Frequently Asked Questions
What is an archaeo-culinary℠ tour?
Mainly it’s a vacation with a theme. It’s a cultural tour with a double focus on ancient remains and traditional Mediterranean food. To the extent possible, we choose sites and artifacts that have some connection with cooking, eating, food production, or food supply in the ancient world. It also means that we take our meals seriously, not only for the food and conviviality but also as expressions of the local culture. Every tour includes some food-related educational activity, such as olive-oil or wine tastings or visits to producers.
What does a typical tour include?
Every tour alternates intellectually stimulating visits to archaeological sites and museums with top-quality local meals and food-related activities presented in their cultural context. Liz talks about each archaeological destination on-site, and Maureen introduces each meal. On some evenings, over wine and nibbles, we offer casual illustrated talks to preview our itinerary or dig deeper into topics of special interest. Occasionally a local guide or invited expert supplements our knowledge.
What is included in the price?
The tour price includes seven nights bed and breakfast, at least one main meal with wine per day and others as indicated in the itinerary for each tour, transport and admission to all activities described in the itinerary, airport or train station transfers at the start and end of each tour, tips. It does not include your travel to the starting point of the tour, your personal travel insurance, or your personal extras.
I’m sociable enough, but I’m single. Will everyone else be paired off?
We certainly hope not. These small-group tours are perfect for solo travelers, sociable or shy. Couples and pairs of friends are encouraged to mingle, and we find they do. And since the tour leaders are always available for unscheduled evening meals, no one ever has to spend an evening alone except by design.
How small is your small group?
Probably 8 to 10, but maybe as few as 6, maybe up to 12, depending on interest, hotel accommodations, and the like. We try to have everybody around the same table for meals.
Are all your tours both archaeo and culinary?
Yes. That’s who we are. We think every tour should offer both culture and good food. The exact mix varies.
Is this going to be over my head?
No it isn’t. It’s true we start at a higher level than most tours, but that just means we skip the condescending baby talk and get right to the point. Everything you need to know will be explained, and if you have any questions, you can ask without apology and without judgment. If you have forgotten everything you ever knew about the ancient world (and we’re sure you haven’t), you can do a little preliminary reading from the titles we suggest in our Bookshop. But no homework is required or needed. Liz is great at bringing the ancient world alive even for people who studied the stuff for years. And Maureen assumes the local food culture is new for everybody.
When I hear “archaeology,” I think rocks. What’s the comfort level?
Generally high. Our ideal is luxury without glitz. In more remote destinations, some accommodations may tend toward rustic, but never without a private bath, WiFi, a great location, and plenty of charm. We prefer to make day trips from a base to avoid packing and repacking. Group travel is by private 20-seater bus, which means everyone has room to spread out. Restaurants cover the whole range from rustic to gourmet, with the emphasis on casual but comfortable.
Can somebody pick me up at the airport?
Of course. You’ll be met at your plane or train and whisked to the hotel or meeting place, and you’re entitled to your transfers even if you come early or stay later.
Do we have cooking lessons?
No. The food activities usually take the form of a demo or tasting or encounter. We’re not saying there will never ever be a cooking lesson, but it’s not likely. We prefer to concentrate on food culture rather than skills. If you’d like a market-based cooking class in Rome, look at what Maureen does.
I’m not as spry as I once was …
Who is? You’ll need good walking shoes for the stretches of uneven terrain typical of archaeological sites, and there may be city walks up to about half a mile, but no hiking.
Is all food included?
Breakfast in the hotel dining room is included plus one full-dress meal with wine per day as well as snacks served in the course of our food activities. The main meal is usually lunch, which provides a welcome rest and chance to talk after a stimulating morning. Most evenings are open, but when a day’s logistics dictate, lunch will be light (and included) and dinner will be the main meal. We’ll make suggestions for light evening meals, wine bars, or ice cream near the hotel, and Liz and Maureen will be available to accompany you if you wish. For these optional outings, the bill is divided evenly among the participants.
Is there a choice of food? I have issues.
We expect our participants to be curious eaters without major restrictions. Tell us what the issues are when you book (there’s a space for this on the booking form), and if we can’t work around the problem (and we often can), we’ll return your deposit check. Our menus, most of which are set, are designed to highlight traditional dishes and local products, but we always take individual problems and preferences into consideration when planning them.
Who organizes the meals?
Maureen and Liz personally without intermediary. We go over several drafts of each menu with the restaurants, which we choose for quality, atmosphere, and location. These are emphatically not standard bus-tour lunches.
I’ve already been to all the important sites. Can you still amaze me?
Yes! Many of our travelers have already seen the wonders of the ancient world and great capitals of the Mediterranean, though it doesn’t matter if they haven’t. Since our tours are thematic, that is, even the archaeological part is connected to food, we’re sure that you’ll look at even familiar places a new way and discover much that is new and delightful (and delicious).
Won’t there be too much food?
Menus are planned to avoid post-prandial coma (with the possible exception of our farewell Sunday lunch!). The set meals are usually traditional and will thus consist of at least three or four moderate courses. Nobody will make you clean your plate. Two such meals a day would be too much. One, possibly with something light in the evening, is just right. Think quality, not quantity, but yes, a good appetite helps.
Are there additional or hidden costs that I don’t know about?
No. Your travel to/from the tour is not included, and we ask participants to have their own medical and travel insurance. Otherwise, the only items not included are your personal extras, such as laundry, bar, and the like. We take care of all tips and service charges except for any personal services. There is plenty of wine included with every scheduled meal, so that’s not an extra. Meals and snacks that are not specified on the itinerary are extra. In those rare instances, we normally divide the check evenly among all those at the table.
How much euro cash will I need?
You can usually pay by credit card (often not American Express), but some euro cash is handy for unscheduled meals in cafés and other small eateries. We suggest not walking around with more than about €100 at a time. Some people have been known to develop a serious gelato habit, and for that you will need cash. How much is between you and your conscience. And your secret will be safe with us.
Should I bring my iPad? my smartphone?
Yes. Just because we like old ruins and traditional food doesn’t mean we’re not wired. We encourage participants to bring their tablets and smartphones. You may request pdfs of any printed handouts we give you, and the devices are great for sharing pictures during the tour. While you shouldn’t need a phone while on the tour, it always gives an extra sense of security. If your provider doesn’t offer a short-term plan, we can check on Italian pay-as-you-go SIM cards for you.
Does Elifant provide additional travel services if I want to come early or stay longer?
Up to a point. While we are not a travel agency, we will be happy to help you with extra nights at our start or end point as well as meals, local guides, and some general advice. For more than minimal services, we will apply a fee, and for even more complicated prequels and sequels, we’ll put you in touch with one or more of our trusted partners.