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.