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On Italy

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

My wife Jessica and I just had a wonderful honeymoon that ended up spanning a lot of Italy - from Sicily all the way up to Venice. Italy has twenty distinct regions and we got to stop in seven of them.

Here's the breakdown including where we went in those regions if you're curious:

Sicily: Palermo, Cefalu, Marsala, Trapani 

Lazio: Rome

Tuscany: Florence, San Gimignano, various parts of Chianti

Abruzzo: Pescara, Popoli

Umbria: Orvieto (lovely village with good wine scene, enjoyed more than San Gimignano)

Emilia Romagna: Bologna

Veneto: Venice

We were fortunate to eat and drink incredibly well and are longing to return sooner than later. Would anyone be interested in signing up for a Craft & Curd trip to Italy? Jessica is a great driver. Reach out and let us know. Maybe it's something we'll offer next year. 

Some observations

Italian wine is a good deal cheaper over there, as you would think. [Wish we had the consolation of having access to fair priced California wine]. Restaurants don't charge exorbitant markups, in fact prices in restaurants are very close to what you would pay retail. I don't know much about restaurant dynamics but why is it ok for our restaurants to take their bottle cost, triple it (or more) and serve it to us with a smile. Eating out daily is the way of life over there it seems. For many of us it's hard to afford even eating out occasionally here. I know it's a complicated issue but I'm sure we can do better.

The American obsession of keeping wine at cool temperatures may be mostly unnecessary. We encountered numerous shops and wine bars with little to no AC and didn't encounter one bottle that was bad or tired. Looking to age your wine ten+ years? Ok, you're going to want wines that were kept cool that whole time. If that's not your objective don't worry. You most likely do not need a wine cooler/cellar in your home.

Wines must be kept laying down. This is how we're told wine needs to be stored to keep the corks moist or whatever. Nearly every single bottle we encountered in fine to decent wine shops were standing up. How long do you think it takes for a cork to dry out. And again, how long are you aging your wine for. To the serious fine wine collectors on this list, please forgive me. It's just not how most of us purchase and consume wine: quickly. 

American Italian Food is mostly fiction. We overheard some woman ask for marinara sauce with her calamari. There is no marinara sauce in Italy. We made it up (any food historians out there want to correct me?). You squeeze lemon on your calamari. Basta. Spaghetti and meatballs? No way on the same plate. Sure there are familiar dishes there like lasagna and such but it's not everywhere. The majority of Italian restaurants here will likely struggle to stay in business if they don't serve our so-called classics. While we're on the topic of authenticity, I find it amusing that the stereotypical New York Italian bears no resemblance whatsoever to his European counterpart.  

Italians are said to love organized chaos and that is evidenced on their roads. Excuse my language, but they drive freakin' nuts. I kept expecting to see more accidents on the side of the road. Jessica is a saint (a saint that wasn't let into the Florence cathedral for dressing like a temptress. Ha) for doing all the driving and keeping us safe (I barely have the temperament to drive here). Sorry for the brief turn to a dark topic but I've had a burning question since we've gotten back. What does Italy's road fatality rate look like compared to other countries? I just looked and driving in Italy (by that measure) is much safer than driving in most countries. About 40% safer than driving in the US (measured as road fatalities per 100k inhabitants per year). That paradox is so typically Italian.

So I mentioned above the travesty of their wines being cheaper back there. I just checked the price on one of our favorite wines that we were drinking there: a Trebbiano d'Abruzzo from a great winery. Jessica and I were throwing it back at our favorite restaurant of the trip (Roscioli, in Rome) for 36 euros a bottle. Just asked my distributor here the cost. $56 our cost! Now that's an extreme example but thankfully there is a great way to drink Italian wine here for cheaper than there and I have it all figured out, my friends. I buy when the distributors want to sell, not when I want to buy. Distributors subsidize wine all the time and sell it at or below their cost because they need to get it out of their warehouse. Oftentimes they are the exact wines that I know to be hidden gems through my experience. I love what I do.

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