I spend several months each year in Italy – in the middle of nowhere, Tuscany. My next door neighbors are olive farmers, and in the past eight years that I’ve lived here, we’ve become pretty close. Every day the farmer and his family sit down together for a traditional Tuscan country lunch. Over the years (of inviting myself over with a big smile on my face and platters of homemade cookies) I’ve earned a standing invitation to join them. Read more
The farmer and I walk down the dirt path in silence. The unseasonably warm October sun heats my shoulders and I can hear my sandals crunching against the gravel. Before we reach the shed he stops and turns to me.
“You know, this is illegal.”
I did, in fact know it was illegal. My latest Facebook status update reads, “I’m off to learn how to make grappa. From what I gather, it’s like a moonshine meth lab. One wrong move and the entire thing will explode. Exciting stuff!” When I wrote it, I was joking. Sort of. Read more
There’s something about a toasted slice of Tuscan bread and a single raw garlic clove that gets my heart beating a little faster. Farm-style bruschetta is one of my favorite foods, especially during autumn, when the olive oil is hours-old and bread is toasted over a roaring hearth. But this is July, one of the hottest I can remember in the past few summers that I’ve spent in the hills of southern Tuscany.
I was invited to join the farmer’s family next door for Sunday lunch, a multi-course weekly feast shared by three generations, close friends and the occasional visitor. This is a regular thing for me, as is the artful practice of inviting myself over for other meals during the week. Read more
Last night I watched the semi-final match of Euro 2012 from a square in Montisi, a tiny medieval hill town in southern Tuscany. The teams: Italy vs. Germany. With more than 200 locals and visitors crowding the piazza and cheering on the Italian team, Montisi served up an unforgettable home-cooked feast flanked by big screen TVs. Food and football go together like air and breathing, and Italians love any excuse for a party, especially when the national calcio (soccer) team is involved. Read more
When in Rome, Eat Like a Roman
ROME, ITALY – It may sound crazy, but it’s not easy to find a truly great local restaurant in Rome. Tourist traps disguised as eateries are built to snare the 100,000 visitors passing through the city each day. This can be tough for travelers looking for the real deal in Italian food. Instead of stumbling into hole-in-the wall culinary gems serving up Mamma’s secret sauce, you’ll most likely fall into a sea of English language menus, elevated prices and mediocre food.
So where do the locals actually go to eat when they dine out in Rome?
Sometimes I gauge the authenticity of a Roman restaurant on the ratio of native speakers to tourists. My favorite Rome foodie haunts are located in converted warehouses or neighborhoods located waaay off the complimentary city map found in every hotel. The reason I’m in the know has nothing to do with travel savviness. I get all my foodie tips from locals. Read more