Putting away the reference books from my last trip to Italy (over a year ago now), I picked up my copy of "Osterie & Locande d'Italia: A guide to traditional places to eat and stay in Italy" from Slow Food Editore. If you're headed to Italy this summer, you must have this book. Translated from Italian, it's yet another fine travel guide from Slow Food Editore, based in Piedmont.
Slow Food has done tremendous work in identifying small trattorie and locande (inns) that serve traditional dishes based on regional ingredients. These are not the sorts of places with international menus. They may not, and probably won't, have menus in English, but they will give you an education in traditional cuisine.
For example, you can be traveling through the remote reaches of the Maremma in Tuscany and come up with a place to eat that stands out in memory. Most are small, modest places, like the little trattoria in Treiso, Piedmont -- where you could go for rabbit stewed with peppers --that only the locals knew until Slow Food started publishing its guides. Sadly, that place is now gone, but there are hundreds more in the book.
If you care about wine, a wine-bottle symbol next to a listing indicates a place with an excellent list of regional wines. Wine bars are included too, and the write-ups for each place are concise and informative, pointing out the kitchen's strengths. A snail symbol next to an entry indicates "an address that, in terms of cooking and atmosphere, reflects the philosophy of Slow Food." There's a cheese symbol too, for addresses that stock "a particularly interesting selection of cheeses."
When I'm wandering around the countryside, I often use the book's listings to find somewhere to stay -- a bed and breakfast, small hotel or agriturismo (holiday farm stay).
My copy of "Osterie & Locande d'Italia" dates from 2006, I realize (how time flies). The 2007 edition, which appears to be the last edition translated into English, is in stock at Amazon and possibly in bookshops with a well-stocked travel section. Even better, pick up the 2011 edition of the original Italian edition at bookstores in Italy for 20 euros, or about $28. Not to worry: What's most important are the addresses, and with the help of an Italian dictionary you can translate whatever dishes you don't already know.
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-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo credit: Slow Food Editore