Sightseeing with Your Tastebuds

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When Alan and I traveled to Northern Italy, food played an important role in our experience. At every meal, Claudio Fontana, our guide, translated the entire menu, then insisted that we sample dishes from every course. He emphasized foods that were unique to each city or region. Our road trip morphed into a dining adventure. Lucky us! Today, Helena Martin of Foods of New York tours explains more about culinary tourism.

There are countless ways to experience another culture: visiting and learning about historical monuments, shopping in the chic part of town, or exploring famous architecture, to name a few. But increasingly, tourists are seeking culinary adventures on their trips. Baby boomers seem to have been the first generation to latch onto this burgeoning class of tourism.

Tour-takers enjoy a bite of food on the streets of New York City.

Not Pretentious or Exclusive

Culinary tourism need not be restricted to visiting the 5-star restaurants or the most exclusive wineries of the area; in fact, more often than not, culinary tourists are exploring the well-reviewed local bakery from Yelp or the unnamed bar on a quiet side street frequented mostly by locals.  Not just for connoisseurs, food tourism basically qualifies as any pursuit of a memorable eating or drinking experience while visiting a new place.

Making it Intentional

All tourists take part in culinary tourism whether they are trying to or not. Every time a baby boomer traveler eats at a local restaurant, food cart, etc, she’s participating in culinary tourism.

But intentional culinary tourism can take much more interesting forms! Food tours, for example, are one of the most common ways for people to quickly get a complex idea of the food culture of a place they’re visiting. These tours are much like other cultural walking tours offered in major cities around the world; but instead of stopping solely at architectural and historical points of interest, these tours are planned around stops where the food enthusiast can try morsels of the local cuisine from various “mom & pop shops” in the area.

Some food tours include cultural or historical information, so food stops might be interspersed between interesting cultural points, leaving plenty of time for digestion. Most food tours include some walking spread over a few hours, but not more than is enjoyable for boomers or relatively fit seniors.

Food and winery tours often include meeting with the owner to learn about the process (and, of course, her love of the product).

Why Food?

Food is the staple of a culture, and this doesn’t just mean national culture; food can tell a tourist so much more about a city, even a specific neighborhood. At a wine or beer tasting, a boomer will learn about the local climate that produces the particularities of that beverage. Food tours teach visitors about the various subcultures and ethnicities that have shaped the area throughout history, leaving their footprints on the modern storefronts and the architecture.

Moreover, the convivial nature of sharing food and drink makes culinary tourism all the more appealing. Who doesn’t love breaking bread or sharing a glass of wine with loved ones? Tasting various foods on a food tour also offers the opportunity to share a social and learning experience with other tourists from all over the world.

The Future of Touring by Taste

As the global population becomes more interested in the quality and origin of the food it eats, tourists will continue to seek memorable culinary adventures on their travels. And according to Ian Yeoman at Hospitality Net, increased globalization also contributes to an interest in food tourism. With easy access to information, learning about another culture is possible from any corner of the planet. The most logical thing to do when you finally get there… is to dig in!

Have you had any memorable culinary experiences while traveling? Do you prefer to do your own research to find those hidden gems, or will you try a trusted food tour to show you the ropes? Where will you go? What will you taste? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.

Photos courtesy Helena Martin.

This is not a sponsored post. Helena Martin offered information about culinary tourism that I thought our boomer readers would find interesting.

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