I’ve just finished leading tours in Italy for the last two months.
One thought now that I’m done: Soooo thankful.
I’m incredibly grateful to all our clients who said “yes” to Italy this year. Almost 100 of them!
If you’re interested in joining our 2017 trips, I’ll keep you updated. Sign up below.
I’ll get the pics from our tours on the blog soon. For now, you can stalk some Instagram fodder.
What was CRAZY while I was on tours, however, was running into Gigi Guides readers in Italy. Randomly!
I had no idea this was going to happen of course, cause this was the first season that people have actually been using Gigi Guides to travel Italy. (It just came out a few months ago.)
The very first time I met a Gigi Guides member, it was the most unexpected.
I was standing in a van, in my bra.
That might sound weirder than it was because changing in a van is normal when you’re shopping the markets in Italy.
Vans are the change rooms (and where they stash the most expensive stuff), so there are a ton o’ gals stripped down to their skivvies in vans.
It made me jump every time — a fist coming down on the card table, a menacing lunge forward, sudden raised voices, everyone’s hands doing half the talking. I always stopped what I was doing to listen, and try to make sense of what these little old men would get so heated about day after day outside the gelateria where I worked when I first moved to Italy. It had to be something important, right? Like politics or ideology or some ancient wound, a betrayal that kept getting dragged out.
And then my Italian got better. Little by little words began to surface that I could recognize, I started to be able to string a few threads together here and there. It took some time, but I eventually discovered what all the hand waving and passionate speeches were about. And though it had nothing to do with current events or old double-crossings, it was no less important to the little old men, no less deserving of their fire and zeal. All along, they had been talking about food.
Whose nonna had the best recipe for ragu, full-on debates about what goes into a proper pasta al pesto, a play-by-play of everyone’s dinner menus that night and exactly how each dish was going to be prepared… These guys would go on and on for ages — about food! And the thing is, they weren’t unique to the little town in the Cinque Terre where I was working at the time. I had studied in Florence the summer before and had witnessed the same intense conversations there. In fact, I find that Florentines are passionate about food on a whole other level — they take pride in what they prepare and eat because family traditions in both the city and the surrounding countryside are rooted in a strong attachment to the land and what it produces.
I’m a big fan of Kristina Gill and Katie Parla — two women you need to know about!
Katie is a force to be reckoned with in the Roman culinary world — she’s written more than 20 books about food and travel, and her work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Bon Appétit to The Atlantic. Over the years when someone has written me asking about Rome, I’ve just sent them straight to Katie’s blog.
Kristina is the Italy-based food and drinks editor at Design*Sponge — that’s where I first saw her sharing killer insider intel with others — and a photographer who has shot for National Geographic Traveler, Kinfolk and AirBnb.
When we were looking for in-the-know people for our Rome chapter in Gigi Guides, they were both a deliciously natural fit. Kristina (above left) is Gigi Guides’ Rome “go-to expert” and Katie (above right) contributed a sample itinerary describing her “Perfect Day in Rome” — because hey, the most important criteria for Gigi Guides has always been to get the coolest tastemakers to share their inside scoop with Gigi members, and these two are at the top of their game.