The Great Italian Food Tour, Part 1

Italian Food.  I feel like I could just drop the mic right there and walk away from this post…but I would leave so much out!  So here is a run down of the amazing food and beverages I experienced in Italy this past June!

When we think of Italian food, many of us go right to pasta and pizza, and while those are VERY good in Italy (regionally amazing), food in Italy is so much more!  The first things that come to mind for me, having traveled there three times, is fresh, authentic, regional, simplistic, divine!  When I traveled to Italy with my sisters and step mom this past summer, we sought out authentic Italian dining experiences and were rewarded beyond measure.

Let me start with a bit of our family history with food – as it can’t be ignored that one’s previous experiences with any of the five senses shapes their perceptions about new things.  One thing can go without saying – we ALL love food!  Our family gathers around wonderful meals when we come together and delight in trying new recipes, cooking with fresh and healthy ingredients and sometimes over indulging….well, maybe not only sometimes😊  My dad’s most famous line when you join our family for a meals is, “If you go away hungry, it’s your own fault!”  And believe me, everyone is welcome at our table and there is always enough food – thankfully!

My step mom is a great cook – we always enjoyed hearty home cooking growing up.  Her stuffed shells are to die for and I remember traveling back to college after Christmas break with a huge pan of them in my back seat!  I have never been very fond of raw onions, a culinary topic still entertaining to this day, but overall, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it!  My sister, Kelly, is amazing in the kitchen!  She is always trying new recipes and I don’t ever think she has made something that wasn’t outstanding!  She inspires me to try new things all the time!  My other sister, Becky, was most definitely the pickiest of us all.  Growing up, Becky ate Eggo waffles, peanut butter and fluff (for those of you not in New England, this is the most amazing culinary invention EVER and you should try it!) and pizza with the sauce scraped off.  I seriously think that’s all she ate for about 12 years!!!  But I have to give Becky props – she has grown to be super adventurous and daring in her culinary experiences and makes a mean taco dip!!!

With that bit of back story out of the way, let me proceed….

Our first night in San Gimignano (Tuscan region) was a bit of a blur; having just flown overnight from Boston, we arrived at our fantastic Agriturismo (check out my blog about them) and were greeted with warm Italian hospitality and some amazing house wine in preparation for a cooking class we arranged ahead of time!  That evening, we prepared pasta (using only three ingredients!), an authentic spicy tomato sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, focaccia and the following morning’s breakfast (this is actually top secret but something I will share later)!  We also prepared dough for the focaccia, a summer version of tiramisu featuring strawberries, using limoncello instead of coffee, and enjoyed the fantastic company of our chef and interpreter (our host at the Agriturismo acted as our interpreter when she didn’t have other duties to attend to….and when she did, we figured it out!)

Needless to say – the food was amazing, plentiful and made with love, laughter and joy!  A funny story – while we were making the tiramisu, our chef was explaining the biscuits used…we called them “lady fingers” and the chef and his assistant thought that was the weirdest thing they had ever heard!  Here are some photos from before our cooking experience and our arrival day in San Gimignano (you will notice a LOT of wine toasts!  Italians know how to celebrate la Bella Vita!)

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Other meals we enjoyed on this leg of our trip were gelato (I ate gelato with vigor and abandon everywhere we went in Italy), espresso and panini, and the most expensive meal on our journey – a lunch canal-side in Venice!  Here’s a picture diary of these experiences.

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Our next culinary adventure worth mentioning specifically was the late lunch we had while traveling from Tuscany to Rome.  It was a long drive – about 3.5 hours, and we were getting a bit hungry around 1pm.  We didn’t have any specific plans – and that’s when the MAGIC happens!!!  We decided to get off the autostrada (Italian highway system) at a random town and found a jewel of a taverna!

Our lovely host, Giuseppe – of course – was a fabulous man who endeared us and stole our hearts!  Meals in Italy don’t get more authentic than this and Giuseppe made this out of the way stop so memorable.  Here is a photo diary of that amazing meal!!!

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Part 2 of this wonderful culinary adventure to follow, but here are some random food pictures of our trip thus far.  Hang tight for the rest!  ‘Tis the season for enjoying food, family and friends!

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