More and more we are hearing and learning about slow food. And the slow food movement has led to the concept of slow travel. For some, these buzz words may not mean much, but they actually mean something to me.
The lifestyle and culture of both Italy and France lends itself very well to the more laid back travel experience, eating and moving around at a more relaxed pace allowing you to savor every last bit of a meal, a museum or a destination. It’s one of the many reasons I adore these two countries.
Slow Food and Slow Travel are exactly the opposite of fast-food and fast travel.
While I could spend hours attempting to explain the definitions and the movement itself and how it started, honestly I think that you would be able to learn and understand more about it directly from the source. If you’re really interested in learning more, read Slow Food Nation, which is written by the President of the Slow Food Organization, Carlo Petrini.
Instead, I’d rather spend a few minutes explaining to you, from my point of view, what they mean to me and how it translates into my work. I’d much rather speak to you from the heart.
But first, let me tell you a funny, yet scary, story that really resonated with me.
A few years back, I read Dario Castagno’s popular memoir called Too Much Tuscan Sun (a great read). In it, he reveals a rather embarrassing story about a tour that he was leading with some Americans in Siena, Italy. During the part of his tour where he would normally bring his clients to a family owned trattoria that prides itself on preparing time-honored recipes using local foods for lunch, he was met with a chilly response when he announced these plans. The clients responded that they had come all that way to Italy to enjoy real Italian food, and would rather pass on Dario’s personal recommendation in favor of a Pizza Hut or Olive Garden.
I have no words. Could you imagine how Dario must have felt? How insulting!
Unfortunately, I think stories of this kind play out much more often than is written about. Not only are Pizza Hut and Olive Garden not my idea of real Italian food in the U.S., but it certainly isn’t my idea of authentic Italian food in Italy.
And why would I want to experience the same thing when I travel that I do day in and day out at home?
Isn’t the point of travel to understand and experience the local culture and immerse yourself in something different?
Personally, I think it a shame that McDonald’s has set up shop in both of these countries. There are far better, healthier and more interesting options for sightseers on the go who don’t wish to take the time to savor a full meal for every lunch and dinner. In Italy things like lampreddoto, porchetta and pizza al taglio all come to mind. In France, there are crêpes, falafel, sandwiches or even just a baguette and cheese. Or better yet, why not pick up some fresh food at a local market and enjoy a picnic in a lovely garden or park?
One certainly doesn’t need to resort to finding a McDonald’s or god forbid an Olive Garden!
What Slow Food doesn’t mean to me
- Slow Food doesn’t mean being a pretentious food snob
- Slow Food doesn’t mean ever eating something that you know isn’t good, clean, fair and sustainable
- Slow Food doesn’t mean visiting fast-food joints on vacation, no matter how pressed for time you are
- Slow Food doesn’t mean obsessing over every bite and being anal about having to find a slow food
- Slow Food doesn’t mean always having to splurge on expensive meals
What Slow Food does mean to me
- Slow Food means seeking out locally-owned establishments who pride themselves on using fresh, local ingredients
- Slow Food means taking the time to learn about the ingredients, where they came from, how they are typically used and prepared
- Slow Food means cooking and eating what’s in season
- Slow Food means spending a bit more on good quality food, even when it means the portions may be smaller, because the flavor of the food will make up for it
- Slow Food means allowing yourself the pleasure of enjoying a leisurely meal and knowing that what you put in your mouth is good for you and is benefiting everyone who touched it – from the farmer to the chef to you.
What Slow Travel doesn’t mean to me
- Slow Travel doesn’t involve getting a list of as many places as possible and trying to figure out how you can check them all off in record time on your trip
- Slow Travel doesn’t mean seeing seven different cities on a week-long vacation
- Slow Travel doesn’t mean spending an hour on a gondola and calling it “seeing Venice” or taking a trip up the Eiffel Tower and saying you experienced Paris.
- Slow Travel doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use a high-speed train to get from place to place. Getting to your destination quickly leaves you more time to experience it.
- Slow Travel doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit a fast-paced city
What Slow Travel does mean to me
- Slow Travel means enjoying and savoring every experience and every moment
- Slow Travel means taking the time to chat with proprietors and vendors about their establishments
- Slow Travel means immersing yourself in the local culture and chatting up the natives to learn more about their lifestyle
- Slow Travel means taking time to stray from your itinerary if an opportunity presents itself. It means living in the moment.
- Slow Travel means veering off-the-beaten-path and perhaps opting to stay in an agriturismo in the countryside as opposed to a chain hotel in the city.
- Slow Travel means doing less, or perhaps doing nothing at all.
If the idea of slow food and slow travel in Italy and France resonates with you, you may be interested in:
- A selection of food and wine excursions led by a local.
- A slow boat rowing lesson and tour in Venice.
- A custom designed foodie adventure highlighting slow food artisans.
- A complete custom travel itinerary to Italy or France with a focus on slow travel priniciples.
What does Slow Food and Slow Travel mean to you?