All of Italy
Brothers Luca and Lorenzo from luxury DMC Italy’s Best get nostalgic with a family recipe that perfectly embodies the soul of Umbria.
Gastronomic Storytelling: When we were kids, visiting our Umbrian grandparents in Orvieto meant a chance to order two heaping plates of agnolotti al tartufo, a local specialty of square-shaped stuffed pasta. The main distinction of Umbrian agnolotti compared to other stuffed Italian pasta specialties is the use of roasted meat for the filling. Traditionally it was a way to use up the leftover roast from previous days mixed with other ingredients. There is no one specific recipe for the stuffing, proving that the tastiest dishes are thanks to the creativity of past peasants aiming to avoid food waste. Looking back at our childhood tastes, we had a surprisingly refined palette, because these agnolotti were sautéed in a deep black truffle sauce. The result was a delicious but pungent flavor. I guess you could say our grandparents taught us well.
Best Enjoyed: The dreamiest way to savor this dish is sitting at a carved-out grotto dining room table, meters away from the Orvieto cathedral against the colorful backdrop of the changing beech and olive trees. The strong flavors of the truffle pair perfectly with a glass of the fruity and spiced Umbrian red wine, Sagrantino di Montefalco.
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In the verdant valley of Comino in Southern Lazio our favorite little spot is a rustic trattoria restaurant on a multigenerational dairy farm. Their cheese production has been taking over the lactose world and the farmhouse also hosts a historical gem: the vacation home of writer D.H. Lawrence in Italy.
What makes it so special? For about two centuries, this family has handed down the culture of pastoralism from parent to child. The farm breeds a particular, semi-wild sheep-goat. The herds graze every day in the pure air between high mountain pastures and pristine valleys, which contribute to their overall excellent health. The specialty cheese made here is a Pecorino Picinisco DOP, with an aging process different from the Pecorino Romano that you may have tried on your pasta in Rome. Each product is a sensory experience, as the cheeses are cured in naturally ventilated cellars and encase the natural flavors and memories of these pastures.
How can visitors best experience this gem? Embrace slow food! The proprietor is a passionate yet humble man who meticulously explain the production process and history of each product on the platter of award-winning cheeses at your table. Enjoy a cheese making demonstration and farm visit afterwards. In our paraphrased words of D.H. Lawrence, “Life is ours to be spent (eating cheese), not to be saved.”
Local guide Paolo from DMC Italy’s Best invites us past the white walls of Matera into the Parco della Murgia Materana, an incredible natural reserve offering odd and extreme signs of life.
What makes it so special in this region? Nestled in a canyon, Matera is an ancient city carved into the rock and consists of almost 5,000 caves dug out as homes. Parco della Murgia Materana, the natural park surrounding the city, has maintained its wildness and is full of hiking trails, caves, and over a hundred cave churches, each with its own characteristics. The park holds several villages and settlements that testify to the heritage of the land, and exhibit evidence of prehistoric civilizations settling in these rocks. Its particular geology, diverse and rare flora and fauna, and natural elements like rivers, streams, and steep slopes offer breathtaking views no matter where you look, and it’s easy to see why the park has been named a UNESCO Heritage Site. In addition, from one of its many panoramic points, the canyon and park perfectly frame the city of Matera.
When is the best time to visit? Since the city tends to fill up with groups and tourists in the morning and early afternoon, a walk in the park will take you away from the hustle and bustle, and the evening sunsets over the natural park are often tinged with an infinity of violet shades. Another unique experience is waking up early in the morning and, by bike or on foot, heading to the other side of the canyon to watch the morning rays. Matera becomes perfectly illuminated and offers mythical views.
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DMC Italy’s Best recounts one of the Venetian Lagoon’s little-known islands, San Servolo: a botanical escape with a fascinating history.
What is the local hidden treasure? The unique character of Venice’s cityscape comes from its 118 developed islands. What some don’t know is that the city’s borders also include about 60 other islands scattered around the lagoon, some of which are inhabited. One of these is the hidden treasure of San Servolo, located in the southern lagoon not far from San Marco and the Lido of Venice.
The island has hosted various religious communities since the 9th century. At the beginning of the 1700s it was used by the Venice Republic as a military hospital, but increasingly it was chosen as the holding place for so-called “madmen”, eventually becoming a provincial asylum. To meet the growing demand for patients and to provide adequate care, the island was manually expanded and quadrupled in size, creating a large park and several building complexes.
In 1978, the laws in Italy enforced the closure of all asylums. The island of San Servolo became the subject of restoration and began to host various institutions, such as the San Servolo Foundation and the Venice International University, a higher education consortium in which many Italian and international universities participate.
What makes it so special? The island’s once tumultuous past has bloomed into a serene green space so accessible from the city. The park is a botanic haven, and its microclimate permits such biodiversity where even tropical plants can grow. The atmosphere is vibrant thanks to the many international university students who visit, yet it is also beloved by the Venetians. In recent years, the island’s spaces have been used to organize summer camps for children, courses and workshops for families, and private events.
In addition to the wonderful park, you can visit the ancient church, the 19th century pharmacy, and the unique Museum of Madness which recounts the history of the island.
How can visitors best experience this gem? For plant-lovers, May to September is the best time to enjoy the blooms. However, even the winter months can surprise with a magnificent sunset over the lagoon and a magical view of the city and its many small islands.
Introducing Italy’s Best:
Luca and Lorenzo are the owners of Italy’s Best, a boutique DMC based in Rome for the last 30 years. Italy’s Best specializes in creating customized itineraries for couples, small groups or multi-generational families traveling throughout Italy. The majority of clients are seeking quality experiences made with a genuine familiarity.
Each Italy’s Best custom vacation is carefully researched, designed and managed. From transportation to pottery class, we can provide it all: transfers, boat days, excursions, touring, cooking classes, art workshops, fashion tours, family-friendly experiences, bespoke experiences, and more. Together with Italy’s Best’s partners throughout, the goal is to provide exclusive experiences that are exciting, rewarding, and fun. As seasoned professionals, Luca and Lorenzo understand that vacation time is precious, and their goal is to make every moment unforgettable by tailoring every detail to your needs, expectations and values.
Beyond specializing in Italian itineraries, Italy’s Best is actively partaking in a rejuvenation program for Rome and the regions of central Italy, with the aim of boosting more sustainable tourism. Tying together cultural and natural heritage, Italy’s Best aspires to push Italy as a forerunner of sustainable tourism. By investing into the local environment, local families and community activism, Italy’s Best nurtures the future of the exact off-the-beaten-path sites that tourists seek to experience. Through unique partnerships with local sites and organizations, Italy’s Best promotes activities that support local communities while giving Italy’s Best clients more interactive experiences with Italians and their surrounding environments than ever before.
To become a partner with Italy’s Best or request further information please contact: [email protected]