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About Us

Cooking Vacations in Umbria, Italy

Cucina della Terra is a unique vacation experience located in the rolling hills of Umbria, Italy. Founded by Chef Gerri Sarnataro in 2008, our mission is to provide immersive cultural experiences through the lens of wine, food and local craftsmanship—and to share culinary experiences that guests can recreate at home.

Our tours are intimate and personal, hosting no more than 15 guests at a time. This provides for a true hands-on learning experience, both in and out of the kitchen. In addition to tasting regional products and gaining hands-on skills, guests will enjoy trips to UNESCO landmarked hill towns, leading Umbrian and Tuscan wineries, and the finest local artisans. From architecture to history, food to wine, each trip is designed around the highlights of the season, as is the Italian way.

Meet Chef Gerri

Growing up in Queens, New York, it was easy for Gerri to fall in love with food. Her Italian-born grandfather owned a fine food store, so her family regularly feasted on such farm-to-table foodstuffs as local squab and fresh produce from Long Island. Yet, despite this unusual access to the region’s freshest flavors, Gerri’s original career plans bent towards academia instead of the kitchen.

Armed with a graduate degree in education and developmental psychology from New York University and Columbia University, respectively, it was clear that Gerri was destined to teach. Yet, inspired by the culinary scene in 1970s New York – in particular such thought leaders as Julia Child, James Beard an Craig Claiborne – she decided to pursue one last diploma: a Culinary degree at the International Culinary Center formally known as the French Culinary Institute.

Over the course of her culinary career, Gerri cooked at Lanvin’s (an upscale, club-like restaurant in the Garment District), as well as Wood’s Restaurant, where she catered to such urban fashion elite as Oscar de la Renta. The experience inspired Gerri to launch her own catering company, serving not only her fashion contacts, but also such institutions as the New York Public Library. Yet throughout this period, Gerri’s passion for learning continually pulled her across the Atlantic – frequently traveling to France before discovering her true culinary match in the rolling hills of Umbria.

Since 2008, Gerri has split her time between teaching Italian cooking and professional baking at the award-winning Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and developing immersive culinary tours for Cucina della Terra. With each successive trip to Italy, she has developed a local’s rapport with both the land and the artisans of Umbria, whether harvesting olives each fall to fuel the olive oil-driven cuisine in her cucina or joining in the traditional culinary celebrations of the region.