One of the best hidden secrets in Italy, are the agriturismi. Those little tucked away farm houses that serve quite possibly the best food in and around Italy.
I had my first agriturismo experience last summer in the Urbino countryside. When Giancarlo and I first moved to Italy, our American friend was working a summer camp at an agriturismo there. They needed a teacher and of course, the prospects of making euros as opposed to dollars was enough for me to say yes. The catch was, I had to live at the camp. Not knowing really any Italian at that time, Giancarlo was able to come along as my "helper/translator." For 3 weeks we lived at the agriturismo that fed us some of the best meals we've ever had. No menus, what they cook is what you eat, all local specialties.
Everyday, lunch and dinner were created from scratch and included all locally grown, fresh produce, homemade pasta and sauce. For aperitivo hour, the owner of the agriturismo would bring out the homemade wine from his father's house, the homemade sausage from his neighbor and the cheese that he personally cured, and he made sure that everyone was eating and socializing. I had found my new home. At dinner, the owner would sit with us, and talk about every subject under the sun, how his neighbors made the sausage, where his farmer is - all the while his wife was in the kitchen cooking for customers and the camp kids. I wish these summer camps existed when I was growing up.
A few weeks ago, I worked an event in the countryside of Bologna. Now, I'm gonna brag... Bologna has some (if not the) best food in Italy. So of course, the agriturismi in the countryside are going to be filled with mouthwatering favorites (Bologna is home to Lagana, Ragu, Tortellini, mortadella, you name it). And sure enough, this particular one was an explosion to the tastebuds.
This Fall, my goal is to try to find The Best agriturismi (both for work and fun) in the Bologna hillside, and document it.
Until then, I was fortunate to find the last episode of No Reservations in Sardinia (fyi, i love Anthony Bourdain) and to shed a little light on the beauty and essence of the agriturismo. (Click to 7:45)