Author of over thirty traditionally-published books for young readers, Margo Sorenson spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speaks (or tries!) her childhood languages. Her most recent Adult/Young Adult novel, SECRETS IN TRANSLATION (Fitzroy Books, October 2018), takes place in Positano, with heroine Alessandra, whose being able to speak Italian helps her to feel at home in Italy, once again, although, she doesn’t have any truffles—just plenty of Limoncello. www.margosorenson.com
Following our first trip to Venezia, we began our road trip through Italia, where I’d lived as a child. This would be another adventure using the Italian language I grew up speaking, which always seemed to open doors and create many smiles (probably because of my fumbling grammar attempts). After experiencing all the “new-to-us” experiences in Venezia, my husband and I were looking forward to our return to familiar la bella Toscana, where we’d spent an idyllic week six years earlier, my first return to Italy since I’d been a child. It was going to be like a homecoming, because we were going to be staying at our favorite agriturismo, Agriturismo Buondonno https://www.buondonno.com/agriturismo, where our gracious host, Gabriele Buondonno, had made us feel at home and had spoken excellent English with everyone in our family—except for me. With me, he’d said, with a twinkle in his eye, he would speak only
Italian. We had both grown up in Napoli.
True to character, Gabriele welcomed us “home” to Castellina in Chianti (yes, the famous chef Dario Cecchi hails from close by), offered to procure our breakfast for us, and brought us two bottles of his Buondonno label wine (no, not for breakfast!), prosciutto, salame, mozzarella, milk, and juice. He made reservations for us at Uscito e Bottega (he had “pull,” because he supplied some of their wine list with his DOCG Buondonno label), and we had a wonderful dinner of pasta and vino, a perfect homecoming dinner. The next morning, after our breakfast and coffee made, of course, in the “Little Man” Bialetti moka coffeepot, Gabriele suggested we head out to a (then) little-known gem of a tiny, historic hill town, San Gusmé, reachable only by unpaved, back roads through the countryside. He said it was tricky to find, but worth the drive, because it was a step back in time and not touristy at all. I asked him, what if we got lost? He grinned, saying (in Italian, of course), “But, you speak Italian!” San Gusmé truly was a gem—fewer than 200 people lived in the walled town, and it was a memorable visit. Through one of the town’s portals, we could even see the city of Siena in the blue-green distance. Gabriele suggested we have panini and wine for lunch at Sira e Remino, and his advice, as always, was spot-on. We felt transported back through centuries, soaking in the ambience of the ancient walled town and its welcoming inhabitants.
Bidding Gabriele a fond farewell, we left our la Toscana “home” and headed for the venerable medieval town of Alba, in Il Piemonte, cradle of Barolo and Barbaresco wines and home of the International Truffle Festival. Of course, the wine had nothing to do with our reason to visit. Navigating the mountain passes and tunnels and autostradas with fellow drivers, who knew exactly where they were going and didn’t hesitate to accelerate around the mountain turns, was an adventure.
We were welcomed with enthusiasm at Villa la Favorita, (https://villalafavorita-alba.it/en/) just outside Alba, by the owner, Roberta, who spoke excellent English (always one of our requirements, because, I don’t trust my Italian to carry the burden alone). Villa la Favorita is a fabled B&B and agriturismo known for its cuisine sourced in its own gardens and surrounding farm and vineyards, and it attracts an international clientele, including Italians. After we greeted some of our fellow guests who were just arriving from a guided truffle hunt in the woods, complete with mud-covered rubber boots and trenchcoats dripping with rain, Roberta served us her own Nebbiolo wine and antipasti, and gave us a rundown on the town, the sights, and the Barolo and Barbaresco wines—and, of course, truffles. What amazing culinary delights awaited us in this beautiful countryside!
Stay tuned for Part II next week!