Slow Food is a global movement that recognizes the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture. Started by Carlo Petrini, of Italy, in the 1980’s, Slow Food International defends food traditions and a slow pace of life. Reviving the lost arts of home-grown and made-from-scratch connect a region to its heritage and culture.
Webster’s defines “authentic” as being true to one’s personality, spirit, or character. With that definition in hand, it makes perfect sense that a tasty food experience could lead to discovering the true character of a region. The tourism industry started to embrace this fact in the late 1990’s. The United Nations tourism arm declares that:
By combining travel with these edible experiences, food tourism offers both locals and tourists alike an authentic “taste of place”.
*SOURCE: UNWTO Second Report on Gastronomy Tourism
The Tuscany region of Italy has become known for its culinary tourism opportunities. Tuscany has taken the experience of tasting new foods into a deeper educational realm. Through learning about the culture of the cuisine, the people involved in producing and preparing it and the food system enabling access to those foods tourists become intimately knowledgeable about Tuscany.
Slow Food Travel
My father and I joined a group of Culinary Students from the College of DuPage on a cooking workshop to Tuscany Italy. For two weeks we were immersed in the food culture of this beautiful region. We stayed in a villa just up the hillside from Lucca. Wine vines and olive trees covered this incredible property. We had complete access to the industrial-sized kitchen and renowned local chef Gian Carloluca Pardini.
The mornings we spent in the kitchen under Chef Gianluca Pardini’s tutelage. By midday we were ready to partake of our creations. Several days we took side trips exploring the food culture of Tuscany. We experienced the Slow Food Movement at a grass roots level. The wonderful people we met shared their heirloom ingredients and cooking traditions passed down for generations.
Each day we bought local seasonal ingredients from the market. Chef Gianluca taught us to create with what was in season. This philosophy avoids purchasing mass-grown, out-of-season produce. Something lost on Americans who purchase hard tasteless tomatoes year round.
The picturesque landscape of Tuscany is famous for its vineyards of olive trees, fig trees, and wine grapes. We tasted wine, olive oil, olives and fresh figs across the countryside.
Our Local Hosts
The people of the region were in love with their life, their food and the opportunity to share it. They were gracious and generous hosts, welcoming us into their homes.
We had the opportunity to visit the Cinque Terra. It is easy to understand why this has become such a popular destinations for tourists. These five quaint coastal villages appear to tumble into the Mediterranean. We spent several hours sitting and chatting with locals over food and wine.
Culinary tourism can include cooking classes, meeting local food producers and chefs, or tasting unique ingredients. The Slow Food Movement has evolved to include the concepts of sustainability and clean food. All of these give the visitor the chance to experience the culture and heritage of a region on an intimate and yet global level. My cooking skills have been forever changed from this trip. My observations of local cuisines are far more focused and inquisitive. For instance, I would love to plan a follow-up that would explore the cuisine of the entire Mediterranean. Many of these countries use similar ingredients in vastly different styles. Why is that? A question for another trip…..
See our post of Travel Ideas: Culinary Tourism, for more ideas.