Hi from Rick: Celebrating Slow Food in Tuscany
|Tuscany is pretty, but its best sights are the ones you taste.|
I'm deep in Tuscany with my tour guide friend, Roberto. When traveling with Roberto, I generally eat what I sightsee. On a quest at the crack of dawn, we meet a local named Fabio and his two highly trained dogs. Stuck on fast-forward, the dogs rummage nose-first through an oak forest, with the three of us straining to keep up in a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek, Tuscan-style. The prize: those pungent underground mushrooms...truffles.
Heading home with a tiny cache of truffles, we drop by Victoria's farm, famed for its Chianina cows (the breed that makes Florentine-cut beef such a hit) and pecorino cheese. Victoria, whose traditional cheesemaking methods are somehow grandfathered into the EU hygiene standards, demonstrates her artistry for us. Not surprisingly, we leave with an ash-covered round of her best.
In the shadow of the village bell tower, young and old are sitting in a convivial circle shucking carciofi (artichokes). It's the peak of the artichoke season, a fine excuse for a festival. Chuckling grandmothers — enjoying their 80th festa del carciofo — make sure the children enjoying their first festa get this tradition right.
Back at the agriturismo (farmhouse B&B), Roberto's "slow food club" has gathered in a rustic dining hall for their traditional long Sunday lunch. Hometown steaks sizzle on the open fire, children take their water con gas, crunchy artichokes are nibbled raw ("love me, love me not"-style), and the vino rosso comes corposo (full-bodied). Roberto grates an ugly but exquisitely fragrant truffle over my pasta with a "Tuscany rocks" panache...as I lap up the dolce vita.
In this month's Travel News, we'll help nudge you closer to the "sweet life" of traveling in Europe with tips for finding (or avoiding) World Cup festivities, facts you never knew about Italian art, downloadable museum walking tours, the lowdown on overseas credit-card fees...and more.
We've also just announced our 2007 Tours — you can book the most sought-after dates and destinations online now, before everyone else finds out. If you're traveling sooner, check out the exclusive freebies we include with Eurail passes (not to mention avoiding the high price of gas in Europe), and our Travel Store's lightweight, no-nonsense selection of luggage and accessories. Pack light, gather good information, and embrace the local culture...and la dolce vita will spice up your trip, no matter where you go.
Thanks for traveling with us.