Pasta can often be seen as a carrier for a sauce, a staple form of carbohydrate whose role is simply to fill you up. However, to experience true passion for pasta you have to travel to Italy. In its homeland it is the main event at meal times. Sauces are there to complement the pasta, not to drown it and, most importantly, al dente means al dente!

Learning a new skill on holiday is always fun, especially if you get to eat your new creations afterwards! We recently caught up with chef Leonardo Grimaldi at a small demonstration of his skills, sadly not in his restaurant, but in a very smart kitchen in the south of England.

Leonardo and winemaker friend Marco Marrocco (pictured above) have recently combined their considerable skills to offer a foodie’s dream break at Palazzo Tronconi, a small boutique hotel originally dating from the 18th Century and now renovated to a high standard. This is owned and run by Marco and is located in Arce, southern Lazio.

In this situation, it’s fair to say that many chefs would have sourced ingredients on arrival but not Leonardo. He brought his own ingredients from Italy; bronze die cut pasta, local garlic, eggs from virtually feral chickens- known as Aconaetana – salt cod, meat from a slow growing Caserta Black Pig, a myriad of herbs and spices and an especially large pan for cooking the pasta in! For his part Marco had brought his delicious organic olive oil and a selection of biodynamic wines made from their new plantings of largely overlooked local grapes. We’re not sure how they got all that past the check in staff at the airport!

With all this build up we’re pleased to report that the results were exceedingly good. Relatively straightforward Italian country food but made with the highest quality ingredients, consummate skill and with an eye for details. In the space of a morning Leonardo taught us numerous tricks to capture the authentic taste of this largely undiscovered part of Italy and we now know the secret of a truly authentic carbonara (and we’re not letting on).

The packages range between two days/one night to five days/four nights and are really very good value at between 400 and 850 Euros per person. Flights to Rome aren’t included but transfers to/from the airport are, as well as (dependent on package) multiple hands on cookery lessons with Leonardo, followed by dinner and paired examples of the estate’s wines. There’s also a pizza making class run by award winning master baker and local restauranteur, Giuseppe Marcuccilli (and dinner in his popular local pizza restaurant), an explanation of the biodynamic wine making process, followed by a tasting with Marco (which is bound to be a lot of fun and very relaxed) and, of course, lovely accommodation with some amazing views and a generous breakfast. There’s also a choice of excursions included such as visits to Monteassino or Casamari Abbeys, the pretty fishing village of Sperlonga, visiting a cheesemaker who specialises in buffalo mozzarella (including getting up close to the buffalo) and even lunch at the former home of DH Lawrence.

If you fancy joining the fun loving and eminently approachable people at Palazzo Tronconi, the packages are exclusively available through This award winning small company is UK based and will manage all aspects of your booking as required. In an age of websites and non-existent customer helplines their approach is admirably one of outstanding levels of customer service and satisfaction (They received a Feefo Gold Service award as a result of their continued 100% rating). The link for Palazzo Tronconi is

If you’d like to know more about the specifics of the wines and local produce (and see a picture of Marco’s funky socks) have a look at