Taste of Summer: Tomatoes take Center Stage

Italian cuisine is famously seasonal, and that is especially true when the summer bounty is at its height. During the months from May to October, the outdoor markets are overflowing with the some of the most flavorful fruit and vegetables you can find, beginning with the first sun-ripened strawberries and asparagus and finishing off with grapes and mushrooms as the temperatures fall, and this produce is the foundation of the season's menus in homes and restaurants down the peninsula.

tomatoes-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Between those two edible bookends, there are tomatoes. This fruit-which-self-identifies-as-a-vegetable is the foundation of many of Italy's most beloved dishes...though, of course, it was brought back to Europe from the New World during the Renaissance along with the potato, corn, and cocoa bean. Tasting a genuine, pungently flavorful, authentic garden tomato is a life-altering experience, and you will find it almost impossible to go back to tasteless, out of season supermarket tomatoes.


Traveling Italy as Vegetarian, Celiac, or with Food Allergies

Traveling inevitably means eating out either often or exclusively, which can be a minefield for those who follow special diets or have food allergies. Italy is the land of good food, and can be surprisingly easy to navigate for some types of diets and surprisingly difficult for others. Here is a quick guide for eating in Italy for vegetarians, those who suffer from celiac disease, and those with food allergies.

Dining al fresco(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Travel Advisory: Rome Fiumicino Airport

One the night of May 6th, a fire due to a short circuit broke out in Rome Fiumcino's international terminal, gutting a shopping area in Terminal 3 and causing dozens of flights to be cancelled or delayed, and of course travel complications for thousands of passengers. Considering that even more people are flying through Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) airport this year than in past years (up 8% over last year), there is a fair amount of misery in store before and/or after your Italian vacation if you are flying through Rome.

FCO departure gates C(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

More than a month after the fire, the terminal is still not fully functional and travelers can expect some delays and inconvenience. Here's what we found after flying through Fiumicino last week:

A Day in Urbino

Urbino has had the bad luck, or perhaps the good luck, of being on the wrong side of the Apennine mountains. Tucked into the hills of Le Marche, on the opposite side of the mountain range that winds its way down the length of central Italy like its spine, Urbino was a cultural capital during the Renaissance, birthplace and gathering place of such luminaries in art as Piero della Francesca, Barocci, Raphael and architecture as Laurana and Martini. After the town's peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, its influence waned, not least because of its distance and inaccessibility from other centers of art and culture on the western slopes of the Apennines.

Urbino - Central Italy - July 2006 - Viewed From a Hill(Photo by Gareth Williams via Flickr)

The Cinque Terre: A Primer

The Cinque Terre, the five tiny, technicolored fishing villages which cling to the craggy Ligurian coast between Levanto and La Spezia, are perhaps one of the most picturesque stretches of Italy's coastline to glimpse from the water. They each spill down the cliffside to the water's edge in pleasing disorder, a jumble of brightly tinted houses and disjointed terracotta rooftops, connected by a number of hiking and walking trails that string them together like pearls on a chain.

5 Terre(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)