“I must have been Italian in my past life, because I love all things Italian. Not just my morning cappuccino or hand-rolled silky pasta, but the quirky music of the accordion, Enrico Caruso, the lilting voice of the waitress as she says, “Allora!” and the landscape from the heel to the top of the boot. The rest of America must be as smitten, because so many Italian dishes have become staples here. What pantry doesn’t have pasta of different sizes and shapes and a bottle or two of marinara? But it doesn’t stop there. There’s polenta and risotto, and other sauces like Bolognese and vodka…”
And ever so much more! This is from the introduction to the “Magic and Pasta” chapter of my upcoming book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry, the Art of Making Your Own Staples, being published by Ten Speed Press in just a few short months (it’s available for pre-sale on Amazon right now)! Yes! Federico Fellini got it right when he described Italy as just that: magic and pasta! It is to this magical land I will be going in a few short months as I join co-host, Matt Frazier, the No-Meat Athlete, on a vegan tour of Southern Italy with Vegano Italiano Festival.
I was twenty when I first went to Italy. A girlfriend and I took a year off from college, donned a couple of backpacks, and combed our way through Europe for six months. We spent two of those months in Italy, first weaving through the main part of the boot from Tuscany to Naples, then settling down for a month in a rental apartment in Sicily at the foot of Mt. Aetna, where we walked daily to the market for fresh produce, lightheartedly flirted with young Italian men, and climbed down 1500 steps daily to the rocky beach along azure waters. At night, we’d often hang outside the door of a jazz club to catch a few notes since we were too poor to pay the cover (we lived according to Fromer’s “Europe on $5 a Day”). Our landlords lived below us, and they frequently invited us to meals with neighbors curious to meet Americans, and we blundered away in patchwork Italian and sunk our teeth into succulent eggplant and ripe tomatoes. I can still taste the flavors, sights, sounds of that wonderful month.
I’ve returned to Italy three times since then, and each time thought, “I could live here.” The colors, the people, the sounds, the leisure. There is no place like it.
So I am excited to return this summer as part of an amazing vegan tour! For a full week from July 18th to the 25th, we are visiting the Amalfi Coast, which is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth — gorgeous towns perched on cliffs overlooking the ocean, brilliant colors of bougainvillea lining narrow cobblestone streets, the scent of lemon in the air. We’ll visit Pompei, and stroll through Naples. And why this part of the country and not, say, the golden hills of Tuscany where everyone else goes? A major reason is because Southern Italy is far more veggie-centric than the rest of Italy. This is where the great vegetable, grain, and legume dishes are found, where 80% of the meals are almost naturally vegan or vegetarian. Of course, Tierno Tours has mapped out a course that will take us to the finest vegan dining experiences so you’ll never have to wonder if there’s cheese or meat tucked away in something.
And that’s not all — we’ll be staying at a five star Italian B & B, or an agroturismo, and enjoy fun cooking classes with yours truly (think vegan cheese!) as well as our Italian hosts. How about sitting in an outdoor cafe with a carafe of the house wine (don’t cringe — many establishments make their own homemade wine with their own backyard vineyard!) and listening the concerts in the town piazzo? And if the thought of too much good food and drink throws you off kilter, remember, you can always go on a good, long run with Matt Frazier, the No-meat Athlete.
I can’t wait to go, and I hope you’ll join me! There are only a few spots left, so I hope you’ll grab one! See you in this summer! For more information or to sign up, please contact Tierno Tours here.