Travel. It’s something that, following COVID, we all longed to do. It has become more important than ever for us, as humans, to see this planet of ours and meet its people. Perhaps there is a sense of urgency with the changes our planet is seeing due to climate change. Maybe it is a need to be out after being locked in for so long or to connect in a way other than a screen.
There are physical and psychological reasons also. Spending our time and money on travel, as opposed to things, has become the norm. This is great for cutting down on that shopaholic mindset that binges and purges with stuff, leaving our planet overly full of things we don’t need.
Travel opens our eyes to new things and cultivates empathy. We return with a fresh perspective and understanding of people and places outside our immediate circle. That can only be good for the planet.
It’s also good for us. There have been studies on the Economics of Happiness. Psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University did a 20-year study. The findings? We buy things and get an endorphin kick, but after a bit of time, we get used to these objects, we adapt to them, and the endorphin kick they give us flattens.
With travel, the endorphin kick is 3-fold. There is the joy of planning the trip, the journey itself, and then we relive the experience when we tell people about our travel or look at our photos from a trip. That’s way more endorphin bang for your buck!
This year, we are reveling in that 3rd phase, reliving our 21 days in Northern Italy as we share them with you. And I have an upcoming trip to Abruzzo, Italy, on the eastern coast soon, so I will be flooding myself with endorphins as I research for that trip. Yep, there are parts of life that are pretty blissful!
Today, I will share with you a bit of my bliss.
Italy is a land of wine and food. This peninsula in the Mediterranean, “the Boot,” has 20 wine regions. With the Apennine Mountains running down the seam of the boot and two islands, Sardinia and Sicily, the country has evolved in smaller pockets, often isolated by the sea and the mountains from other regions.
Yes, we think of Parmegiano-Reggiano when we think of Italian cheese; perhaps Chianti is the first wine that might come to mind. Still, each Italian region has a specialty that evolved depending on the soil, climate, and people.
There are over 350 different grape varieties that the Italian Ministry of Agriculture recognizes in Italy, but many more are out there. We recently spoke with Marcel Zanolari in Valtellina, who is testing many resistant grapes. He is growing 115 different varieties. Many are crosses made for disease resistance.
So understanding Italy comes from immersing yourself in a region. We began our immersion into Italy in the Northern part of the country last fall.
If you follow us here on Crushed Grape Chronicles, you will have noticed that our focus this year has been primarily on Italian wines.
Here’s a brief video overview of our visit to Northern Italy this last fall. https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/discovering-northern-italy/
Maps and my love for them
I’m a map-based girl. It comes from having to guide our family’s cross-country trips as a child. When I was young, we would jump in the camper (first a VW camper van, later a truck camper on Dad’s Ford Ranger) and head out on adventures. We drove from San Diego to the tip of the Baja Penisula in the VW van. Later we drove all the way from San Diego to Palm Beach, Florida, to visit my grandmother, taking the lower route to get there, stopping outside of Vegas (where I am pretty sure we saw Jerry Lewis at a diner). We headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon across the Rockies at Pikes Peak. I remember having a belt on the van break on the way up and sitting by the side of the road as my dad fixed it. We continued through the central plains, then south through Nashville and Atlanta, landing, at last, on my grandmother’s doorstep in Palm Beach, Florida. The return trip took us further North…okay, see, I’m reminiscing here (endorphins are flowing).
The point of this story is how I got to be a map girl. My mother, well, she was not a map girl. Since Dad was busy driving, it fell to me to guide us with the map (yes, my friends, these were the days before Garmin or Google Maps.) So I grew up with a necessary understanding of maps. I find it comforting to know the lay of the land and where I sit in it!
Later in life, I owned a gift basket business, and the Thomas Guide maps were crucial to delivery schedules, most especially during the holidays. That would have all been soooo much easier with Google Maps!
Anyway, I’m assembling a map of our travels in Northern Italy. We are so used to our drives from Las Vegas to California Wine Country, Oregon, and Washington, putting in 1400 miles each way, that the 468 kilometer drive from Venice to Cinque Terre, with stops seemed all too easy to pass up! We managed to drive almost the entire width of Northern Italy!
It was a beautiful trip, but I long to return and dive deeper into each region we visited.
Okay, here is that map! Followed by a bit of a photo essay of the trip’s highlights.
On the website, you will find details of our trip to Valtellina in Northern Lombardia, our visit with Francesca of Vigna Petrussa in Milan, and other posts about the Wine Media Conference in Desenzano del Garda.
Oh, the endorphins are racing! These articles are just the tip of the iceberg! We look forward to sharing more with you on our explorations of the wine regions and cities on the map above.
In the meantime…what trips are you planning or reliving!
Want to catch up on all the Italy we’ve been sharing lately?
Here’s a bit to get you going…
- La Perla di Marco Triacca – Efficiency, innovation and legacy in Valtellina
- Lombardia – the overlooked region of Italy that is producing wines you need to find!
- Bettini A 5th generation winery in Valtellina, Italy
- ArPePe the 5th generation of the Pelizzatti Perego family in Valtellina
- Monti Lessini the sparkling wine for star-crossed lovers
- Abruzzo on Italy’s East Coast and Montepulciano
- Italy Friuli-Venezia Guilia, Vigna Petrussa, Schioppettino
- Monica and Fregola – a bit of Sardegna at the table
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
Check out our book series, “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, these books create “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some fantastic small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”