Sarah BlackburnComment

An Edible Boston Adventure through Piedmont and Tuscany

Sarah BlackburnComment
An Edible Boston Adventure through Piedmont and Tuscany

AN EDIBLE BOSTON ADVENTURE TO NORTHERN ITALY, OCTOBER 11–21, 2018

We're food people.

We seek out the best of the best, what's perfect today, wherever we are.

For more than a decade we've brought you the stories of Boston's local food and agriculture, and now we're itching to explore that idea in other places. How do other cultures preserve their food traditions and innovate for a new century? What can we learn from another region's techniques to better preserve our own traditions and our own foodways?

It's time for us to hit the road and find out!

Beginning in October 2018—in partnership with Cambridge-based Go Ahead Tours, an affiliate of EF Education—we'll be planning Edible Boston-curated small-group pilgrimages to various parts of the world to better educate ourselves about other cultures' local foods and how they're made. We'll walk through city markets and across agricultural land, meeting the makers—Old World artisans keeping these traditions alive, and the new up-and-comers modernizing time-honored methodology through tech and innovation. Our tours will be custom designed to suit our readers: You're an intelligent, well-traveled and food-obsessed bunch, and these in-depth itineraries will reflect that. 

In the coming years we'll visit Santa Barbara wine country, Oaxaca and San Miguel, Vancouver Island, Lisbon, Lyon, Cambodia and Vietnam, Ireland, Catalonia, Argentina and more. And you can join us! These tours will be expertly organized by the specialists at Go Ahead, so all you have to do is check your passport, pack your walking shoes and a hearty appetite—we will handle the rest.

But we start with Italy.

Why? Well, mostly because it's my personal specialty, my passion, my love. Having majored in the language and worked as an Italian food importer in my early career, Italy is near and dear to my heart. It's also one of the most important foodsheds in the world, home to coveted, centuries-old food and wine traditions still in practice today. What would the world's cuisines be without the influence of Italy? What would American food be, in particular, without the influx of Italian immigrants in the 1800s? The impact of sunny Mediterranean ingredients on the staid, Puritanical diet immeasurably changed what Americans eat, cook and grow. I'd argue that no other culture's food has been so thoroughly ingrained into the American lexicon than Italy's. 

So let's go check it out, get off the beaten path a bit and visit places not on your average Venice-Florence-Rome packaged tour. Eleven days in October, smack in the middle of harvest season, when there's a nip to the air but the sun is still warm, colors are changing across rolling hills and wild foraged foods are at their peak. 

We'll wander around the under-explored city of Torino, roam the aisles at Italy's first Eataly, visit small-batch chocolatiers and sip bicerin in a Savoy family palace. We'll learn all about the art of aperitivo while staying in an elegant city hotel, centrally located for easy exploration of this walkable, jewel-like town—home to the Shroud of Turin, Fiat company headquarters and the heart of Italy's hazelnut confection industry.

Next we'll head to Alba to hunt white truffles, accompanied by an expert trifulau and his dog, then move along to the annual White Truffle Festival. The following day brings a visit to the Langhe region, known for its rolling vine-covered hills and some of the world's best wines—we'll taste Barolo and Bardolino paired with lunch, then visit the castle of Grinzane Cavour, a UNESCO world heritage site, before returning to Torino for dinner.

Traveling in style and comfort on our luxury motor coach we'll jet down to Modena for a one-of-a-kind experience: a private lunch hosted by a family of balsamic vinegar makers—in their villa—featuring the extra-aged Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. Then it's on to a caseificio (dairy) tour and tasting of Parmigiano Reggiano before arriving in the city of Bologna, where we'll visit the market district and get our hands on some dough with a pasta making class and dinner. Imagine stuffing and folding your own tortellini and tortelloni in the city of their birth—it doesn't get better than that.

The next day we'll keep heading south into Tuscany where we'll stop for a visit with Dario Cecchini, the 8th-generation butcher of Panzano-in-Chianti. Here we'll hear his nose-to-tail philosophy—respect for his animals, respect for the land and respect for tradition—and taste his lardo, salumi, Chianti from his cellar and his specialty, the famed Chianina beef—bistecca alla fiorentina

By the time we reach the outskirts of Florence we'll be ready for a little rest and relaxation, so we'll check right into our pastoral agriturismo: a working farm renovated into an elegant hotel, with their very own wine and olive oil production, spa, bicycle tours, hot air balloon rides, cooking classes and more. 

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In the morning we head to Florence proper, where we'll send you off on your own to meander the cobbled streets in search of the finest autumnal Tuscan specialties like chestnuts, cheeses and porcini, wild game salumi and muscato grapes. We'll return to the grounds of the agriturismo in the afternoon where we'll share a picnic dinner of our culinary treasures.

Spend your last day at your leisure: ride a bike through the olive groves, take a guided tour of the Uffizzi Gallery or arrange a final cooking class in the agriturismo's kitchen, followed by a farewell dinner with the group.

Spaces are limited and the enrollment deadline is July, 2018. Sign up directly with Go Ahead here—they'll even book your flights from anywhere in the United States. Pricing from $3379 per person, which can be split up into a monthly payment plan. We'd love to have you join us!

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 9 nights in handpicked hotels, including a working farm estate (agriturismo) outside Florence
  • Breakfast daily, 4 lunches, 3 three-course dinners with beer or wine, 2 wine tastings, 1 cooking class
  • Scour open-air city markets and specialty shops
  • Visit Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher of Panzano
  • Tour a small-scale producer of Parmigiano Reggiano and a family-run balsamic vinegar villa in Modena
  • Taste estate wines in Barolo, meet the winemakers and go on a truffle hunt 
  • Visit famed Piemontese chocolatiers and Italy's first Eataly in Torino and travel to the annual White Truffle Festival in Alba
  • Tour Bologna's famed fish and vegetable market district and learn to make tortellinitortelloni and tagliatelli by hand
  • Enjoy the company of fellow Edible Boston readers and learn from Old-World artisans keeping local food traditions alive

Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com