Adamo Pallecchi has worked for Contucci — famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano — for more than 50 years. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Adamo, Antonella, Antonia, Ariana — my notes from my last trip to Italy read like a list of baby names for Italians. That’s because my visit to Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany was all about the local people. In France and in Italy — two countries that get paired to food and wine travel as often as brie with champagne — Brendan Vacations offers an inspired twist through its Boutique Journeys with Slow Food Travel. The subsidiary of non-profit Slow Food International is a destination expert with Italian roots and is committed to seasonal, local and sustainable food, produced traditionally by artisans.
Adamo, Antonella, Antonia and Ariana were among the winemakers, cheese makers, farmers and olive oil producers who shared their local culture through tastings, tours and meals where most of the ingredients were not only cooked, but harvested, by the family. After a few helpings of pecorino cheese in the various stages of its aging process — paired with Chianti Classico (in Chianti), Vino Nobile (in Montepulciano) and Sagrantino (in Montefalco) — it didn’t matter if we were navel-grazing gourmets or eating “good, clean and fair” for the first time.
Making sure we were all enjoying ourselves was local tour director Susanna Mariani, who met our whims with ease — from providing me with her own recipe for ribollita, a hearty soup I fell in love with, to answering specific questions on the next stop’s agriculture and architecture. In addition to the tucked-away, old hilltop vineyards and silvery olive groves, we were prepped for the top sights — like that of the frescoes of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi and the meandering alleys of medieval Perugia. They may not have been the main course, but the classics paired nicely with the local flavor.