An embarrassment of riches.

Before each of my Morso Soggiorno tours, I travel to Italy to take a “dry run” of my own trip. Makes sense, right? I research my trips intensively, write long emails and anxiously await replies, read reviews, get references from trusted sources. I make phone calls at all hours of the day and night in Italian so broken it could make your ears bleed. But none of that considerable effort stands in for a little face time. My in-person meetings are beyond fruitful and serve a couple of purposes, aside from getting me to Italy, which, it goes without saying, is an amazing benefit.

IMG_1410 Villa Beccaris

Nailing down all important and elusive commitments from my Italian colleagues is a challenge, especially when I’m reserving limited and exclusive accommodations and events. It’s even more difficult when I’m trying to convince an artisan or craft business to open its doors to my groups. Imagine asking the fine gentleman below “Can you please demonstrate your 200 year-old, ultra-secret ricotta-making technique for my group and me?” Even the most scrupulous and hardworking farmers, vendors, cheese makers, vintners and restauranteurs are way too comfortable with open-ended plans that they are sure can be confirmed domani (tomorrow). Me, not so much. I’m all about signing on the dotted line, and inking my name on a specific date on a calendar that preferably remains in their direct line of sight.

sicilian cheesemaker

More importantly, when I meet my virtual colleagues in person, there’s an excitement generated; a generosity and willingness to share intimate, special experiences, which, let’s face it, is what my trips are all about. Discovering undiscovered Italy. One unique, breath-taking experience at a time.

Take my recent meeting with Anna Abbona of Marchesi di Barolo. A more gracious (and beautiful!) hostess you may never find. But I knew this already, having heard Jen and Josh Ziskin, chef/owners of Ristorante La Morra in Brookline, Massachusetts, sing her praises effusively. After a lovely impromptu tour, where we’d personally met the chef, settled on the menu for a four-course dinner, and added white truffles to two of those courses (we’re in Alba in October and we’re not supposed to eat white truffles?) Signora Abbona offered tastings of the wine flights that would accompany our meal. It’s not quite 11 o’clock in the morning, yet I almost say yes.

anna

Barolo country Marchesi di Barolo

Meeting my colleague, Sharon, in the press office at Slow Food headquarters in Bra was no exception. Sharon is a wealth of information, and generously offered up a private wine tasting at the Enoteca at Salone del Gusto or a visit to the Presidium arborio rice fields while we got to know each other over a delicious lunch at Osteria del Boccondivino in the courtyard outside the Slow Food offices.

Slow Food HQ

The folks who run the La Banca del Vino (the Wine Bank) at the University of Gastronomic Studies are ready to pop open a couple of the thousands of bottles of wines they hold in their cellars in Pollenzo for Morso Tours. “Take a walk through the cellar, prego, Signora,vai, vai,” the wine experts exhort us, directing us to the back corner of an immense tasting room. A heavy wooden door creaks open at our coaxing, revealing vaulted stone ceilings and brick walls in which crates of wines are stacked waist high as far as the eye can see. Slow wines from every region in Italy. I turn, wide-eyed, toward my hostess, and she nods knowingly. Once I’ve seen this, how can I pass up a private tour and tasting?

Wine Bank good stuff Wine Bank vault

It goes on and on. Keep an eye out for all of my updates — some for the October trip, and some for future trips. Expect my top ten on Turin, Alba and Barolo country, Salone, and restaurants in Turin in upcoming posts.

Follow me on Twitter @tuttomorso and Instagram @tuttomorso to learn all the good bits in real time. The Salone del Gusto/Torino/Alba trip is October 22 – 29, 2014, there is limited space available. You can learn more about it here.

 

 

 

Italy surprises me. Again.

I’ve been hawking my upcoming tour to Salone del Gusto in October pretty much nonstop. I think it’s a great trip, having attended Salone del Gusto in 2012 (you can see my blogs about it here and here.) But it occurs to me, my foodie bias is showing. I’ve been so focused on all the greatness that is Salone — the wines, the artisan and craft foods, the star-chef dinners, the cooking classes, the workshops – did I mention the wines? — that I almost broke my own first rule of the Morso travel experiences I curate: discover undiscovered Italy. Boy, was I ever reminded of the importance of my own mission on my recent “test run” to Turin and Alba in mid-July.

So, before I begin to wax effusive about Turin, a little background. Over the years, I’ve visited or passed through Turin a few times, two of them very memorable. On my first visit, in 1990, my husband, Jonathan, and I capped off a one-month second honeymoon with a one-night stay in Turin. It almost led to divorce. Why? Where do I start?

First, it was Ferragosto, the time of year in Italy when any sane person, Italian or otherwise, avoids the cities and escapes to their vacation home for a month or more. Restaurants are “chiuso per ferie,” closed for holiday, as are small businesses. The sidewalks are rolled up. The streets, deserted. I was in Rome once during Ferie, and the only other living creatures for miles around were the cats at the Torre Argentina.

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No one goes to an industrial city like Turin in August. No one, that is, except the Rolling Stones. And, apparently, us. My husband, now an aging rocker, then an ardent one, just had to see the Stones on their European tour. I was not happy. The notion of spending the last night of my second honeymoon with Mick, Keith, and 70,000 of their bff’s did not rock my world. But love is about compromise.

So, we booked a hotel, in those pre-internet days, by fax. Got the confirmation the next day, at least I hoped it was the confirmation, the quality was so bad. I tucked it in among our traveling papers, never giving it a second thought as we wended our way from Barcelona through the South of France and across the Ligurian Coast by car, using the late and lamented Gourmet magazine as our travel guide. We saw great sights and ate some of the best meals of our lives. Finally, four weeks later, to Turin we went in the heat of an Italian summer.

Turin was bleak; hot and desolate. The first harbinger of bad things to come: our hotel was closed for renovations. Damn that hard-to-read fax. After finally finding a guest house, we ended up eating at the only place open, a small bottega that had menus with pictures of food on them, and descriptions in four languages. Never a good sign.

After a supremely unsatisfying meal and less satisfying espresso, we navigated our way, sans GPS, to the only stadium on our map. Covered in graffiti, boarded up and looking more like a relic from a ghost town in a post-apocalypse film than the venue for a world-class concert, we were obviously in the wrong place. A few questions later, we were directed to Stadio delle Alpi, Turin’s new stadium. Glad to put the intrigue behind us, we parked, grabbed our backpacks and walked about 2 miles to the gates, only to be searched and relieved of just about everything we owned by the Carabinieri. Buggers.

Thoroughly pissed off, I sat fuming through the whole show while Jonathan reveled in the greatness that is the Glimmer Twins. It wasn’t over soon enough for me.

RollingStones-Torino

Fortunately, my second memorable experience was Salone in 2012. Wanting to spend every moment possible at the show, I barely explored the city, in retrospect, a serious mistake. In my last 48 hours in Turin, when I finally had overdosed on every artisan product under the sun, I rushed from one fabulous neighborhood to another, trying to take it all in. I more than made up for it during this trip.

Turin is a beautiful, cosmopolitan, eminently walkable city, with neighborhoods that vary from baroque to modern to industrial to medieval. Jonathan thinks it feels a lot like Madrid (high praise indeed).

Train

Square TorinoAs the birthplace of Italian Unification, there is plenty of history at your fingertips, including Italy’s first parliamentary chambers, and the birthplace of the first King, Vittorio Emanuele II. Museums abound on assorted subjects including Eqyptology, National Cinema, and of course, Italy’s legendary automobiles.

Cinema Torino

For foodies, Turin boasts the largest open air market in Italy, Porta Palazzo, and the Balon, an amazing caffé culture whose heritage is preserved at Caffé Bicerin and Caffé Florio. Gelato? How about Grom?  Chocolate? The inimitable Guido Gobino awaits.

Caffee B+W Farmer's Market 2 Latte Burro Uova Sign

Needless to say, the Torinese take their food seriously. And how could they not? The Slow Food movement was born of the Torinese culture, and thrives there as a living, breathing part of every day life.

How whet is your appetite? If you’re thinking about Fall travel, think Turin. Salone del Gusto. And the amazing wines of vineyards surrounding Alba. Did I mention October is white truffle month?

Join us!

Carpe Barolo!

While I was more than occupied at Salone del Gusto 2012 tasting aged balsamic vinegars, olive oils, chocolates, coffee, cheese, salume, carne crudo and so much more, my wine-loving spouse sampled the wines. And let me just say, there were a lot of them.

In anticipation of the release of the Slow Food Taste Workshops catalog for 2014, I give you his annotated recollections.

If you’re thinking of joining us on our trip to Turin, Salone del Gusto and Piedmont’s wine country this year, remember: June 9 is the date to begin reserving your own Taste Workshop favorites.

The sublime wine programs of Salone del Gusto.

I could go on and on about how spectacular the Taste Workshops are at Slow Foods’ Salone del Gusto food show. But perhaps sharing just a few of the inspired offering from the 2012 Program will whet your palate. Here you go:

Great Reserve Barolos for Aging; Reds from the Loire Valley; The unrivaled cuvées of Krug Champagne; Italy’s young women winemakers; the rise of Southern New Zealand Pinot Noir; the discreet charms of biodynamics.

Still thirsty? Borgogno Barolo vertical tasting (chronicled in a past post here); the exceptional vintages of Charles Heidsieck Champagne; Brunello di Montalciono Poggio al Vento vertical tasting (read the post here).

Borgogno tasting

The wines from the Southern Rhone: Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape; the sparkling wines of Italy and France; a new profile of Brunello di Montalcino; wines from Spain, Portugal, Greece, the Balkans and Georgia.

A unique tasting of Slow Wine producers, with over 600 labels represented. Additional Taste Workshops featured rums, cognacs, whiskeys, craft beers and much more, all complemented by delicious artisan foods.

These generous tastings are presented by international experts and visiting vintners, many scions of centuries’ old wine dynasties, as well as young rising stars. Together, they offer a unique glimpse into a world few of us have access to.

But access it you will if you join me this fall for a tour of Salone del Gusto, Turin and the wine rich Piemonte region. You can learn morehere.

In vino veritas indeed.

Poggio Al Vento lineup

New deets! Salone del Gusto 2014.

Big news from Italy! The official countdown to Salone del Gusto 2014 starts on June 9. That’s when the long-awaited Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre Slow Food itinerary of workshops, tastings, and programs will be posted online. We’ll want to reserve immediately, to ensure our place at the most sought-after events and workshops.

If you’ve been thinking about joining us, it’s decision time. If you’ve already signed on (lucky you!), time pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite wine, buff up your reading glasses, and settle in to imagine yourself at one of hundreds of perfectly curated programs designed to satisfy your every craving for wine, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, coffee, and so much more. Once your choices are made, we’ll sign you up.

Over the winter, I’ve been tweaking the trip itinerary, and am pleased to post the updated details here. By design, our experience will be an intimate, immersive one — I’ve booked only ten rooms, and five are already sold. If you’re on the fence, the time is now to call with questions.

So, take a look, and I hope to hear from you. It promises to be an epic trip.

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Join me! Turin + Salone del Gusto, October 2014

It’s finally here! The itinerary for Morso Soggiorno’s much anticipated trip to Salone del Gusto 2014, the incredible city of Turin, and Le Langhe in Piedmont.

You can click on each image to make the page larger for easy reading.

Hope you can join me.

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Questions? Email me.

Thinking Ahead! Salone del Gusto 2014

Some people wait all year for the announcement of their favorite band’s tour dates, or the first game of the season of their beloved sports team, or the latest fashions from Europe’s runways, or simply Christmas or a special birthday.

Me? My special date comes once every two years, and the building excitement and anticipation exceeds all of the above rolled into one. I wait for Slow Food to announce the dates of the Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre food show in Turin, Italy. Once they’re public, I burst into action.

The whimsical logo of Salone del Gusto 2012I scramble to get my press pass. I book a hotel that’s convenient to the show, but within walking distance of the beautiful, historic, architecturally and culturally vibrant city center of Turin. Continue reading