Destinations, Emilia Romagna Tourism Board, Featured Partners, Food, Italy

Do You Know the Land?

May 2, 2012

I recently spent time cleaning out old computer files and found an image I’d saved early last year…

Italy asked the question, and I thought I knew the answer.

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:

To know the land is to know people and places, to eat food grown from native soil and to have conversations with those whose family roots run deep and hometown pride runs true.

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.


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  • Reply Kirsten May 2, 2012 at 3:56 am

    It’s wonderful to really have time to get to know a place. I’m so happy for you both to have this extended time in Italy in order that you might do so. The photographs in this post are delightful and I can’t wait to see, as well as read, more!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks so much, dear! We’re loving it. Absolutely loving it. I think slow must be best in Italy…time to wander the streets and enjoy the meals. Here’s to hoping we can share more time in the future in the spirit of Italy!

  • Reply Stephanie - The Travel Chica May 2, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Sounds like you are experiencing the best of Italy. Looking forward to the stories.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      So many to tell, too!! It’s hard to fit them all in : ) Hope you’re doing well, Chica xx

  • Reply Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 2, 2012 at 6:03 am

    What a life changing experience this will be for you 2. Enjoy every second!!! La dolce vita!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      You said it, Andi : ) It really is la dolce vita!

  • Reply Cindy Buck May 2, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I hang on every word you write. I look so forward to seeing your updates . . . <3

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Aw, thank you! You would simply love the food and the friendliness here… No doubt about it. I wish I could transport you here in a flash and have you join us for the adventures!

  • Reply Anita May 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

    It is wonderful to hear of your sudden and very delightful change in plans. I look forward to your stories from Emilia-Romagna.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you, Anita. Emilia-Romagna has been a complete joy to discover. If you had asked us a few months ago if we’d be anywhere near Italy right now, we would’ve laughed. But what a treat to have such a change thrown at us – and to be able to run with it! Hope you enjoy the stories from this beautiful part of Italy. xx

  • Reply Annie May 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

    lovely photos! looking forward to reading more!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      You’re sweet, Annie. Thank you so much. It’s fun to snap pictures and even more fun to share them with friends who enjoy the view… Thanks for saying hello, too. Comments mean a lot! : )

  • Reply Archana May 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Really excited to learn about Northern Italy through your eyes and ears. I, too, used to think Italy meant the major cities only. Looking forward to some education!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Archana, it’s fantastic! The post I put up just a few minutes ago about Comacchio, for example: I had no idea there was such beautiful wildlife and treasured food history. I mean, I might have guessed, maybe…but took it all for granted. How exciting to be learning about it all first hand : ) Hope you are doing well these days. Thanks for stopping in! xx

    What say you?