A culinary experience at Rocca delle Tre Contrade


Rising proudly between Mount Etna and the sparkling waters of the Ionian Sea, Rocca delle Tre Contrade is one of the finest luxury villas in the Mediterranean. Over the years it has acquired a well-earned reputation for its exquisite cuisine, its warm hospitality and its refined, sophisticated accommodation. 

From 30th March 2019 to 6th April 2019, Rocca delle Tre Contrade will be hosting a week-long full-immersion culinary experience for gastronomes and keen amateur cooks led by acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Merlin Labron-Johnson and Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron.

Your chef, inspiration and host

Despite his relative youth, Merlin Labron-Johnson’s career to date has been an exceptional one. After several years working in some of Europe's top restaurants, Merlin returned to the UK in 2015 to open Portland. Within 9 months, the restaurant had been awarded a Michelin Star. Merlin was just 24 years old. In 2016, at the grand old age of 26, he launched Portland's sister restaurant, Clipstone.

During the week at Rocca delle Tre Contrade, you will be able to cook "hands-on" alongside Merlin and his team, participate in a series of cookery demonstrations, and partake in some truly memorable gourmet meals.

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Your resident wine expert

For two days of the week, Isabelle Legeron will be your guide in a discovery of the wines of Mount Etna, one of Europe's most fascinating and prestigious viticultural regions. As France’s only female Master of Wine, and one of only 354 Masters of Wine worldwide, Isabelle famously founded RAW WINE, the UK's largest artisan wine fair, which has since expanded to include annual events in Berlin and New York. She is one of the world's leading proponents of organic farming practices and natural wine production.

Your accommodation - Rocca delle Tre Contrade

Rocca delle Tre Contrade occupies a stunningly panoramic position atop its own hill on Sicily’s east coast. Uninterrupted 360-degree views take in the sparkling Ionian Sea to one side and the fertile flanks and lava peak of Mount Etna to the other. The views of this former aristocratic estate are further enhanced by the intense greens and citrus flashes of the villa’s grounds, which feature lemon groves, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. The magnificence of Mother Nature is rivalled only the amenities on offer, which include delightfully  refurbished, generously proportioned interiors, 12 luxuriously finished en-suite bedrooms, a spectacular 25-metre, south-facing heated infinity pool (ranked one the 100 most beautiful pools in the world by Condé Nast Traveller), a clay tennis court, and a spa area, including Hammam and a well-equipped gym. 

Close by is Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano (a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site), Taormina, Catania, and a host of other fascinating towns, many of which are also designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

“Pretty much our dream vacation.” 
Bon Appetit Magazine, feature story about Rocca delle Tre Contrade in July 2016

Rocca delle Tre Contrade in the press

Elle Decor
The Independent
The Times
Olive Magazine
Bon Appétit
Ingredients, Inc
The Financial Times How to Spend it

An overview of the week

This is a unique and exclusive gourmet experience with a maximum 16 participants. Each day you will spend several hours in the kitchen, watching cookery demonstrations and cooking yourself under the guidance of Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team. 

Outside the kitchen, you will be invited to discover some of the area’s multifarious gastronomic traditions, with visits to markets, a fishing trip, a vineyard tour with wine-tasting on Mount Etna and a street food experience in Catania’s old town centre.

Guests will also have time to enjoy the infinite, luxurious charms of Rocca delle Tre Contrade, relaxing in the gardens, strolling through the lemon orchards, swimming in the pool, recuperating energies in the spa or even playing a set or two of tennis.

Reviews of Skye Gyngell's 'Spring in Sicily' culinary experience held at Rocca delle Tre Contrade in 2017:

"A brilliant week of lessons, food, fun and incomparable warm hospitality." L and T, US 

"It has been a wonderful stay, surpassing all expectations." A, Australia


Saturday 30th March - Saturday 6th April 2019

The week's programme in detail

Day 1 - Saturday 30th March

Arrival day including transfers from Catania Airport to Rocca delle Tre Contrade.

  • from 4pm - arrival at villa and check-in(in the case of early arrival, lunch can be arranged before check-in)
  • welcome aperitif and gourmet dinner prepared by Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team

Day 2 - Sunday 31st March

  • early morning sea-fishing excursion to Syracuse, heading out into the open waters between Sicily and the Italian mainland to observe the seasonal passing of the magnificent dorado fish. The day’s catch will be prepared in a local restaurant kitchen for lunch, under Merlin Labron-Johnson’s guidance (a hands-on session)
  • free afternoon to take in the beautiful baroque centre of Ortigia, the beating island heart of Syracuse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • a light dinner served at Rocca delle Tre Contrade, prepared by the in-house villa cooks

Day 3 - Monday 1st April

  • early morning visit to the local fish and vegetable markets followed by an early light lunch at villa
  • afternoon chef's demo with Merlin Labron-Johnson
  • dinner preparation - participants will cook under the guidance of the visiting chef's team - hands-on - using the seafood and other ingredients bought at the markets in the morning
  • introduction to the accompanying Sicilian wines
  • dinner

Day 4 - Tuesday 2nd April

  • morning excursion to Etna wine country with Isabelle Legeron, including a visit two Etna wineries to meet the producers and learn about the fertile soils of the region. You will have a guided wine-tasting session at each winery and an introduction to wine-tasting techniques
  • ricotta-making followed by a traditional Sicilian picnic lunch
  • afternoon chef 's demo with Merlin Labron-Johnson
  • hands-on cookery session - participants will cook under the guidance of the visiting chef's team. The focus will be on desserts, gelato and patisserie, including a hands-on lesson in making traditional cannoli
  • introduction to the accompanying Sicilian wines
  • dinner, prepared by the in-house villa cooks

Day 5 - Wednesday 3rd April

  • hands-on cookery session under the guidance of the visiting chef's team
  • lunch
  • a wine lecture and tasting led by Isabelle Legeron
  • afternoon chef's demo and hands-on session led by the in-house villa cooks. The focus will be on traditional Sicilian arancini
  • afternoon and evening visit to the 17th century baroque city of Catania, its old town centre, and its patisseries, markets and food stalls. Your English-speaking guide will take you on a street food tour, pulling together the city’s fascinating history, its ancient mythology and the lives of ordinary people through local food traditions

Day 6 - Thursday 4th April

  • a hands-on morning cookery session under the guidance of the visiting chef's team
  • lunch
  • a hands-on afternoon cookery session under the guidance of the visiting chef's team
  • introduction to the accompanying Sicilian wines
  • the last dinner in the company of Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team

Day 7 - Friday 5th April

  • breakfast and departure of Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team
  • optional full-day guided excursion to the baroque towns of Noto, Scicli and Modica, all of which are part of the  UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Val di Noto
  • lunch in a gourmet restaurant
  • farewell dinner at Rocca delle Tre Contrade

Departure day - Saturday 6th April

  • breakfast followed by 10.00am check-out


  • breakfast is served every morning around the communal table at the villa
  • the programme may subject to slight variations based on weather conditions and availability of seasonal produce
  • Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team will be present throughout the week and during all activities, from Saturday evening to Friday morning (6 days)
  • the work stations in the villa's large demo kitchen will be shared by a maximum of four participants


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Prices include

  • six days immersed in a full food and wine programme with Merlin Labron-Johnson, including cookery demo sessions and seven ‘hands on’ lessons with Merlin Labron-Johnson and his team
  • seven nights’ accommodation at the private luxury villa Rocca delle Tre Contrade in double rooms (single occupancy also available)
  • a programme of guided tours with English-speaking guide and related ground transportation
  • the presence of Jon Moslet, co-owner of Rocca delle Tre Contrade, expert in local food and wine and host for your stay. Jon is also fluent in English and Italian.
  • all meals and wine-tastings including wine and beverages (7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners)
  • transfers between Catania Fontanarossa Airport and Rocca delle Tre Contrade on the first and last days of the week
  • complimentary in-house laundry service (dry-cleaning not included)

Prices exclude

  • Flights and all travel/transfers from your home to Catania Airport and back
  • Optional medical or cancellation insurance
  • Any meals and attractions not specified in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities for guides, drivers and villa staff
  • Any additional travel expenses associated with extended stays
  • Anything not mentioned in the Prices Include section
  • Accompanying partner rate (i.e. for those travelling with a participant but not actually taking part in the course themselves) includes airport transfer, accommodation and breakfast only

Number of participants

  • Maximum 16

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