See (and Eat!) the Best of Northern Italy on Our First-Ever Collaboration with EF Go Ahead Tours

Because the only thing better than eating Italian food is eating Italian food in Italy.

Published Nov. 20, 2019.

We’ve spent more than two decades teaching you how to cook Italian food at home. Now we want you to go out and experience it in the country itself. That’s why we’ve paired with EF Go Ahead Tours, a fellow Boston-based company with years of experience creating immersive travel experiences, to plan a once-in-a-lifetime tour of northern Italy.

Both America’s Test Kitchen and EF Go Ahead Tours’ primary focus is on education—ATK educates home cooks about the best way to prepare their favorite foods, and EF Go Ahead Tours educates travelers about the countries they visit. And both companies believe that one of the best ways to learn about a culture is to eat its food.

“Food brings a destination to life,” said EF Go Ahead Tours president Heidi Durflinger. “I don’t think you can truly experience a country without also experiencing the local cuisine.”

So why Italy? Simple: Italy has some of the best food in the world, and the experiences you have there stay with you for a lifetime, as Jack Bishop knows first-hand.

I still remember my first lunch in Italy,” Jack said. “It was October 1983. I was 20. I had just gotten off an overnight train from Germany and my girlfriend (eventually my wife) was studying in Florence and she took me straight from the station to her favorite neighborhood trattoria. She ordered the fettuccine with white truffles for me. The waiter came to the table with a beautiful bowl of pasta tossed with a little butter and Parmigiano and then started shaving fresh white truffle over the bowl. This was my first truffle experience and the aroma was intoxicating.” 

Jack Bishop in Italy
Bishop in Italy in the spring of 1984 with his wife Lauren (right) and her sister Stacey.

The first tour offering, an 11-day trip called A Food and Wine Adventure Through Tuscany and Piedmont with America’s Test Kitchen, departs in October 2020 and is chock full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences: a private tour and chocolate-making lesson with world-famous chocolatiers at Turin’s Caffè al Bicerin, olive oil tastings in Tuscany, cooking lessons in Bologna, and truffle hunting at the Truffle Hunt and Alba White Truffle Fair in Alba. (You can see a more detailed itinerary here.) And through printed and digital educational materials, travelers will benefit from America's Test Kitchen's cooking and recipe expertise before, during, and after the trip.

Read on to learn more about why Jack and Heidi think experiencing other cultures and cuisines is so important, and visit this page for more information about America’s Test Kitchen’s and EF Go Ahead Tours' first collaboration.

What have been some of your most memorable food experiences on your trips to Italy?

Jack Bishop: [I was surprised to find that food in Italy] was nothing like the red sauce dishes my Italian-American grandmother made. It was a revelation. After my first taste of a truffle, the rest of this first of many trips to Italy was equally memorable. My first taste of tiramisu sitting in a cafe on the Piazza della Repubblica. My first prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula panini from a window kiosk along the Borgo Ognissanti. All the food was so simple and so delicious. That's Italy.

Heidi Durflinger: It's so hard to choose. I love truffles and enjoy eating them in Alba, the home of the famous truffle auction. Two years ago I joined [EF Go Ahead Tours’] Northern Italy food and wine tour and had one of the best homemade tagliatelle pastas with truffles in my life. The chef even shared his personal recipe with us to try ourselves at home. In Sicily we visited the home of a contessa whose farmhouse villa sits on top of a hillside surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees. I still remember the taste of the scratch-made pasta with mint, peas, and lemon cream sauce and the sound of the Tour Director’s family singing together at the table. I also have such fun memories from cooking classes with travelers on our tours, making fresh gnocchi in Rome with a crisp glass of Prosecco in hand.

One of my personal favorite things to do when I travel is visit the local farmers’ markets, sampling my way through the stalls, interacting with vendors, and experiencing daily life of those who call that city home.

And nothing beats Italian gelato. My rule of thumb is at least two gelato a day. High on my list is to experience the gelato school in Bologna that we visit on our tours. Bologna is where I had my very first gelato and Italian pizza and I’ll never forget it.

Gelato in ItalyCooking classes in Italy
Two of Durflinger's favorite activities in Italy: indulging in gelato and taking cooking classes.

Why do you think food is such an important part of traveling?

JB: Travel is the best way to learn about the world and yourself. I bring home physical momentos (old photos, books, clothes) but it's the memories and, more important, the life lessons that I treasure the most. I travel to learn new ways to live my life and new ways to experience the world.

HD: Food is such a special way to learn about a culture—experiencing mealtime traditions, visiting a local food market, or learning to cook the local dishes. To me, food and traveling go hand in hand. I don’t think you can truly experience a country without also experiencing the local cuisine.

How has the food you've eaten abroad influenced how you cook at home?

JB: When I taste something really great, I immediately start thinking about how can I recreate the dish at home. I analyze. I take notes (I used to carry a little notebook but now type ideas into my phone). I shop for local magazines and books. I'm obsessed with creating that perfect dish in my home kitchen so I relive the experience and share it with friends.

HD: I always purchase a local cookbook from every place I visit and when I return home I try to recreate the local dishes for my friends and family. I’ll invite everyone over and cook a big meal that involves my favorite recipes from wherever I’ve just been traveling. It’s such a special way to share travel memories with everyone I love and care about back at home.

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