I have a few friends visiting Italy this spring and wanted to share some of my insight. I was lucky enough to spend close to two years living in Northern Italy back in the early 2000s. I loved it. How could you not?!?!
Travelers flock to Italy every year to enjoy the beauty, the art, the history, and the food and wine. Unfortunately, most tourists focus on the large cities like Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice, missing the opportunity to immerse themselves in the daily life and culture of this wonderful country.
Food is a central aspect of Italian culture and it differs from region to region and even town to town. One way to get a taste of both the food and daily life throughout Italy is to avoid hotels inside city boundaries and book reservations at an agriturismo or two. These visitor-friendly working farms are located in the countryside. They range in cost and amenities. Most include breakfast and some book dinner reservations as well.
Dining at an agriturismo is a culinary delight. The menu features seasonal local ingredients, including a few raised right there on the farm. Visitors will experience the cuisine of that particular region.
If staying in the Piedmont, truffles may find their way onto the menu along with a hearty barolo wine if you are lucky! The stunning Cascina Barac is one such farm hotel, set in the vineyard. Visitors can book reservations for a gourmet meal, taste their wines, and even tour the family-owned winery. I still make the shaved carrot recipe I was served there. The owner wrote it down for me on the back side of a business card which holds a place of honor in my recipe box to this day!
Is Florence on your list? I stayed at the Macinello in Montegiridolfi to visit the region. Make sure you get over to Greve for some Chianti! There is also an American cemetery nearby well worth a visit.
Venice is located north of the province of Emilia-Romagna of the famed pasta bolognese, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and lambrusco and sangiovese wines. Why not book reservations at a local agriturismo and use it as your base to visit Venice, Ravenna, Modena and other beautiful cities?
Umbria is another region in Italy often overlooked by American tourists, but honestly it was one of my favorites. Perugia (yes, the chocolate is named after this old city), Spoleto, Assisi, and many other beautiful hillside towns dot the countryside.
I stayed at the La Quercia Gentile in Valfabbrica as my base. The owners were so nice that upon leaving they gave me a big bottle of their own olive oil to try! The region is known for its Pecorino cheese and egg pasta. Sangrantino and Orvieto are the regions most popular wines.
To really experience Italy, get out into the countryside. Book a room or suite at a farm hotel. Chat with the owners over a meal. Investigate the little villages and sip a cappuccino from the local bar. Hike. Meander. And eat where the locals dine. This way you will experience the true Italy.
Visit the website Agriturismo website to investigate properties and book your reservations.