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La dolce vita

Understanding a Culture through Food - Living la dolce vita

ITALY | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [902] | Scholarship Entry

For me, food is not merely a form of sustenance. It is a way of life. In fact, I am a living testament to Erma Bombeck’s view that: ‘I am not a glutton. I am an explorer of food.’ This, I can happily say of Summer 2011, with its two week forage into Italy’s foremost cultural offering: food.

It’s often said that the Italians are temperamental beasts, but in a country shaped like a boot you’re bound to get a kick up the ass once in a while! This I experienced firsthand by virtue of a molto ridiculoso visit to the Da Buffetto pizzeria, where I fought with the belligerent manager about a Mafia-esque queuing system. A trip to the infamous Giolitti ice-cream parlour proved equally interesting, although mildly less intimidating (unless gluttony is your biggest gripe!). Needless to say, chocolate ice-cream and Italian sunshine aren’t compatible, unless you want people to seriously question your personal hygiene. Thank goodness there are so many fountains in Rome!

The rolling Tuscan countryside formed a nice counterpoint to my Roman holiday. Siena’s winding streets gave way to Florence’s dizzying displays of art, from which I took many excursions, notably to Greve, a town in the Chianti countryside. Greve hosts Le Cantine, a famous winery, where one can purchase a wine-sampling card akin to your average Visa Debit. Stick the card into the slot machine, press the button for your tipple of choice and hey presto, out trickles the lovely liquor. There is nothing like a medicinal wine at ten in the morning! I also tasted my favourite dish of the whole trip here: chocolate venison stew. In Venice, my final port of call, I attempted to remember what the mystery of Carpaccio’s dog was whilst sampling seafood so fresh it had probably just left the net.

For me, my la dolce vita trip gave me an insight into not only Italian food but also Italian culture. Who would have thought that a mafia-esque queuing system could have yielded a pizza prepared with such tenderness, without a prison reform system in sight? Or who would have thought that a brown stew that looked like reindeer turd could have demonstrated such an incomparable piquancy?The labyrinth of flavours echoed the complexities of the culture. For instance, Carpaccio’s dog was originally a cat, it seems! Yet, its simultaneous simplicity means that Italy's food has directly claimed a place in my heart.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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