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Cooking Vacations founder Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli

Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli

Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli

It came as no surprise to Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli that public relations executives were among the most stressed out people in the country. A mover and shaker in the cutthroat world of Boston PR, she felt it in her shoulders and in the pit of her stomach. That stress led her to seek solace in Sorrento, Italy, in 2001. That stress also helped her start her wildly successful Cooking Vacations business. And that business helped her meet her anima gemella, her soul mate who became her husband.

Piscitelli grew up in Massachusetts, her house filled with Italian song and the smells of homemade sauce. Her mother, Lucia, married her father, Lorenzo Birmingham, when she was 17 years old. That was 53 years ago. Lorenzo is a builder and so is Lucia. He builds homes, she builds meals.

“Growing up Italian meant everyone eating together, and cooking together too. There is a non-describable closeness in an Italian family, that if you haven’t experienced it you will never understand it. Secrets are almost impossible, you can never say no to an invite, and food is the staple ingredient at every family celebration,” Piscitelli told me.

It is that very lifestyle that helped Piscitelli form the Positano-based Cooking Vacations in 2001.

family_photo2“I had the idea in 2001, after visiting Sorrento, Italy. I had traveled there with my parents and we were staying at a friend’s giant villa. It has an outside and inside full kitchen. My mother, naturally, would go to the market in the morning, and prepare lunch and dinner. The other guests who were staying there too (mostly Irish, English and Australians) wanted to learn to do what she was doing. They followed her, then wanted to join her in going to the market. My friend Andrea said, ‘you’re in marketing, fill my place with people,’ so I decided to write a program and sell his place,” Piscitelli says as her husband Rico looks on adoringly.

“It worked. Today we have over 100 personally created programs throughout Italy in its 20 regions.”

What started as cooking classes has since burgeoned into Writer’s Workshops. Her classes are held all over the world with prominent authors such as Elizabeth Berg, Sue Miller. I will be teaching a Writer’s Workshop about the business of being a writer this coming June.

logoEven though Piscitelli loves her guests, who come from all over the world to learn how to cook the way her nonna did, with ravioli plump with ricotta; the figs freshly drizzled with local cheeses; the artisans who still make everything by hand leaving nothing to waste, her business also led her to love.

She needed a driver in Positano to help her with tours for her guests. When that driver showed up she was taken aback. There was an instant energy. He was handsome and charming, but it was his smile that convinced her that he would be worth dating. Within months, she knew that Rico Piscitelli was the man she wanted to marry. Now the couple splits their time between New England and Positano, Italy.

“I love Boston… its elegance, intellect, its people, sports teams, neighborhoods and all the ethnicity it has to offer,” Piscitelli says. “And when I am in Italy, I miss my town and the friends who make it happen.” She has the best of both worlds.

For more, visit http://cooking-vacations.com.

About Michele McPhee

Michele McPhee is a best-selling author, emmy-nominated investigative journalist and award-winning columnist. To share stories about local Italian-American family businesses, e-mail McPhee@bostoniano.info. To find out more about Michele, visit www.michelemcphee.com.