The Culinary Wonders of Small Town Italy

gelatoItaly is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with its rolling hills, quaint villages, world-class culture, and even better food. There is truly something there for everybody. But if you want to get the truest Italian experience, then you might want to look into agritourism.

An agriturismo is a combination of a rural farm house and a hotel. The best ones are independently owned and, in addition to your modest room, include home cooked meals with your stay.

A typical day at an agriturismo goes like this:

You wake, not to the sound of an alarm, but to the real-life crow of a rooster. You dress and find your way into the eating area where you and your fellow travelers are greeted with a true Italian breakfast of toast and homemade jams.

Then you have a choice, you can volunteer your time as a farm hand, getting to know your host family and getting some exercise, or you can wander down into town, visiting the cafes and bars where you’ll often find the older men of the village drinking (even in the morning) and watching futball (soccer). If you are feeling particularly indulgent, you can wander into the gelateria and grab yourself a pre-lunch gelato (but more on this later).

At lunch, your host will provide a rich lunch. Usually Italians eat their heartiest meal in the middle of the day, often including some world class pasta. Of course, just what kind of pasta you enjoy will depend on where you are staying: it might be Angelotti if you find yourself nestled in the mountains of Piedmont, Pappardelle con Coniglio (or Rabbit) in the hills of Tuscany, or Pasta con Sade (sardines) if you find yourself on the island of Sicily.

And then you rest! Siesta is the time when most Italian businesses close the doors and the owners take a nap. The tradition developed in before the invention of air conditioning to avoid the hottest point of the day (noon to four usually). It might seem radical at first, but soon you’ll wish you could take the whole practice home in your suitcase!

After the siesta, there are a few more hours of work or leisurely strolling, followed by dinner, which is usually lighter—often only salad and soup. But don’t be too disappointed, because we are approaching the best part of an Italian day: desserts.

From tiramisu to cannoli, gelato to pannacotta, Italian desserts are your reward for a day well spent! Most cafes will have a decent selection of pastries to choose from, but the very best dessert has a store all to its own.

The Gelateria is a store with one goal in mind, to sell you the sweet, creamy goodness which is gelato. Although it is easy to equate gelato to ice cream, it is a much different beast, containing more milkfat and less air than ice cream — more bang for you buck!

The other key difference is the flavors; sure, they offer vanilla and chocolate but there are also containers with flavors like pistachio and truffle. Nervous to buy that Amaretto flavored gelato? Just ask and they will give you a tasting spoon of each flavor until you find the one that is just right!

After you pick your flavor, you and your gelato can wander the town square, where you’ll often find a little market or street performers well into the evening. Or head back to the agriturismo and settle into your bed, because tomorrow you start the process all over.

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