I recently spent time cleaning out old computer files and found an image I’d saved early last year…
When I saved the vintage tourism poster to my hard drive, we’d already planned our route, and Italy was nowhere on the list. But the picture drew me in with its simple query:
“Do you know the land?”
I knew cities: Rome. Florence. Naples. Capri. Sorrento. Bari.
Ted and I have three visits to Italy under our belts, combining past solo trips.
We’ve eaten gelato (oh, yes we have!) and seen the Roman Holiday hotspots,
tossed Euros in the Trevi Fountain (hey, it must’ve worked?), listened to echoes of Blue Grotto paddle boat singers, admired “Venus on the Half-Shell” (gotta love Botticelli), and marveled at Michelangelo’s writhing stone Slaves while walking the hall to the David…
Ted carries a brown leather wallet from Florence; I bought my wedding necklace at a little boutique on Capri and think of the country with fondness in my heart.
I thought we knew Italy well enough…
Turns out we didn’t know the land any more than a visitor to New York City knows the Pacific Northwest.
And it turns out that it wasn’t coincidence that I saved that picture all those months ago…
Now that we’re living here for the next while, we’re discovering all of the beautiful bits of culture and life beyond the hotspots – out among the farmlands and country towns, north of the big cities and closer to the quiet. Over the past week and a half, we’ve made our way through the region of Umbria and into Emilia-Romagna.
Do you know that beyond ancient ruins of Rome and sunflowered fields of Tuscany, there are parts of Italy that feel much like Oregon’s Willamette Valley?
We’ve wandered through beautiful places near empty of tourists, zig-zagged by country roads and scattered with farmhouses (albeit constructed of earth toned brick and plaster and stone rather than North American siding or bright paint). These lands aren’t Napa-Valley crowded. The roads are quiet, the faces friendly. The scenes peacefully calm.
The longing for familiarities of home after so many months away may have heightened the sensations, but we were so cheered at the wineries and vineyards on rolling hills that reminded us of drives through Newberg and Dundee and on into the Chehalem Valley (Oregon-speak, for you dear readers beyond the Northwest).
Do you know that Northern Italy is the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement?
Slow Food is simply a cherishing of food as it was meant to be: natural, seasonal, and enjoyed at a calm pace around the table among friends and family. (A few years back, I appreciated listening to this interview with Slow Food Founder, Carlo Petrini…if you’re interested in more about this origins of the movement and some of its influence in North America.)
Small-scale Italian agritourismos specialize in these farm-to-table dining experiences, celebrating local, “biologically” (organically) cultivated produce, responsibly raised meats, and artisan crafted cheeses, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and wines…
Do you know the streetscapes and smaller city names? The places deserving more time?
We’ve made our way through charming towns and cities like Santa Maria de Angeli, Citta della Pieve, Orvieto, Todi, and Narni. We’ve learned food history and shared meals with new friends in Assisi, Ferrara, Bologna, Comacchio, Modena, and more. We’ve found so many stories to tell:
-Sophia Loren & eels.
-Ted’s new business plan to sell tiny shrimp as movie theater snacks.
-Cooking in the apartment kitchen, roasting baby asparagus just like the wild shoots being gathered by foragers out in the hills…
-Bicycling in “Little Venice”
-Popping the top on vinegar bottled at the turn of the century…
And so much more. Until then, enjoy a few snapshots from the land, teasers for the tales to come:
We’re excited to share upcoming posts about the lovely people and beautiful meals, great projects in local economies and memorable sightseeing spots.
Next time we’re asked by Italy, Do You Know The Land? we’ll be ready with a new answer: “Yes, very well indeed.”
What stories and places pop to mind when you think of Italy or of your land? The unique. The charming. The full-of character. No need for the big names to have all the fun!
This post is part of a series from Emilia-Romagna: A region of Northern Italy ripe for exploration. Artisan Local Foods (tortellini, lasagne, pancetta, traditional balsamic vinegar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to name a few!), Historical Cities (Modena, Ferrara, Bologna, Rimini, and more), and Beautiful Natural Areas (the Po River Delta, the Apennine Mountains, and the green, green farmland in between). Photos and story snippets are flying on Twitter under the #blogville hashtag. Feel free to jump into the conversation to share insights on enjoying the best of Northern Italy.