A Gardener's Travels: Rome & Empoli
Our trip to Italy last June was a dream. From walking the streets of Rome, eating divine gelato, to winding our way through Venice to find the gelato, we enjoyed every second (I promise there was more then gelato).
One goal I had for this trip was to experience fruits and vegetables in season in the part of the world that grows them best. As a gardener and cook, you never know what may inspire you, what you way want to find a grow once home. Having a garden inspired by travel is so exciting, it’s like reliving the experience of enjoying the vegetable in a whole new way. I am so excited to share some of my favorite vegetable flavors and experiences from our trip.
We started our trip in Rome, in a beautiful Airbnb apartment with tall white curtained windows overlooking the Coliseum. It was breath taking. I spent so many mornings laying in bed looking out the window watching the sun spread over the incredible structure. I can still hear the sounds of the city at night from our little apartment, the clinking of plates and silverware in the restaurants below.
Below our little apartment was a little grocery store, with some of the most beautiful produce I have ever seen. I am not a huge cherry tomato person, but on a whim (and since I am in Italy) I decided to grab a container. They were incredible. So sweet, perfectly ripe and tender skinned, they popped in your mouth leaving their sweet juices behind. We may have bought three to four packages in our short stay, eating them on our daily picnics while at the Vatican and on our drive from Rome to Empoli.
This summer I grew a litt’l bites cherry tomatoes on my deck, hoping for something close to the sweetness of the Roman delights. It was so wonderful to walk out on our porch and grab a few for salads, galettes and snacks. I will definitely be planting this variety each season, and love the memory attached to this tasty plant.
After our short stay in Rome, we hopped in a Fiat we named Fabio, and drove to Tuscany to a small village called Empoli. Our drive was filled with incredible scenery, some of my favorite being the beautiful fields of bright yellow sunflowers, all pointing their faces towards the sun.
We stayed just outside in a Airbnb tower overlooking vineyards and olive groves, with a winery just down the lane. One of my favorite mornings in this tower was looking out the window as a thunderstorm rolled in, listening to the drops hit the terra-cotta roof and winds rustle the olive trees.
We spent our evenings wandering the streets of Empoli, exploring little shops and waiting for restaurants to open. One evening we passed by a small vegetable market and I literally gasped. The little shop was overflowing with incredibly fresh and beautiful produce, from soft fuzzy peaches, to big beautiful squash blossoms, to every color of tomato imaginable. I spent so much time in this little shop, soaking in the beauty of the produce. I left with an assortment of plums, apricots and peaches excited to try fruit fresh from the orchard.
We packed these little fruits for our drive from Empoli to Castello di Lispida, near Venice. The fruit did not disappoint. They were so juicy and lightly sweet and made for perfect snacks on the drive through the tunnels and curvy roads of northern Italy.
Read more about our stay in Italy in the next post!