Laura Freeman

New York, New York Travel Agent

Insider Tips for Culinary Travel in Italy

Europe-LauraHanaford
Europe-LauraHanaford

Food travel is one of the best pastimes in the world. I have planned many foodie trips for my clients and I have taken many culinary vacations myself. As such, I am a connoisseur of food travel. I have no shortage of food inspired travel ideas around the world, but the ideas I’m sharing with you today will focus on Italy. Most of the time when people travel to Italy, they want to see the sights and cities. The trip I am going to tell you about can be done in many variations I base my travel ideas on both my knowledge of the region, along with your preferences and requirements.

My favorite foodie itinerary in Italy is in a region called Emilia-Romagna, which many consider to be the food capital of Italy. There is a very special property, which used to be an actual castle called Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant that is headed by Chef Massimo Spigaroli.

This ancient castle has now been converted into a luxury hotel and restaurant. The rooms are unique and spacious; the overall ambiance is exquisite. It also has a farm where workers gather fresh vegetables used in the restaurant, a dairy and a winery. But it is best known for Chef Massimo Spigaroli’s culatello, which is a form of prosciutto. He cures it himself, just as his ancestors did, in the cellar. I can arrange for my clients to get a tour. Culatello is a very expensive, very delicate and special sort of meat; it’s the Rolls Royce of Prosciutto. It is a real treat to go down into the labyrinth of this antiquated cellar to see hundreds of these cured meats just hanging around (the meat must cure for years before it’s ready). You will be all alone with the person who is giving you the tour, which makes it a very special private tour and a truly unique experience.  

At this property, you can also take a cooking class and sample wine, bread, cheeses, meats and desserts produced on-site. I can also arrange for you a meet-and-greet with the Michelin-star chef. He doesn’t speak any English, but the experience is so amazing the language barriers will not get in the way. There are so many more activities that I can arrange for foodies in this area of Italy that is rich in food production plants.

Another of my favorite ideas for food travel destinations includes the Parmigiano-Reggiano factories. There are not a lot of people there and subsequently not a lot of tourism. The people you meet are mostly local and it’s a very small and specialized tour. I love these types of private, off-the-beaten-path tours. You really get to immerse yourself in the true culture and flavors of the region without the touristy feel of some of the larger cities.

Touring these food production plants is so authentic that you must wear protective clothes over your shoes and head as you walk through the factory to see how to make a true parmesan cheese. You even get to go into the storage room, filled with such a great amount of the cheese that itis stacked to the roof. It is so visually appealing, and it smells so heavenly, this moment alone is well worth the trip. You also get to buy the different kinds of aged cheeses right there where it was made. It doesn’t get more authentic or delicious than this.

This trip can be combined with a bike tour and visits to other regional castles. I have personally done this, and, after the cycling tour, our guide took us to his family-owned prosciutto factory. His factory covers several floors and you are once again alone there on an almost private tour. It is very special, artisanal and small; nothing like a big industrial slaughterhouse. Everyone who loves unique food travel will want to see and learn more about making prosciutto. It is a very interesting procedure, even for the more faint-hearted foodies.

Each of the food travel ideas I’ve mentioned are one-of-a-kind experiences that will enrich your life. This trip can also be combined with a tour of Italy to see the big cities or cycling and trekking closer to the Dolomites. But typically, a food travel itinerary is combined with general tourism in Italy that allows you to also see the major cultural  landmarks and attractions. In this way, you get to see more and do more, combining many multicultural and multi-sensorial experiences together.

What I specialize in is the type of food travel that you will be able to think about with a smile when you are old and gray. The memories will last forever. Let’s plan your trip today, shall we?

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