Ramblings in Italy
Ringraziarla a tutto
Thanks to Everyone
by Rocco Verrigni
After a trip with so many highpoints, it’s difficult to begin to thank those who made it such a wonderful and productive trip. But try I must. Everywhere I went I was greeted with enthusiasm, put up in homes, taken out to dinner, and treated like family, literal or otherwise.
So let’s start at the beginning. For providing me with an initial
home base that helped me to recover from the rigors of travel, I thank
Daniela Balestra, who shared her home, nourished me with the food of
summer, and spent endless hours conversing about food, culture and life. Your terrazzo is etched in
my mind. To Renato who hosted me at his photo studio my first weekend
in Italy and provided an opportunity to meet some locals and simply
spend a Sunday afternoon relaxing, talking and of course eating.
My next stopping point was Parma. Here, my host was a friend and business associate, Giacomo Berselli, who is a life-long resident of Parma and the quintessential spokesman of Parma, its bucolic surrounding countryside, world-famous products, and history. Giacomo is is the director and founder of Marco Polo Institute, whose mission is to promote Italian cultural education and tourism through study-abroad programs with the United States and other countries. Somehow within his busy daily schedule, he always found time to get together to eat, not just in the city but in the surrounding countryside. No matter what we were doing, there were always two elements involved, food and culture or history. Giacomo’s seemingly endless of knowledge about the history, food and customs of the area always excited me and made me thankful for being the recipient of his passionate exchange of information.
Heading south from Parma, I
traveled down the Adriatic coast to Roseto degli Abruzzi in the region
of Abruzzo. Up until now, my experiences were with acquaintances and
associates previously made. This stop would be very different in that
I would meet and make new acquaintances. With slight apprehension, I
arrived at Verrigni Pastificio. For the next four days, I was in the
hands of the Verrigni family for what turned out to be a very gratifying
experience. My stay here was punctuated by two meals a day and long
conversations with Luigi and Grazie Verrigni, my new-found relatives.
For taking a perfect stranger into their home and treating them like
family, ringrazio miei nuovi cugini trovati, I thank my new-found cousins.
Continuing my southerly route, I made my way to Orsara di Puglia, region
of Puglia where I met an incredible chef and personality of the area,
Peppe Zullo. From our first meeting that day which started with the
traditional kiss on each cheek greeting, to our goodbyes a week later,
I felt like a brother, friend and colleague. I have written at length
about my stay with Peppe and what remains is a huge thank you for opening
your home, workplace and heart to me. I know I have made a friend and colleague for life.
Thanks also go out to Livio Colapinto and Kathrin Tehervary of Cefalicchio Country House in Canosa di Puglia, who graciously invited me to the country house to attend the National Conference of Slow Food Governors of Italy where I met several slow food regional presidents, Roberto Burdese, the President of Slow Food Italy, and several other Italian Slow Food consorts. The night was filled with discussions with producers of some of the Puglia’s greatest products, including burrata, a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream, totally decadent, and of course samplings of many of the area’s wines, breads and cheeses. Although a bit nervous and uncomfortable about conversing in my limited Italian with some of Italy’s most influential people in the slow food movement, I was helped along by my newly-made “best friend”, Peppe Zullo who met me there. The traditional multi-course (7 or 8, I think) started right on time at 8:30 -9:00PM and continued until midnight or so. I’m not quite sure because I left before dessert.
Although there are many others to whom I am thankful, they are too numerous
to mention here. There is however one more person or should I say personality
to thank. For without him I would not have had a forum in which to share
my Ramblings in Italy. That person is John Sconzo a.k.a. Docsconz. By
the very nature of your reading my postings on John’s blog he needs
no introduction. I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to thank
John in his own arena. Rest assured I will also do so in other arenas.
My association with John is relatively short but has developed into
one as rich as burrata, as pleasurable as a well-planned and prepared
meal, which he is known for, and as varied as the seasonal offerings
at the farmer’s markets of the area. Thank you, John for sharing your
forum with me and allowing me to tell la storia delle mie escursioni
in Italia, the story of my “Ramblings in Italy”.
Editor's Note: Thank you, Rocco, for such a lovely, thoughtful, poetic and entertaining travelogue. It has been a pleasure hosting it!