Questions about Traveling Native: Organic, Local Enjoyment
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
— Confucius

 

This week, a discerning traveler and food critic inquired about joining our upcoming cooking tour in Tuscany this July. Here are a couple of her questions and our responses.

Discerning traveler: Why should we choose your Italian travel tour over another travel company’s offering?

Dear Traveler,

It's an important question. Consider that Traveling Native welcomes you into the tapestry of a love affair with Italy, rather than just taking you on a vacation.

 

Historian in residence, Geoff Haywood and Barga's Keane with Traveling Native, March 2017

Historian in residence, Geoff Haywood and Barga's Keane with Traveling Native, March 2017

The Less-Published Heart of Italy

Many of the places we take you to are not well-published destinations. They would be unlikely discoveries for the average tourist but our native connections make it possible to explore deep layers of local culture. Even more tucked away from mainstream travel itineraries are the jewels of Traveling Native experiences which are the people we meet - the heart of our tours.

In over 20 years of living and loving Italy, we have deep connections there. It’s really beautiful to think about the stories of friends intertwining over the span of decades around a common passion for food, art, the value of the landscape, and the heartfelt work that sustains and renews some of the oldest surviving traditions. It is an rare kind of access to Italy of a kind only Traveling Native offers.

Discerning traveler: $4,000 for a weeklong trip is a lot of money to me and doesn't include airfare to Italy. Please explain the trip’s value to justify the money spent?

We think it’s important to look at Traveling Native Tours as immersion experiences that are designed to get travelers deep into the feeling of Italian living in a short amount of time.

Not everyone wants to be guided around while traveling and that kind of enthusiasm for exploration, allowing oneself to feel lost at at times is something we treasure but it can take months, even years, to get past the barriers and bond with places and people in meaningful ways. We understand most travelers are on a time budget and want to guide you directly into local Italian living and enjoyment.

 

Crusty old bread, summer tomato from the orto and olio from the grove of Aurelio Barattini in Lucca.

Crusty old bread, summer tomato from the orto and olio from the grove of Aurelio Barattini in Lucca.

Deepened Moments and Open Windows

Traveling Native gently guides you to make beautiful discoveries with a dose of the depth. For instance, imagine something as simple as sitting down to eat a bruschetta. A lot of non-Italians know bruschetta and love it. But do they know why la bruschetta is even “a thing”? Do they know that the name “bruschetta” was given because of the relationship between the rough texture of the bread and its resemblance to a horse brush? Or, that bruschetta has a different name, history, and style in each little corner of Italy?

One way of looking at the value of Traveling Native Tours is this: An experience is made up of moments and as the designer and guide of these experiences, we want to make as many of those moments become open windows:

A window where you can look out onto the lush landscape of the Garfagnana, “Tuscany’s greenest valley”, and capture a panorama understanding for the place you are in.

A window where the breeze comes through and makes you feel at home instead of reminding you that you are not.

A window that shows how your enjoyment of the bruschetta is the happy end of a long road that winds back through centuries of sustenance owing all to the value afforded to some crusty old bread.

 

Wild summer fruits from the forest on sheep's milk ricotta that is made right around the corner in the hills of the Garfagnana.

Wild summer fruits from the forest on sheep's milk ricotta that is made right around the corner in the hills of the Garfagnana.

Organic, Local Enjoyment

As we guide you through The Art of Enjoyment, we want to facilitate opportunities for you to engage organically but directly, as soon as you arrive. You can do this with Traveling Native because we cultivate exchange with local people and we spend days as local people would.

From a more budgetary aspect, there are many wonderful components. The accommodations are at the high end of quality in regards to comfort, aesthetics, and service whether in historic centers or in the countryside. Transportation is another major cost for travelers whether they are renting a vehicle or hiring a car service. All ground transportation is included as it pertains to the itinerary. There is also free time for exploration where transportation can be included for free or for very reasonable rate. On the topic of transportation, we have to add that our drivers are some of the most knowledgeable and enjoyable people I know.

All or most dining is included in the price of the tour, depending on the tour. The only reason why all meals are not always included is to allow travelers to make some choices and have a little time to themselves to explore. We are ever-present and happy to make arrangements and suggestions in those instances. The places where we dine together are not only at the top of our list of favorites but they are the choices of the most discerning local palates. In many cases, the food we eat together is a prelude or an epilogue to a place or a person we meet on tour.

 

Emanuele, owner of Pretto Prosciutteria in Siena, reading his grandfather's poetry to our guests as they finish a mid-afternoon refreshment of local delicacies from the Chianti.

Emanuele, owner of Pretto Prosciutteria in Siena, reading his grandfather's poetry to our guests as they finish a mid-afternoon refreshment of local delicacies from the Chianti.

The Priceless Enjoyment of Making Memories

Finally, there are special features and figures that add value to the enjoyment of our experience in the way of learning. The hands-on cooking classes, the baking course, the tasting tours, the butchering class, the cheesemaking tour, the salumi-making class, the cut-color-style-barbering workshop, the olive oil and wine production classes, the many tasting tours, the painting class, the photography course, the wild and edible field greens walk, the beer-making beer-tasting lunch, the Cinta Senese pig farm tour, the biodynamic farming tasting tour, the table-side poetry read, the bread-making class, the guided walks in the mountains for stunning scenery or mushroom hunting, the truffle hunt, the list goes on. All of these experience incorporate knowledgeable and passionate experts in their respective field and what travelers take home with them from those experiences is, in many travelers’ memories, priceless.

I hope this opens the conversation up to those of you who are dreaming of cooking and dining with us in Tuscany this summer or in upcoming seasons. We look forward to your questions and will continue to post answers here. Email us at andee@travelingnative.com. Buona domenica! - Andee