This year has been a difficult one for so many reasons, but for lovers of travel like us - and like all of you - being grounded for the better part of 2020 has been one of the biggest challenges. We said goodbye to our beloved second home in Italy last December, never imagining that we wouldn’t be able to return for over a year.
There are many things we miss about Italy, but the fact that we’ve been gone for such a long stretch really hit home recently when our precious pantry provisions - those stashes of aged Parmigiano Reggiano, extra-virgin olive oil, impossible-to-find local wines, artisan pasta, and other delicacies that we routinely bring back in our overstuffed suitcases - began to run low. Though it is getting easier to find Italian specialty foods state-side, nothing beats the quality of what you can get on the ground in Italy.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in our quest to restock our own stores we realized that making these same excellent products that we love available to fellow gourmands would be a perfectly-paired side business to CIUTravel. We have long been ardent supporters of small-scale local producers in Italy, and many of our clients have visited our favorite foodie meccas from Umbrian olive farms to Piedmontese truffle woods. Today, you can savor many of these same quality products from home via Cantina Direct.
Introducing Cantina Direct
Come visit our new CantinaDirect website to order a variety of Italian goodies shipped directly from the supplier or local independent gourmet shop. We will be expanding our inventory over the next few weeks, but you can order a number of carefully selected items already:
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
We are missing olive picking season this year, but are looking forward to enjoying the peppery flavor or freshly-pressed olive oil from our old friends and suppliers Luciana and Giovanni from Casa Gola, hidden in the Umbrian hills. You can only get fresh olive oil during the final few months of the year; we buy several 5-liter cans to stock our pantry, transferring the oil to smaller bottles for kitchen use and to give as gifts. Over the last few years, we have actually been fulfilling orders for our local friends and neighbors in the States, and due to the pandemic restrictions with everyone cooking so much more at home, many of them have doubled and even tripled their order!
Casa Gola extra-virgin oil is made from moraiolo, leccino and frantoio olives - three heirloom varieties common in Umbria -and the fresh oil is bright green with a golden tint. The scent of this vibrant oil combines notes of artichoke, fruit, and herbs and the flavor is slightly bitter with a pleasant peppery finish. We use this smooth, yet decisive, oil to dress meat, fish, vegetables, or to simply drizzle over a thick slice of Italian bread for a rustic bruschetta.
Gourmet Italian Food Boxes
When clients come back from Italy, one of the most common questions they ask us is where they can find pasta, wine, olive oil, and other products on par with what they had tasted while traveling. Unfortunately, many imported products that are touted as authentic are actually low quality, commercial-grade imitations and it’s not always easy to find the real deal on this side of the Atlantic.
One of our favorite gourmet shops in Italy is Dolceforte in Florence, where we regularly stop to stock up on some of our favorite Italian delicacies. We’ve partnered with the delightful Elena from Dolceforte to put together a selection of gourmet gift boxes brimming with delicious delights like artisan chocolates and cookies, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Tuscan pasta, and other specialty items sourced from local eco-friendly producers who are keeping the traditional cuisine of Italy alive.
There are a variety of boxes to choose from and all are packaged in a Dolceforte box, handmade in Florence using paper from the Tassotti di Bassano printing house. Gourmet gift boxes are a beloved holiday tradition in Italy, when family and friends exchange overflowing baskets of indulgent seasonal treats.
We’ll be adding more Italian pantry provisions regularly over the next few weeks and months, so be sure to check back regularly to browse some of our favorite delicacies from the Bel Paese. Buon appetito!