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Get Out: Gastro-tourism in Lazio

Food, Things to Do, What's New — By Erica Firpo on June 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm
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Kilometer Zero (locally grown food) and Home Food are just two of the more recent buzz words in the cornucopia of Italy’s gastrotourism lingo where an Italian vacation means hands on involvement in the country’s most favorite past times– cooking and dining.  From choosing menus and picking fruits, vegetables and meats to pasta and dinner production, gastrotourism has become a high art where the evolution of cuisine is the colorful palette for an afternoon or evening masterpiece.   Every region in Italy offers amazing dishes from the hearty and comfort food of Emilia Romagna to subtle and spicy of Sicily, and, as Mary Jane Cryan writes, full immersion in Lazio recipes is the best way to find true local flavor.

contributed by Mary Jane Cryan

Visitors to Rome often get stuck  in the “must see”  mode, checking off  lists of churches, museum and  monuments.   For those looking to truly connect to Rome and Italy,  try a cooking class or vacation in the country. Whether or a single day class or a longer lesson, the cooking vacation is the chance to revel in the true essence of what it means to live in Italy where food is integral to daily life from shopping , preparing and socializing.   Casalinga- or home-style-  Italy still exists but how to find it means taking a train ride through the green countryside for a full day’s immersion in Italian daily life via cooking and eating.

Here’s a suggestion of my favorite cooking get-aways:

  • Fontana del Papa, perched high on a hill under the castle of  Tolfa (between Fiumicino airport and Civitavecchia port), is where you become part of the family by picking vegetables and  salad  directly from the organic kitchen garden, and olives during the November harvest.  Owner Assuntina provides hands-on cooking lessons with help from local residents.  Dips in the pool and mushroom hunting along a newly-discovered medieval road may precede lesson.
  • Casperia , a tiny car-free  hilltop hamlet in the Sabina region  which has the advantage of being directly linked  by train with Fiumicino airport, is where the Scheda family  offers cooking classes and  meals in  their  frescoed palazzo La Torretta. Cooking activities are led by Maureen, originally from Wales, and art historian Roberto.  Besides cooking,  the activities at Casperia  include rock climbing with daughter Kathleen and   visits to nearby castles and  tiny  villages.
  • The  inclusive escorted holidays  offered by  Culture Discovery are the brain child of Michael  and Paola. The venue is  the hilltop town of  Soriano, a perfect  Italian  village  without the problems of  mass tourism,  snuggled at the borders of Lazio,Tuscany and Umbria.  An excellent idea for small groups who want to combine half days   in the kitchen preparing, eating and drinking wine, with exploring central Italy.  Private accommodations  are in quaint village apartments.
  • Dave Morton of Roman Road Walks offers personalized walking and culinary adventures, only  for small groups and generally during  the cooler seasons. Walking with Dave means reaping  the  benefits of  his insider knowledge, local connections, seamless organization and no tourist throngs.  There is no better way to see the Roman  and Etruscan countryside than with a half a dozen  beautiful walks, stays at country inns and traditional cooking with a local cookbook author.
Tags: cooking, dining, Food, Get Out

    2 Comments

  • Pete says:

    Thanks, this is a great guide. Can you suggest anywhere near lago di vico? I’m often based in Sant’Oreste and I enjoy going over to that area but I don’t know of anywhere good to eat when we’re out over there. The only place I’ve found so far is Agriturismo Vazianello (www.agriturismovazianello.it), but is there anywhere else?

  • Dear Pete,
    most of the places around the lake are good, simple, not pretentious.
    In nearby Nepi Casa Tuscia has innovative cuisine and the setting under the town walls is spectacular.
    If you get to Vetralla I would recommend the small, cozy new La Lanterna in the historic center (closed this week until July 15 for vacation) also Da Benedetta at the only stoplight. And on the road to Viterbo try L’Oliveto with views over the valley. The Ferrari owners’ club often pulls in here and seeing 25 red Ferrari is a wow experience. Watch out some Sundays there might be weddings, baptisms.
    In Montefiascone we enjoyed Il Buongusto located in the shadow of the Rocca dei Papi and if you go down to the lake, Moreno for lake fish (coregone)less expensive and a delightfully rustic atmosphere .
    Wherever you eat there will be the local extra virgin olive oil…most of us who live here are producers…in fact we are taking 15 litres to friends in Rome tomorrow. Next season will not be as good due to present weather conditions…get it while it lasts.

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