Like everyone else I have certain rituals that mean Summer has arrived. They have nothing to do with dates on a calendar, but more to do with where I am and who I’m with. For the last 30 years summer has really started once we are at our house in Umbria. When the girls were little the summers stretched from May to September. But even now I can’t really think it’s summer until everyone is together under one roof, even if it’s only for a few weeks in July and August. Obviously last summer never really happened in mind. My sister and her husband and family never came, nor did my parents. And none of our friends who also have houses up here could travel from the USA.
Even though I did a ton of swimming and walking last summer, and our vegetable garden was overflowing with zucchini and tomatoes, somehow, by the time September rolled around, I kept waiting for summer to really start.
Happily, this year, summer is right on schedule. My sister, after a two year hiatus, finally made it over. And my parents are set to arrive this afternoon and other friends are either already here or on their way.
Last year our vegetable garden was so bountiful that I pretty much became a canning and freezing machine. While I really loved making all those pickles, I’m so happy that this year I have the option of just making cucumber salad and sharing it with friends right away.
We are doing tours again!! With Italy now open to travelers, visitors have started arriving and Sophie has been leading very happy clients on her tours through the markets, bakeries restaurants in and around Trastevere, The Jewish Ghetto and Campo dei Fiori. She leads these tours all year round and you can find out more here or else just send her an email.
Our Week-long Food Tours start up in September!! While most of the tours for Fall 2021 are sold out, we do have one or two spots left for our Culinary and Craft Retreat with Evan Kleiman in September and our tour to Puglia in October. Send me an email to find out about Puglia or Abruzzo. (I’ll be closing the tours at the end of this week.)
LAST MINUTE DISCOUNT: If you use the code ITALY2021 on any of the last few spots for fall 2021 I am happy to offer a 5% discount. Send me an email to find out more.
SPECIAL NOTE: A lot of you have expressed dismay that some of my tours fill up so quickly. I accounce tours first in my Premium Newsletter, which is a paying version of this free one. In addition to getting the first chance to join tours (like the one to Sicily with Melissa Clark that filled up in 2 seconds) you will also recieve bonus posts which includes my podcast, discussion forums and Sunday meal plans.
WHERE I’VE BEEN
This section of my newsletter has been dormant for so long since, like everyone else, I wasn’t going anywhere beyond my living room! It’s so great to be back on the road again. Although I have to admit that it was weird at first, packing up to go somewhere. I’m usually super organized, but I kept forgetting essentials like a toothbrush and phone charger. And more than once I actually forgot to brush my hair before leaving the hotel room. Also? The whole thing about figuring out how many t-shirts or pairs of socks to bring is math that is evidently beyond me. And is anyone else challenged by how time consuming it is to buy train and airplane tickets???
All of my travel this past month has been in preparation for our tours in the fall. I had planned a lot of new trips for 2020 that obviously never happened, so I needed to check on things and finalize our plans. Also every time I re-visit a place, I discover new things and meet new people. People often ask how I find the places we include on our trips. The problem is not finding great places, the problem is that we find too many places to include!
I usually travel with Sophie for these kinds of trips, but for my trip to Parma I convinced Domenico to come along! We stayed in a gorgeous room at this hotel where our group will be staying, right in the center of Parma. I finally got a chance to meet Helena, who runs Yummy Yummy Italy. Helena and I spent the day in Bologna and visited an adorable cooking school where we will be learning out to become pasta grannies. I also spent some time with my friends at Explore Emilia, and ate my weight in Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma. I finally made it to Osteria Virgilio and Officina Alimentare Dedicata in Parma and decided we are most definitely visiting these places during our tour. Now I have the delicious problem of trying to fit way too many fun things to do into one short week! (Due to a last minute cancellation, I now have 2 spots open for this tour in November 2021)
Sophie and I spent three days in Abruzzo to get ready for our tour with Evan Kleiman in September. We spent a glorious day with our friend Marino who took us to an amazing mountain top caseificio where we made ricotta and tasted some home made salumi. I also got to meet the fabulous Anna who owns and runs Scuppoz, which makes some of the best liqueurs in Italy. We also spent a day in Sulmona, which has a fabulous and huge outdoor market every Wednesday. (house dresses galore). We visited Pelino and got to see confetti being made and decided, after much candy sampling, that we like the chocolate covered toasted almonds the best. Thanks to Biordi I discovered a fantastic potter in Castelli, whose workshop we will visit with our group. I revisited all of the rooms in this unique hotel we have booked, which is scattered throughout a small village. FYI: we have all of the best rooms for our group. (There are still 2 spots left if you’d like to join us.)
During my trip to Sicily I was joined not just by Sophie but also my sister Robin! (She owns this travel company if you are curious). We spent 3 glorious nights at Baglio Occhipinti where we will be based during our tour with Melissa Clark in March (sorry, sold out). We spent a full day with our friend Alessandro from Uncovered Sicily and climbed ALL 142 ceramic tiled steps in Caltagirone. He also took us to a hidden mill in a cave beneath Ragusa where we were very happy to see heritage grain being ground while also escaping the torrid heat (which explains why our tours are NOT scheduled for the summer!) We then moved on to our super chic hotel in Ortigia where we stayed put for two days just exploring the city (which basically meant non-stop granitas and cocktails).
WHAT I’M READING
I’m finally reading From Scratch and loving it! It’s a memoir by Tembi Locke about life and love in Sicily.
My sister Jodi recommended I read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. So I went to download it onto my kindle. And it was already there. And evidently I had already read it. But had zero memory of it. So I read it again (I guess?) and enjoyed it (a second time evidently). Now on to Circe since I can’t have possibly read that yet, since it just came out.
I hesitate to provide any information regarding specific regulations regarding travel to Italy, but this link, from the Italian health ministry, is updated regularly. At the moment it seems as if travelers from the USA can provide either proof of negative test or proof of vaccine 14 days previously. So if you are vaccinated then you don’t have to do the test anymore, which is great.
WHAT I’M WATCHING
I can’t wait to see the new Disney Pixar cartoon, Luca, set in Italy.
Kim’s Convenience on Netflix is pretty cute.
So so happy Lupin has returned! Now if I can just stop traveling enough to watch it….
Next up, upon my sister’s recommendation: The Sinner (Netflix)
WHAT I’M EATING
I love making this dip with all the Swiss chard I froze from my garden.
The eggplants are already happening in our vegetable garden so I’m making this for lunch.
Lately I’ve been super lazy when it comes to dinner. So I’ve been making Aglio Olio, but with one big change. In addition to the pasta, I throw in chopped vegetables. A cup of chopped vegetables per person should do it. Last night it was zucchini, but you can use cauliflower, yellow squash, peas or even fresh fave beans if you have them still. In a pinch, use frozen vegetables. It’s one pot comfort food at its best. Herbs at the end add a lot. But you shouldn’t even need cheese.
In case you missed it, her is a lovely interview with Sophie for Italics magazine.
I’m in Umbria right now but headed back to Rome for the week. My big plans are to go clothes shopping!! The sales have started and it’s been a long time not only since I had the desire to shop, but also the need to because I have places to go! Expect to see cute summer dresses in my future. Are you excited about re-learning how to dress for public and possibly throwing out a pair (or 3) of sweatpants?