Living in London, aka the city with no sun, is not easy and if you are Italian and spring represent just a little intro before a full sun summer, things are not getting better. Following my needs of sun and relax I decided to went for nine days off-season trip to North of Sardinia.
Palau is the small town where I stayed. Connected with public transport to Olbia’s airport, this seaside town is the perfect place where to relax and enjoy the sea life. Moreover, many ferries are leaving every day the little harbour and bring you to the famous island of la Maddalena, which is also connected to another famous island called Caprera. April is an off-season month for Sardinia, which is better known for its summer season that starts in June till September. However, both because of this time of economic recession but also because people started to experience a new way of travel not always following the main touristic season, Sardinia opened its door even in spring. During this time of the year, you still can expect a lot of sun but also many trekking or cycling routes, while because of the weather the coast becomes more attractive for many windsurfers. Sardinia it’s basically offering a new market for that tourist willing to go on holidays without spending a fortune. Included in this package, food and beverage is another main attractive with regards to the rural tourism of the island.
In fact, the local “trattorie”, which are basically restaurant serving typical Sardinian food made by the same farmer who owns the restaurant are growing very fast and tourists often prefer them to the more touristic places of the coast. These places offer authentic local food, freshly made but also products that you can really call sustainable. This, together with the very affordable prices but also combined with the simplicity and the spontaneity of the owners is often a winning card for the farmers. My experience in the local trattoria in Palau Pasta&Vino it was the proof.
The first few days I tried different restaurants, all good but all with the same offers and approximately the same prices. After couples of days of research and conversation with the locals, I found the trattoria. My surprise reading the menu was big and from that moment I became a frequent visitor of the restaurant. Local and sustainable food, high-quality product served with originality but at the same time really affordable prices.
However, the food wasn’t the only surprise. Pasta&Vino in fact collaborated with local wine producers offering to the customers not only high-quality local wines but also something a bit different that you can’t find often in Sardinia. Coming from London, the natural wine market is something common nowadays, but not in Palau. The Italian wine market, similarly to the French one, is pretty much traditional, however, during the last few years is experiencing a new style of wine and surprisingly this arrived in Sardinia as well. The restaurant, in fact, cooperates with a local wine producer from Nuoro who is growing is wine in a totally sustainable and organic and biodynamic way, basically creating one of the first natural wine is Sardinia.
I found this collaboration, innovative and exemplary. A great support from a producer to another producer in order to break the mould of the usual touristic offer, but also a way to present something authentic and real. The real enhancement of the local products means also, bet on something new and not ordinary. This new approach to the rural sustainable tourism includes a
also, visits at the local farmers and wine producers where tourists have the great opportunity to see how the products are made up and finally try them.
Unfortunately, this is still a niche market in Sardinia but from my personal experience, I hope this will become more and more popular, always respecting the traditions.
If you would like to see more pictures of my days in Sardinia: Sardinian Adventures
Last summer I decided to get out of the ordinary box of the more traditional summer trips such as Spain and Greece and moved my attention to Africa, Morocco and precisely Marrakesh. Also called the Red City for the natural red pigment of its walls and buildings, Marrakesh is a place full of colours, acrobats, drummers, dancers, pipe musician, storytellers and merchants. Because of its Berber origin connected with the local populations of the desert, the city keeps a sort of magical and hidden beauty that attracts a lot of tourists from everywhere nowadays. The Medina, which is the old part of the city with its ancients palaces and the souk, how the locals call the market, is the main attraction of Marrakesh.
Jamaa El Fnaa is the main square just in front of the souk, here you can find snake charmers play their flutes, medicine men, tooth-pullers, trays of previously extracted molars and more and more things going on. Back in the days, the square was a place of public execution for criminals, but was also a place of reunion for local rioting to become today one of the major attraction for tourist. The local market, better know as the souk, is almost impossible to navigate and the most interesting times to visit are or in the early morning when the merchant are about to open their shops or late in the afternoon when you can find good bargaining.
In the heart of the souk, you can find NoMad. This place is a modern Moroccan restaurant based on local products and simplicity offering at the same time a very interesting revision of traditional Moroccan cuisine. The menu is articulated between cold and hot starters moving to good size main courses, ending with sides and desserts. You can expect a lot of vegetables together with the more traditional pastille stuffed with pigeon but also different varsities of the famous tagine. Fish is not very present on the menu but is understandable considering the local products, which are mainly based on meat however my sardine tart with caramelised onions was incredibly tasty. After fish, I moved to a modern Tunisian brick, which is basically a small pastry pie stuffed with aged lamb, eggs and harissa. The main was nice but the revelation of the meal was the desert, saffron ice cream that totally blows up my mind.
Prices are for sure different from the majority of the restaurant in town but the menu offers very different and innovative option as well. If you are wine lovers, prices are quite high with glasses of wine sometimes more expensive than main courses dishes. Hence this clearly represents the Moroccan culture where alcohol is not a common ingredient within the society, therefore not so common to find around.
On overall my experience at NoMad was great and the location played its part. For sure a must go place in Marrakesh.
If you would like to see more picture of my days in Marrakesh: Moroccan Days!
During my last journeys I gave more and more importance to the experience of the local authenticity. Everyone gave different meaning to this concept but for me was mainly about gastronomic culture and tradition of the place visited. Is incredible how many things will be possible to discover about a country and its people through food. Why they use a particular cooking method, why they conserve product in a certain way or even all the different ways used to season various food. The wine tradition of a country says even more sometimes. You have place like France and Italy where wine is considered as a part of their DNA since day one or you have place like Morocco where according to the religious practice followed, alcohol is not such a thing.
But with or without alcohol and using cumin or oregano, each gastronomic tradition has something to offer to whomever is ready to explore it.
In this section of the blog I will revise with you the best culinary discovers of my last journeys.
During my online search on the topic of gastronomy and its relation with tourism, I came across to a very interesting website called Intrepid Travel.
Intrepid Travel is basically a travel agency founded in 1988 by two friends from Melbourne who, from an inspiring trip to Africa, were able to send today over 100.00 travellers across the globe generating also workplaces for nearly 1.000 people with over 800 different destinations basically everywhere in the world. Intrepid aims to create a real travel experience for its customers, who are going to travel eat and sleep the local way. Never mind if you decide to travel alone or in-group, Intrepid seems to have the trip of your dream ready for you.
Recently the company decided to expand its area of interest including food within the different travel’s categories. These are journeys with a special food focus with tailored itineraries that will allow tourists to get to know the most exciting food cultures. This is what the guys from Intrepid call a “gastronomic odysseys” for each pocket and taste. The journeys are divided in Real Food Adventures for longer stays, Bite Sized Breaks for shorter gastronomic discovering to even Urban Appetiser which least from two to six hours. If you are in Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Europe or anywhere in the United States, Intrepid got your appetite covered.
This initiative is very much related with a new way to experience local culture and food is seen as an expression of regional identity and as a mean to attract tourist to a destination, using authenticity and tradition as the main ingredients for a memorable experience.
If you are a foodie or just a simple traveller this seems to be The experience to make, do you will ever consider it?
To better understand what Intrepid Travel is, see this youtube video!
Gastronomic Tourism – What is it and why is so popular today?
Recently gastronomic tourism became an important faster grower segment in the tourism market. Within the bigger picture of people interested in discover new food and wine, is possible to identify two main categories. The first type of tourist is the one who consume gastronomic products as part of the travel experience while the second are those whose activities, behaviour and destination selection are influenced by their personal interest in particular products.
Either way, this new market is today extremely important in particular for all those rural destination that are trying to market themselves under a new and different light, in order to match this new generation of tourists.
But the appeal of gastronomic tourism became important also for all those big metropolis such us New York, London, Rome or Honk Hong where tourists wants to discover the local culture on a deeper level. But also, have the opportunity to experience those gastronomy excellences such as Michelin Star restaurants.
Museum, street art and heritage local places are no more the only focus of the experience, which needs to be in a more authentic and personal way. Enjoy the travel on a passive level absorbing general notion about the place visited is no more the experience, be active and meet the local tradition on 360 degrees level is what makes gastronomic tourism so important today. In conclusion, we can consider this new type of tourists both as a pilgrim than a gourmet. They are ready to get on the route and build up their journey having at the same time a new life experience with the local people.