How did Italian culture and geography give rise to the slow food movement?
The fast food culture that originated in the United States is now a global phenomena - but in Italy, a counter-movement has begun. Fueled by passionate Italian journalists, chefs, educators, farmers, and activists, the Slow Food Movement challenges people around the world to reconsider what they are eating and where it comes from. The movement has been especially successful in Italy, where culinary traditions are an integral part of cultural identity. But what exactly makes Italy such a good place to find great food?
On this trip, we’ll explore the relationship between geography, environment, food, and culture as we investigate the origins of some of the world’s most iconic Italian dishes. Why is Italian pasta still the best in the world? How is “real” mozzarella made? How do cooking and farming strengthen communities? And in a fast food world, how are Italians keeping their slow food culture alive?
Starting in Rome, we will build context around Italian identity at both ancient and renaissance historic sites. We will enjoy fresh gelato on the Spanish Steps, passing by the McDonalds whose construction sparked the Slow Food Movement in the 1980s. We will explore the narrow streets in our neighborhood and get a taste for life in Italy’s modern capital.
We’ll then head south to Pompeii to explore the famous archeological site for a historical take on food and a look at some of the pros and cons of living on a volcanic landscape (i.e. the best tomatoes ever). We’ll visit local farms, taste authentic Napolitano pizza, learn how Buffala Mozzarella is made, and maybe even stay the night in an old seaside monastery.
Next, we’ll take the train north to Bologna where we will see the tilted towers and covered walkways of this university city. Bologna is also home to some of the most well known (and delicious) Italian foods. We will have a chance to try fresh lasagne, local Parmesan cheese, and Bolognese ragu sauce as we learn how these iconic products shape contemporary Italian cuisine.
We’ll head back to Rome with a stop in Florence and an overnight at a local farm in Tuscany. Here we will prepare our own dinner, taking what we have learned and applying it into our very own feast. We will also use our time in Tuscany for a final brainstorm about how the Slow Food Movement in Italy can inspire us to change how the world eats.
Atlas Workshops has a passion for connecting classic destinations to present-day issues. We can adapt an Italy trip to have a strong focus on specific questions related to culture and identity at the micro or macro level, or approach topics through a more historical or more contemporary lens, depending on the trip focus. From a targeted look at food, to a more regional focus, or even a political lense with a look at European relations, this trip template is flexible.
By balancing exploration of different themes and contexts, a trip to Italy can combine disparate interests and appeal to a large group of students. By asking questions about identity and historical narratives, this trip can also fit into a wider discussion about global citizenship and diversity at a school.
For a trip with a deep focus on issues in Italy and the Mediterranean, we have a variety of other sample programs in the region, such as “The Birth of Business” (Italy), “Food on the Map” (France), and “Sustainable Civilizations” (Greece).