The freshest properties in gourmet destinations

The British have developed a love of food that stretches beyond watching TV programmes.

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Jamie started it. Then Mary, Michel Jr, a couple of Hairy Bikers and many more joined the gang, and the next thing we knew, we’d morphed into a nation that likes to cook. The very thought might leave the French spluttering in their soupe à l’oignon, but les rosbifs have developed a love of food that stretches far beyond simply watching TV cookery programmes — it influences how we live and even where we buy our holiday homes.

Once something of a niche affair, the appreciation of good food has become far more democratic and sociable. It’s the way many of us get to know a new place, meet people and feel part of local life when we are abroad. Boutique developments in Europe and beyond have picked up on this desire, giving buyers the chance to engage with the culture and community through cuisine by offering bespoke services such as cookery lessons.

Those who let out their holiday homes are also picking up on the culinary trend. “We’ve seen a big increase in the number of properties that offer some kind of food experience — whether it’s a personal catering service or the chance to cook and eat traditional local cuisine,” says Saskia Welman, PR manager for Holiday Lettings.

Getting to know the neighbours

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Nowhere beats Italy for the convivial, joyful, hands-on appreciation of gastronomy and the ability to make even the simplest ingredients taste magical. Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, founder of Appassionata — an Italian property company that specialises in boutique restoration projects — explores that love of all things homegrown in her latest project, Casa Tre Archi, in the medieval Marche town of Petritoli.

The three-bedroom townhouse, attached to the town’s ancient turrets, is available on a fractional basis: a £65,000 share gives the owner five weeks’ annual usage (00 39 33154 13225, appassionata.com). There’s no need to jump into the car when you want to eat out, as fine dining Italian-style is all around. “At the excellent local restaurant, the dishes change with the seasons and customers never see a menu,” says Cavanagh-Hobbs, who also organises regular cookery lessons from a five-star hotel chef for the owners of her properties.

Among them is Deborah Gale, 51, who lives in Windsor with her husband and five daughters. She is in no doubt about the appeal of this type of holiday home: “You overlook seascapes, sunflower fields and mountains, but an image that lingers even longer is that of our daughters learning to make fresh pasta in our farmhouse kitchen,” says Gale, a Huffington Post blogger. “We have found a special place to lay down memories.”

You can never re-create that fabulous local dish at home — so why not go straight to the source?

times

Zoe Dare Hall Published: The Sunday Times 8 February 2015