!

Do you have any favourite Italian regions? 

I love my region - Emilia Romagna - and all its traditions. We have everything; culture, history, great landscapes and great food: Tortellini, Parmigiano, Parma ham , Ragu, Lasagne al forno, Aceto balsamico, great peaches in summer and buonissimi radicchio di campo in winter.
But I also love to travel to other regions: if people could not travel we would all be very poor inside…
Tuscany is beautiful and Florence food market is very rich and full of fantastic ingredients: olio d’ oliva, cantucci, vin santo, prosciutto toscano,la finocchiona! But the real markets are in the South where they have great weather and the nature is so wild and real - there is no season there were you don’t find nature in bloom. I love their humble traditions: they make great dishes with just a few fresh ingredients. Umbria is a great region and is where the South really starts: they have good weather, good olive oil, lovely green landscapes, black truffles, lentils, carpets of wild flowers…

What types of people tend to come to Italy for painting and cooking holidays? 

The most common age range on our cooking holidays is between 37 -58, I would say, but there is no particular age range really: we have had very young girls (23) that are quite mature and older ladies (82) that seemed 40!
On some painting and cooking holidays, our guests have no skills, but by the time they leave, they’ve had a great experience, having learnt how to make tortellini, or to paint a sunset that shows their feelings. Sometimes we also combine painting and cooking holidays, which makes for a really interesting week, with everyone learning something from each-other.

Do most people come on cooking holidays with partners? 

Most of our guests come as singles. On the first night, after a few glasses of wine they soon start to get to know each other, whilst enjoying their first dinner together. And after a week of meals together, most have become great friends. There are a lot of guests that come back the next year friends they met on the holiday before!
Couples that come on our cooking holidays are always very open and friendly. And sometimes there are mothers and daughters too!
Ah…and I’m very proud to say that since I started with flavours six years ago I’ve seen love blossom three times – relationships that later turned into marriages!

And finally, what advice would you give someone who’s considering coming on a Flavours Holiday this year? 

Come ready to spend a very different week, with a lot of new experiences; Italian experiences. Just relax and look forward to enjoying good food and good wine – your guide to the Italian life! Be prepared to flow with the Italian pace of life and be open to new cultures, landscapes and history. And be ready to meet the new people that will become your family for the week!

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