So.. I recently knocked two things off my bucket list: I went to Italy and I traveled solo.
I’ve always wanted to take a solo trip. Several times I’ve started planning: looking at dreamy AirB&B bungalows and reading travel blogs. You know, the fantasizing portion of travel planning. My plans would always start out ambitious. I’d picture myself dipping a churro into thick chocolate at a charming corner café in Barcelona or smelling my way from vendor to vendor at a Vietnamese night market. Once intimidation set in, I’d reel in my fantasies and map out reasonable road trips and check domestic flight prices.
This waffling back and forth (mmmm….waffles!) served its purpose: to help me procrastinate this big scary thing I wanted to do. What I needed was an excuse to go, an event to attend with a specific date. And that’s just what I got.
Since I started blogging, I have followed the career of Dianne Jacob. She is an award-winning author and writing coach. After reading her book, Will Write For Food, I followed her on Instagram and regularly read her blog posts in an attempt to soak up all of her foodie-writerish-knowledge. A few months ago, she posted about a food writing workshop she would be hosting, along with Demet Güzey, in Verona, Italy…. and there was my excuse. I made peace with the costs, booked my flight, and gauged my feelings somewhere between nauseatingly nervous and exhilarated.
The workshop was only 4 days long. I couldn’t fly all the way to Italy for just 4 days. That’s only 12 delicious Italian meals! (Vacation days should always be calculated by meals, right?). So, I kicked the trip off by falling in love with Venice. The gondolas, the meandering alleys connected by foot bridges, the flirtatious waiters standing in bistro doorways beckoning to you to come in and eat: my days in Venice were every bit as romantic and adventurous as I always imagined my solo trip to be. I splurged a little and stayed at Splendid Venice, a luxury hotel just outside of Piazza San Marco. My room was tiny, but what it lacked in space it made up for with a view of a lush garden terrace. If I poked my head out, I could see gondolas passing just below.
I spent the two days in Venice doing whatever I wanted. Being alone was liberating. I ate and wandered, wandered and ate. I got lost on purpose and found my way back. I stopped for tiny meals all day long and spent as much time as I wanted photographing each one. I even took a few selfies.
I left Venice full of seafood and with a tad more confidence that I could, indeed, navigate my way to Verona successfully. After a long, scenic train ride and an awkward taxi drive, a very annoyed driver, to whom I had initially given the wrong address, dropped me off at a closed gate and sped away. Peering through the gate I saw perfectly manicured gardens and the looming 500-year-old villa where I would spend the duration of my trip. Dianne was waiting at the door looking exactly how I picture all writers. Small and artsy, wearing overalls and a smirk that makes you feel like the two of you already have an inside joke.
The villa was airy and cavernous, like the inside of a day-old croissant with brown buttery walls. The stairwell leading to my fourth story room offered peeks into the ornately decorated bedrooms and the only cardio I did all week. This place felt special.
There was no lack of inspiration for us aspiring food writers. Every day we woke up to warm boiled eggs and assorted pastries, jams, and cheeses. I quickly learned to go easy on the breakfast. Our lunches were four and five courses long. We ate plate after plate of creamy risotto and yolky yellow pasta while the reality set in that we would be doing this again for dinner. We’d return from every excursion and pour the experience into Microsoft Word, reading our reactions aloud for comments and critiques. This was my
favorite part of the trip. Breaking bread with good people who love food is always special. But following the meal up with a session of sharing feelings and memories and the journey to find the absolute perfect word to describe the texture of fresh, house-made ricotta? That is the perfect dessert… That, and tiramisu. Tiramisu is pretty great.
The workshop left me asking myself why I don’t do this every day. Why don’t I get brunch with my friends or eat a home-cooked meal with my parents, then rush home to record the emotions and cooking methods and the conversations that mean so much to me? It doesn’t have to take a beautiful villa, sprawling countryside, and structured writing prompts to write beautiful thoughts about food. But of course, it helps.
If you like reading about food (why else would you be here?) check out some of the bloggers/writers I had the pleasure of meeting on my trip: