Caio! I’m back from the Valpolicella wine region of Verona, Italy, where my co-host Demet Guzey and I hosted a sold out group of students from the U.S. and Ireland to eat, drink and write. It was our second writing workshop and we hope for more.
We stayed at a gorgeous 10-bedroom Palladian villa in San Pietro in Cariano, a tiny town near Verona, about 1.5 hours’ drive from Milan or Venice. Even though we held the writing workshop there last year, I still marvelled once again at the villa’s marble floors, chandeliers and painted ceilings.
This year we met the villa’s owner, who turns out to be the hunter of most of the stuffed animals and hides displayed throughout the house. That explains the chair made of animal horns and the ibex head in the kitchen!
Here’s a look at what we ate and drank at our Food & Wine Writing Workshop:
Later we visited the legendary family vineyard of Quintarelli, a favorite wine of Hemingway’s, where we tasted a flight of wines, with pours by the founder’s grandson in a dark tasting room. The winery’s signature wine is the local Amarone, a rich red wine that commands astronomical prices. Aged red grapes concentrate the flavors and sugars. That’s all of us enjoying the sweeping views from the balcony of the winery (above).
After a pasta-making workshop at Enoteca Della Valpolicella, we ate our tender tortelli, and several other delectable dishes, many made by hand. The tortelli’s filling included the young leaves of wild poppy plants, collected by local foragers.
For lunch one day, we headed to a restaurant that specialized in porchetta, pork roast cooked on an open fire.
This year Demet added a new event. We visited a rice mill with an accompanying lunch at the restaurant there. In the more Northern regions, Italians eat rice three times a week, a guide told us. We sampled many kinds of risotto: a polenta-like rice dish, an asparagus risotto and a meat risotto. To our surprise, when we questioned the chef about how he made the etherial asparagus risotto, he said he cooked it in vegetable stock like ordinary rice, then added an “asparagus cream,” butter, and Parmesan. No stirring!
On our last evening, we dined at Locanda ‘800, a Michelin Guide restaurant, and feasted on an all-seafood meal of grilled octopus and sea bass cooked in parchment.
Yes, there was a lot of eating and drinking at our writing workshop, as you can see. But there was also instruction on food writing technique, wine writing and education, writing exercises, and general conversation about blogging, feature writing, and cookbooks. The students shared their thoughts and best practices, which always makes the classes more valuable. I’m grateful to the students and to Demet for making this workshop not only possible but such an unforgettable experience.
Afterwards, my husband and I took the train for a week of sightseeing in Germany. Some of the students travelled to other parts of Italy and one went to Portugal. Coming to the workshop provides a good excuse to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit afterwards.
I’ve got more writing workshops coming up. I hope you might join me! Just subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter to find out what’s next.
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Read about the writing workshop in these blog posts from students:
- Jillian Fae’s Mustard Oil and Frequency Illusions
- Lori Definis: My solo trip to Italy. This line made me laugh: “Dianne was waiting at the door looking exactly how I picture all writers. Small and artsy, wearing overalls and a smirk that makes you feel like the two of you already have an inside joke.”
- Mike Vrobel’s piece: Road Trip: Italy Food and Wine Writing Workshop 2018.