Considering Themed Travel? Some Food for Thought!

By Valerie Sisco, Culture with Travel Food Correspondent

A week-long foodie tour of Rome? Looking at a city through the lens of food sounded intriguing but I noticed the Vatican and Colosseum, along with other major Roman landmarks weren’t on the itinerary of this food-centric trip I was considering. Would spending an entire week pursuing an interest of mine — in this case, food — in a far-flung location be a compelling reason to travel there?

Theme-based trips that invite travelers to experience an activity or a cultural immersion adventure are becoming increasingly popular travel options. These journeys let you focus your time on a theme that interests you and provides an opportunity for your trip to be intentional, significant and unique to your particular hobbies or pursuits. It also gives repeat visitors a fresh focus and creative perspective of a familiar destination that invites a deeper connection.

Valerie in Rome

It was on my first trip to Europe as a tentative traveler that I booked my first food adventure — a three-hour walking tour of the Latin Quarter in Paris— not quite knowing what to expect. But the French guide chatted about Paris’s history as she took our group to a famous bakery for pastries, through a French farmer’s market, to a Parisian cheese shop and charcuterie, and then stopped for coffee at an outdoor cafe. The tour concluded at little eating nook the guide set up in a shop just for our group where we could sample foie gras, cheese, bread and wine that gave us a chance to share our thoughts about everything we’d just tasted.

themed travel: food in Paris

themed travel: food tour

After that delectable culinary introduction in Paris, I was hooked on finding foodie experiences wherever my travel plans took me.

On a trip to New York City, I toured the East Village where I sampled neighborhood specialties, including a slightly intimidating bowl of borscht, that turned out to be much tastier than it looked. I also signed up for a hands-on experience in pastry dough where I learned how to make scones and biscuits at a Manhattan bakery. Almost as fun as getting a behind-the-scenes look at an industrial kitchen was the discovery that everyone baking with me was a local and I got to listen to their personal stories about living in the Big Apple.

themed travel: borscht in NYC

themed travel: food in NYC

Since I’d enjoyed dipping my toe in the pool of food and travel immersion, I decided to take a deep dive into a longer adventure. I booked a trip to northern Italy for a week-long art retreat along the shores of Lake Como. This stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone since I didn’t consider myself an artist, but I learned how to create a travel journal and made novice attempts to sketch and paint, while soaking in the incredible beauty of the region.

themed travel: Lake Como

Even though it wasn’t billed as a foodie retreat, the dining locations and fantastic food I experienced were first-rate. I was treated to a four-course dinner at an Italian TV chef’s hillside restaurant, got to dine under the stars on a mountain-top ledge overlooking a lake, and rode in a vintage boat to a dockside lunch of lemon ravioli and sesame-encrusted Italian cheese.

themed travel: sesame-crusted cheese

In nearby Milan, I took a happy hour tour of the Navigli district, an area transformed into hip eateries and nightspots from ancient canals and waterways. I learned about regional Italian wines from the owners of a wine bar who let our group choose a glass from the wines they’d talked about to enjoy with a tray of meat, cheese and olives.

themed travel in Milan

themed travel: food in Milan

So as I pondered whether or not to take a food-focused tour of Rome, I was hopeful it would turn out to be another delectable adventure. This unique tour hosted by a food writer, not only gave me glimpses of hidden doorways and secret alleys of Rome that were not easily noticed by a typical tourist, but allowed me to experience a private dinner in the host’s home and a cooking class in her kitchen.

themed travel in Rome

themed travel: cooking class in Rome

I visited the oldest cookie bakery in Rome, ate a fried artichoke at a trattoria in the Jewish Ghetto and toured open air markets. I sampled zucchini blossoms and fried stuffed olives at a neighborhood pizzeria, ate truffle-topped pasta, tasted the best tiramisu I’d ever had, and sampled some of Rome’s best cheeses.  To make sure I didn’t miss Rome’s top tourist attractions, I extended my trip by a few days to see the Colosseum, Vatican, and other major landmarks the food tour didn’t include.

themed travel: cookie bakery

themed travel: pasta

I’ve come to realize how much I appreciate and enjoy the expertise and knowledge of the hosts who have created the amazing agendas of the trips I’ve experienced. Themed travel has become my favorite kind of adventure and I’m always on the lookout for my next delicious destination.

themed travel: colisseum

Share your themed travel experiences with us in the comments! 

Valerie Sisco writes the blog, Grace with Silk. She lives in Orlando, Florida, where she’s dreaming of her next travel adventure. Follow her journeys via TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

4 thoughts on “Considering Themed Travel? Some Food for Thought!

  1. Wonderful descriptive details along with amazing photos have inspired me to start researching food tours even in my hometown!

  2. This all looks so yummy! Food day-tours are a great idea for solo travellers who don’t feel completely comfortable dining alone. If you’re an introvert, it’s the perfect way to meet others in a structured way. 🙂

    1. Hi Deb,
      Thanks for reading! I couldn’t agree more — food tours are a great way to mix with a group of strangers, chatting about food and getting to know them better. And I’m an introvert so it’s worked out well for me! 🙂

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