Remember last year when I was judging at the Gelato Festival for the World’s Best? Well, kinda like the world cup, rounds are now running leading up to the next world competition in 2021.
This mid-September, I was on the panel to judge for the European Finals “All Stars” for title of Best in Europe, and those present at the All Stars competition were winners from previous rounds held around the world. The winners here will go on to the next rounds on the road to World’s Best.
(original post in 2015, updated in September 2018)
Where oh where does one find the best gelato in Florence?
Anywhere, right? It’s Italy! It’s Florence- the birthplace of gelato! You can’t go wrong! No- WRONG! Finding quality gelato in Florence is more difficult than you think. Italy has a plethora of quality raw ingredients- yet establishments in touristic cities like Florence continue to favor business/profit margins over preserving gelato’s integrity. Finding a worthy cone in the historical center is tough but not impossible.
Florence has a particular fondness of gelato because it is said to be its the birthplace. On my gelato tours in Florence, we chat about the key figures of gelato’s beginnings: Cosimo Ruggieri, Bernardo Buontalenti and Francesco Procopio (Francesco was actually from Sicily and this is where the gelato origin wars start to ensue).
As one of my guests once said “basically we’ve learned that Florence invented everything.” Exactly. I mean, how can you not boast a city that gave the world the (standard) Italian language, gelato and the negroni? Continue Reading →
My life sounds pretty rough right? But in all fairness- food is my job. How did I end up judging at a gelato competition? A few months back, I made an impromptu trip to Carpigiani’s Gelato University & Museum near Bologna with a fellow writer visiting from Seattle. After a crash course in gelato history and making, 2 of the University’s managers asked if I’d be interested to be apart of a jury for their upcoming World Gelato competition. I said no, I’m on a diet and I hate gelato but thank you.
HA! You damn right I said yes before they could finish the sentence.
This is how the conversation went: Them: “We have a world gelato competition coming up, would you like to…” Me interrupting: YES I CAN HELP EAT ALL THE GELATO HOW DO I SIGN UP?!Continue Reading →
Just a few weeks into my break from Florence and I am already going through gelato withdrawals. As some of you may have gathered, especially if you are a long time follower, that I am what I have coined as a gelatoholic and in Florence, a gelato shop is where you can usually find me on a smoldering day or even in the dead of winter. Obviously not so anonymous about it. The thing I love about gelato is that..well there are many things. 1st I love that it is an affordable pleasure. Most people can get a little dollop of heaven for just 1.50-2.50 euro. In Seattle, I fooled myself into thinking I liked American ice cream and wasted nearly 5 bucks of overly sugared, grainy, milky indistinctly flavored cholesterol bombs. Bluebird, I’m looking at you. Continue Reading →
My 1st whole year in food & wine travel is coming to a full circle. So every season I learn about what tours are most popular- and most ideal.
The majority of tours I help with are food and wine related, although it happens when I plan an art tour or cultural sights tour (boring- can we just get to the food and booze already?). Friends used to ask me what were the best tours to take in Italy and I never knew how to respond. So I really love the work I do here because now I feel like I’m learning Italy inside and out.
People also ask when is the best time to come to Italy. In my opinion- it’s anytime! Italy is so festive so every month there is something rich and colorful happening no matter where you find yourself. Even August. It may be empty and hot, but you can explore the streets in a much more unique way in a month where most people are away at their beach house.
So Fall used to be my favorite season when I was a Seattleite, and now I have to say it’s Summer. Fall, however has much more to offer to travelers to Italy in terms of activities. Summer is hot and is good for beach bumming and prosecco spritz in the local, hidden squares of Venice. Fall is good for really learning about Italian traditions when it comes to food and wine. This is a period where harvesting takes place for things like wine grapes, olives, chestnuts and lovely fall produce like kale, persimmons, squashes, MUSHROOMS, white truffles and more.
So in honor of Fall in Italy, I’d like to give my readers some advice on the best tours to consider for any person interested in traveling in Italy:
Truffle Tours-I live in Tuscany so I can only speak personally for amazing truffle tours in Tuscany but I know that Piedmont is also king for Truffle Hunt tours and I most recently learned that Le Marche is home to truffles and there are truffle hunt tours there as well. The great part about truffle hunts is that you get to have a moment outside of the city and really connect with nature and well, food. You get to really see the 360 process from meeting the hunter and the dog and getting to eat some of the truffle you find out in the woods. It’s a super authentic experience (with the right travel planners, ahem.) especially because a good travel planner will book you in to lunch too at a restaurant in a small village that is completely off the beaten path and brings you food so good, you’ll want to cry. Like I do, everyday as an avid eater in Italy . 🙂
Wine Tours-Regions to focus on: Barolo, Chianti Classico and Montalcino. Barolo is the king of Italian wines in my book as I much adore the Nebbiolo grape, and it so happens to be somewhat close to Alba where you can also attend the yearly truffle festival and take a truffle tour, too. Chianti Classico I recommend because it’s so damn pretty with so many colors painting the rolling countryside which you will enjoy even from the window of your vehicle. Montalcino is great because in October they have a wine festival called Montalcino D’Ottobre and the city transforms into a wine fair. The scenery here is simply breathtaking and gorgeous as it sits high up in the Tuscan hills and is a total paradise for food and wine lovers. Wine tours are great all year round, but in the Fall they are especially special because you might be able to taste grapes ripe off the vine, see the harvest and perhaps even attend one of the many harvest festivals that run about.
Trekking Tours- Oh my god, I went on a trek recently through Chianti (Panzano to San Donato, to be exact) and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The weather is perfect, there are no mosquitos (the bane of my life) and it provides a much needed escape from the city buzzing and smog. Plus!!! All the Fall colors in the forests and wine fields was just simply incredible. I’ve decided- I need to do a trekking tour at least once a week to maintain my sanity (and to justify my wine and cheese habits;)
Gelato Tours– Okay, so with the harvesting of chestnuts and persimmons- gelato gets REALLY good in Florence (where I live). I recently had a Marron Glace and it was omg amazing. So creamy, starchy, caramel-like, slightly bitter and just bursting with nutty fall flavors. Plus, in the summer gelato is like a heat-survival tool. In the Fall, the weather remains slightly warm during the day so your gelato doesn’t melt in like 3 seconds yet it is still very weather appropriate. I love how my favorite gelaterie add fall spices and wild herbs to their artisan concoctions. On a gelato tour, you have the option to make your own gelato and tour the gelato kitchen! I can’t believe how cool my job is.
Cooking Classes- I think it’s so great to take a cooking class in Italy especially in the fall when produce is so abundant and there are some cooking classes that combine market tours with the cooking classes. I highly recommend taking a cooking class in Venice and in Tuscany. Oh hell, actually anywhere. I love when a cooking class booking comes in, as I usually get to be the interpreter (and have an amazing lunch). But also, I get to cook with Americans for the day and it cures my homesickness! It’s super cool since they are obviously curious about Italian cuisine in a country that I love so much. The best of both worlds!
I’m sure there are more, but it would get too long to list them all!
If you are interested in learning more about food and wine tours in Italy, contact me.