mindful (adjective) – actively attentive, aware, or deliberately keeping something in mind
I just added a new page to my blog called The Way We Travel . Over the years many people have asked me what’s so different about the way you travel and why do you call your travels more than a “show and tell tour”? So I went back to a chapter in my book about “Traveling Outside the Box”, to see what was so unconventional about the way we travel.
What I wrote seemed to center around the words evocative and imaginative and a quote from Leonardo da Vinci – the noblest pleasure of all is the joy of understanding. In other words when I travel I want to know the back story about what I’m going to be seeing or doing. I have specific choices of what I want to see and do and a playlist that compliments those choices including pairing food with the history and art of the region for a seeing and savoring experience. The gastro-history of a region often feeds into the local culture and natural history making for an evocative eating adventure and a more meaningful travel experience.
An Applied Psychology Course in Travel might call this concept “mindful travel” where clarity, creativity and focus allow you to connect to your travel experience in a way that is so satisfying that you will want to return for more. In fact there should be no excuse to come back from a trip to Italy without boasting of the most wonderful food you ate, wine you drank, sites you saw and people you met.
Be mindful of your travel time and invest in an experience.
With the vacation season starting I wanted to spend some time talking about travel, in particular European travel, subset Italy. Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, only 30% have passports versus 41% of Canadians and 71% of Brits. Europeans travel much more than Americans. It seems the art, architecture, food and wine of their neighbors is too good to pass up and despite the economy, 60% of Britons have been to the US.
I’ll admit it took me a while to travel beyond the beltway. We all have our reasons to postpone travel; work, family, time, money and an emotional commitment to travel outside the box. In a recent Mind Over Money post, a study by Cornell University cited how we should spend our money to gain the greatest satisfaction and happiness.”If you’re conflicted about whether to spend money on a material good or personal experience (say, a vacation), the research says you’ll get much more satisfaction,and for longer,if you choose the experience“.
My first experience of Italy was by way of a road trip with my Italian cousins through Tuscany. It was the fall of 1999. Now after more than 10+ years and 10,000+ miles traveling, eating, cooking and shopping with my Italian family and friends I’ve come to regard Italy as a far away friend that I look forward to visiting year after year. Travelers have indelible memories, in the stories they tell and in the way it changes there lives. It may be time to re-think your travel goals and invest in an experience. Italy is Europe’s everyman with something for everyone. There shouldn’t be any reason to come back from a trip to Italy boasting about the most wonderful food you ate, wine you drank and what you saw. Now may be the time to invest in an experience.
Year after year I’m challenged on how to share my experiences traveling, eating, drinking, cooking and shopping with my Italian family and friends. Bringing Italy home is not all that easy! It’s not like I have a magical suitcase that opens to reveal the landscape of Tuscany, the Duomo of Milan, cooking with Rita in Emilia or the Dawn, Sun, Stars, Sky and Dusk of the rooms of my favorite country house in the Bolognese Hills. I don’t have a magical atomizer to spritz the aroma of the fields and flowers, the olives and oil and essences of the Renaissance from Santa Maria Novella Farmacia in Florence to put you in the mood and it’s hard to capture the sound of the people on the piazza and the roar of the Ferrari unless you’ve been there.
Of course you can follow our travel itineraries and you can have an authentic taste of the Italy of my travels at CosituttiMarketPlace but for now here is a personal moment of pleasure from one of my favorite restaurants in Italy. This video comes as close as I can get to seeing and savoring Italy without a flight on Alitalia and reminds me of a wonderful afternoon spent with our family from the Veneto in the seaside village of Caorle, an old fishing port on the Adriatic.
So brush up on your Italian and Divertiti!
Warning: This video may make your mouth water.
One of my earliest mementos of seeing and savoring Italy was through a terra cotta plate by Buon Ricordo, a union of restaurants that thought to preserve the food traditions of regional Italian food by designing plates that represent the culinary specialties of each member restaurant. Buon Ricordo (“good memory”) wanted to create a souvenir of a memorable meal with a collection of hand-painted plates diners would associate with the hospitality and authenticity of the specialty of the house.
Plate designs are both whimsical and evocative of the flavors,colors and landscape of regional Italian food and range from the polenta e osei of Bergamo at La Pergola to the saltimbocca alla Romana of Rome at Ristorante Severino. Some plates were only released during a certain span of years and now retired. My plate ( circa 1999) was from a memorable meal with my cousins in the town of Valeggio sul Mincio at Ristorante Lepre. We had papparadelle con lepre (papparadelle with hare) and a plate of tortelloni which was commemorated in terra cotta.
The association should be renamed Buonissimo Ricordo because the memories I have of that afternoon around the table with our Italy family celebrating food and friendship are the best.
Italian majolica is filled with symbols of pomegranates. Ceramic shops throughout Tuscany and Umbria “ceramiche artistiche vendenta” sell vases, urns, jars and pitchers featuring pomegranates paired with flowers, fruits and stylized dragons. Pomegranates are one of the oldest fruits known to man. King Tut took a pomegranate vase into the afterlife with him and the pillars of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem were decorated with pomegranates. Italian painters of the Renaissance frequently used the pomegranate as a symbol of plenitude, hope and spiritual fruitfulness. In Botticelli’s painting of the Virgin and Child with Seven Angels the Holy Child is pictured holding a pomegranate. The pomegranate plays such a prominent role in the painting that it has become known as the Madonna of the Pomegranate.
Throughout world history pomegranates have been used as a source of traditional remedies and modern research supports their role as an antioxidant-rich fruit. Throughout gastro-history the pomegranate has been a favored ingredient in most cultural cuisines including Italy where it is called il melograno. It pairs well with Mediterranean foods including radicchio, the red-lined lettuce of the Veneto that our family loved to sauté simply with olive oil and garlic.
Focus on the pomegranate as a theme for an Italian inspired Mother’s Day dinner. Begin with an Italian tablescape of Umbrian linens and a centerpiece of flowers and pomegranates. Start the meal with a Tintoretto , an aperitivo made with chilled pomegranate juice and sparkling Prosecco. Use the juice to make a radicchio salad and as a glaze for a wood-grilled pork tenderloin and end the meal with Panna Cotta di Melograno (Pomegranate Panna Cotta ).
Pomegranate Radicchio Salad
Trim the radicchio, discard the outer leaves. Wash inner leaves, dry well and coarsely tear into pieces. Combine with a dressing made from the juice of 2 pomegranates (or use POM Juice), 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 t green peppercorns in brine, rinsed.