With the countdown to the European summer upon us, we reflect on what might just be the world’s tastiest foodie tour alongside friend of Trafalgar, Chef Adam Swanson, Australia’s one and only “King of Pasta”. A bespoke trip departing on 12 September, on Italy’s Finest, the country’s greatest treats are there for the taking, with our taste buds as our guides. Where art, history and culinary sensations combine, this is a foodie experience with a twist that will leave your belly full and your wanderlust satiated.
For Chef and Restauranteur Swanson, this trip holds special meaning: it’s a return to his ancestral land, a chance to reconnect to his Italian roots, and a chance to pay homage to the cuisine that first fuelled his love of food and sparked his career as one of Australia’s most beloved chefs. His television series Adam’s Pasta Pilgrimage helped open the eyes and palates of Australia to the rich culture at the root of Italian food, and now you have the chance to experience it first-hand alongside Swanson on a gastronomical pilgrimage of your own.
There are few places on Earth more steeped in historical significance than the Italian capital of Rome. The city that launched one of the world’s most powerful empires remains one of the most exciting cities in Europe. The energy of the people, the humbling antiquity of the architecture and the sometimes-surprising modernity of life in this European metropolis is as intoxicating as it is invigorating.
To start your trip off on the right – savoury – note, you’ll Dive into Culture with a hands-on experience of one of Italy’s most iconic dishes: pizza. While Naples, the birthplace of Swanson’s mother, also gave birth to the modern incarnation of pizza, it was Roman focaccia that inspired this versatile staple. So, it’s fitting that your first Roman experience be that of rolling up your sleeves and learning to make a pizza that would make nonna Swanson proud.
Your introduction to Rome is rounded off with your first proper look at the monuments, fountains, piazzas and ruins that led to this beautiful city centre being named a UNESCO heritage site.
The following morning, you’ll see the Rome of your dreams – the icons that you’ve long admired from afar – come to life before your eyes. Centuries worth of art and history are on display as you enjoy a guided tour of the Vatican museums, feel humbled by the skilful brushstrokes of Michelangelo soaring above you on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and explore one of Catholicism’s most holy shrines, St. Peter’s Basilica.
Under the Tuscan Sun
The rolling hills of Tuscany are a sight so beautiful, they have inspired some of the most prolific artists in history. To be known as the capital of the arts in a country with an unrivalled artistic heritage is no small feat. But once you see your first Tuscan sunset, sipping a robust Chianti on the terrazza of a centuries-old villa, you’ll see how this remarkable region has served as muse and sparked the creativity of so many.
But, just as essential to the Tuscan identity as its art is its exquisite culinary tradition, which will be explored with Chef Swanson as your passionate guide alongside one of Trafalgar’s award-winning Travel Directors. For Swanson, the beauty of Italian cuisine lies in its freshness and simplicity: a theme that will be emphasized throughout your trip through this fertile region. He’ll take you on a journey to uncover the local bakeries, colourful markets and Hidden Gems of Tuscany that let you experience authentic local fare, from the famers who harvested the produce to the skilled hands that lovingly coax the best of each ingredient letting its natural flavours shine through.
While the sights, sounds and smells of Tuscany – a land where the local hospitality is as addictive as its rustic yet refined cuisine – will woo you, it’s the flavours that will leave their mark on your soul. You’ll wind into the hills of Chianti to savour one of Italy’s most famous wines paired with local cheeses and peppery olive oils. And, you’ll have the chance to truly Connect with Locals as you are welcomed into the home of a local Italian Count, Miari Fulcis. This 15th century organic olive oil estate Fattoria de Maiano in the Tuscan hills was used as a location for many famous films like ‘Room with a View’ and ‘Tea with Mussolini’ and was once visited by Queen Victoria. Overlooking the beautiful city of Florence and the Tuscan Hills, fattoria has 300 hectares of olive groves and over 20 000 olive trees that are picked entirely by hand to create Laudemio, one of the finest organic olive oils in Europe.
However, the highlight of this part of the trip for Chef Swanson, and surely for you too, is the trip to the Florence market with Chef Libero Saraceni, the vivid colours and fragrant aromas a feast for your senses. Visiting here since he was a child, then with his mother, Libero’s passion is almost palpable as he pokes, prods and samples the locally grown produce, chatting to vendors, his long-time friends, and educating you on how to select just the right ingredients. And once your shopping basket is full, it’s off to his villa as the two chefs treat you to a three-course cooking class where you’ll learn to transform fresh local ingredients into delectable regional dishes.
As you lose yourself in the flavours of Tuscany, you’ll also be treated to the other aspects of the culture that make this a favoured destination. Explore the magic of Florence’s Duomo or Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David in the Academy of the Arts. And stroll the streets of Tuscany’s “medieval Manhattan” San Gimignano, surrounded by fields of golden sunflowers. You’ll devour every drop of Tuscany’s historical heritage along with its gastronomical delicacies and ruby red Chianti.
Eating Your Way Through the Breadbasket of Italy
Just when you think you’ve had your fill, you’ll find yourself hungering for more as you immerse yourself in one of Italy’s culinary meccas, Bologna. In the Emiglia-Romana region, known as the breadbasket of Italy, Bologna is a historical capital filled with Renaissance architecture and a thriving restaurant scene. It’s known for its cured meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami, but its claim to fame is the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that tops pasta dishes around the world.
You’ll join Chef Swanson on a tour of “Eataly World” the world’s largest agri-food park, covering an area of 100,000 sqm in Bologna. This is a foodie’s Disney World, where you’ll learn the art of making Parmigiana Reggiano and see some of the country’s best agro-artisans in action. This experience will leave a lasting impression, especially on your waistline!
Venice, the City of Love
It’s love at first site as you cruise into the romantic coastal city of Venice. Known as the city of love, its shimmering canals and ornate Gothic architecture will seduce you from the second you arrive. Walk along the canals marvelling at the beautiful merchant houses lining the narrow sidewalks; get insider tips from Chef Swanson and our local specialists on the best restaurants to enjoy authentic cuisine and sparkling local Proseccos; visit the Rialto Food Market that has been in business for a millennium; and make your Venetian fantasies come true with a gondola ride through the winding waterways of this floating city. As you take in your final Italian sunset, you’ll share a farewell meal of fresh seafood with Chef Swanson, your Travel Director and fellow travellers aboard a private boat navigating the lagoon.
This trip is a chance for you to join one of Australia’s greatest chefs on a tour to experience the real Italy that he holds so dear: the Italy of his mother, his family roots. Through the universal language of food, you’ll explore Italy’s Finest in a way that will lighten your heart, open your mind, delight your taste buds and, of course, fill your belly.
Hungry yet? Experience all this and more on the 9-day Italy’s Finest trip with Trafalgar.