A common misconception about business travel is that it doesn’t allow travellers to explore or enjoy their destination at all. While it is true that a business traveller’s schedule is usually more complex and demanding than a tourist’s, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the surroundings should rush past you in a blur, leaving no memory of the places you visited. When organising incentive travel or business travel programs to Italy for our clients, we always make sure they get to experience the Country and the specific region or town they are visiting in as authentic a way as possible. And where can you get a taste of Italian culture at its best? At the dinner table of course! Organising a foodie tour for your team is easier than you think and it won’t require you to set aside a day in your busy schedule for sightseeing or even team building. You just need to book your team’s meals so that they compose a journey, with each station exploring a few specific aspects of the local culinary tradition, with unique products and professional “guides”.
How to plan a foodie tour
There’s more to a foodie tour than sitting down at a local restaurant and order the house special. The whole tour should be a rich and complex experience, that will bring about surprisingly in-depth knowledge of the territory through its traditional products and recipes. By sampling local products, you will not only enjoy a vital part of Italian (and regional) culture, you will also learn about those products’ history and evolution and how they are tied into that particular community. Most foodie tours are planned with a specific theme or focus in mind. Depending on the region, it may be wine, cheese, a particular kind of meat or a special technique. The theme could also be seasonal: a Christmas foodie tour of any region will feature very different wines and recipes than a summer one. Before planning your tour, however, it is always a good idea to talk to your team members and find out what they like and what they need. Don’t forget to make room for exceptions and dietary restrictions and to discuss them in advance with all the restaurateurs who will be designing your chosen menus. Italy has a long and proud culinary tradition, with something for everyone: make sure your team members feel free to speak up about their specific dietary requirements, in order to create an inclusive and enjoyable experience for all involved.
Wine tasting as team building
No foodie tour of Italy is complete without a wine tasting. Whether it be sampling the unique varieties of the Franciacorta region or matching delicious meat dishes to Sardinian wines, wine tasting is considered to be one of the highest and most sophisticated pleasures a visit to Italy can entail. Incorporating one within your corporate foodie tour is always an excellent idea, but it doesn’t need to stop at that. You could go the extra mile and turn it into a team-building exercise. With the help of a professional sommelier, your team members could learn how to tell different wines apart and how to judge each vintage’s unique characteristic and how to match Italian food to Italian wine. And then they could challenge each other to a blind-tasting, maybe even win a customised bottle in the process.
Learning about food means getting to know a region’s history, its character and its people. If you can set aside a few hours for an extra leg of your foodie tour, we suggest you book a visit to one of the many facilities that still produce traditional delicacies using ancient techniques. When planning tours of Tuscany for our clients, for instance, we always suggest including a visit to some of the small, local cheese producers, whose establishments still make some of the region’s unique varieties of cheese using processes that haven’t been altered in centuries. And food always tastes so much better, after you have learned how it is made and satisfied yourself that it is as genuine as it gets. Of course, your team members might want to get proper hands-on experience and try a cooking class. The best part of this kind of program? Getting to share a meal that they have cooked themselves.