Best of all is its cooking school: courses range from rank amateur to master classes for professionals, taught by Italian celebrity chefs like Gianfranco Vissani and Alfonso Iaccarino. For $75-$350, you can learn creative vegetarian cooking, regional cuisines or pastry making. And Cittą del Gusto gives new meaning to "dinner theater": Twice a month, for $140 each, 80 or so people sit at tables in an amphitheater decorated like a 19th century playhouse, wining and dining while a star chef such as Mediterranean master Heinz Beck shows how the dishes are made. A program in English starts in early 2004.
Can't get to Rome? Here are some other places that offer serious culinary know-how.
Paris ADF Centre de Formation d'Alain Ducasse
Megachef Ducasse's professional cooking school in the suburb of Argenteuil offers rigorous one-day classes for amateurs in gleaming high-tech kitchens. Each class (in French) has a theme, such as Mediterranean, fish and shellfish or chocolate; enrollment is limited to eight students who make four to six dishes each. One day, including meals and transport to and from the city center, costs $335 per person.
Bangkok The Oriental Thai Cooking School
At the plush Oriental Hotel, classes of up to 15 are taught in English. Choose between demonstration-only (watch the experts slice and dice) or hands-on classes that cover everything from basic Thai ingredients to making soups, salads, curries and condiments. The charge is $120.
London Leith's School of Food and Wine
With an international reputation as a first-class training school for professional chefs, Leith's attracts students from all over the world. But for a one-day workshop, you can choose from several subjects, including chocolate, vegetable demonstrations or fish workshops. Prices range from around $130 to $220.
New York De Gustibus
Located on the eighth floor of Macy's department store, the school offers demonstration, hands-on cooking and wine classes. Learn from some of the world's best chefs (including Mario Batali) on topics ranging from savory seafood to totally vegetarian to "bold flavors." Watch your fingers during the knife-skills class. Most classes are $85 per session.