Exploring Food from the Italian Countryside
By: Tara Turner
Tiplr’s goal is to create a community of smart, passionate travelers who, by sharing their tips and experiences, will travel in a more unique way by finding things off of the beaten path. This interview is the beginning of a series where we get a deeper look into some of our favorite Explorers. As Tiplr’s managing editor I was lucky enough to pick the brain of one infectious Italian on this particular spring day in New York City.
Mauro Clerici is the founder of the online food magazine Don’t Stop Eating. Last summer, he embarked on an incredible journey that combined Food, travel, and family, and embodies the Tiplr vision. He is now in the process of making this into a web series called Car to Farm.
Tiplr: So, how did Car to Farm come to life?
Mauro: One day last year right after I finally quit my office job, I was nostalgically talking to my mom about our vacations together when I was younger. I remember she would look up one of her many tour guide books and she would instinctively pick a place that sounded intriguing. But instead of booking for an entire week in the same place, we would just drive for hours in our little car to that region just to explore the surroundings before we finally landed in the place that we liked. She would stop, she would ask, “Where is a good place to eat? Where is a good place to sleep?” And that’s how we would travel. Word of mouth and instinct. So with me having extra time at hand, and my mom never turning down an opportunity to travel, I said to her: “let’s do this once more!”. Of course, she didn’t know that, in the back of my mind, I was already planning to do something bigger than a vacation. And so Car to Farm was born and was a gastro tour from Day 1.
Tiplr: So that made up pretty much your whole trip, going from place to place that you had heard of from other people, through word of mouth.
Mauro: Yes, exactly. when we started the project, I just blasted on Facebook, on social media, “If I went to Italy this summer, where would you send me based on your personal experience and recommendation? I’m not looking for restaurants. I’m not looking for hotels. I’m not looking for anything big. I’m looking for small, little gems, little holes in the wall, hiding, best kept secrets. Send me to your grandma to eat ravioli!” That was my message. And the response was amazing. The itinerary ended up being 11 stops starting from Milan, which is in the North, down to the Lazio area, across to Abruzzo, and back up to finally arrive at our last stop in the Romagna region.
Tiplr: Why do you think traveling this way, by word of mouth, or getting tips from people you know, is the best way to experience the world?
Mauro: We like to surround ourselves with people with similar taste and behavior and class. So when we ask a question to our community of people, we tend to receive answers close to our own likings. That’s not something that you can ask to Google…or to Yelp.
Tiplr: What was your favorite stop?
Mauro: Every stop ended up being very special, but one in particular left an impression on me: the Agrihouse in Bracciano. It was where everyone ended up meeting coming from different regions. Also waking up to the sounds of the animals and the farm was pretty epic.
Tiplr: The whole trip sounds idyllic and perfect. Any mishaps? Did the car break down?
Mauro: The car never broke down. It almost did, but we were lucky it did not. We got lost a number of times. Our GPS kept saying the Italian equivalent of, “Turn around as soon as possible”. Once we drove around for a while following the GPS shortcut route to a small medieval town where a night festival was supposed to take place. We finally came to an interrupted road on top of a mountain. It was actually scary and hysterical at the same time. The whole car was bursting in laughs, a very joyous moment. That’s when we turned around and the GPS started yelling at us “Tornate indietro quando potete!”.
Tiplr: At least you didn’t end up stranded anywhere. Did anything else weird happen during your trip?
Mauro: There were a few fun and unusual moments! I don’t want to spoil the surprise but one of them involves a nighttime visit to the animals and us drinking milk from one of the goats. Another one is when we were carried down a steep mountain by a monorail that usually only carries goods, not to miss our departing boat.
Tiplr: So, although this all took place last summer, the project is really just ramping up now, and you’re working on all of the episodes. What are some of the project’s exciting next steps?
Mauro: I worked really hard reviewing all of the footage and all the recipes that we gathered, trying to tie them all together in a way that made sense to the viewer. And this past winter, after I came back from my Car to Farm trip, I worked to write each episode, reach out to every person we met in Italy, and make sure that the cookbook was complete and mixed with different recipes from the trip. Now we are ready to finish the post-production but we need some help to hire the professionals that can give this project the extra edge and detail that we need to make it successful. We just launched a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo and we are doing pretty well with 15% of the target already funded after only 3 days. All the money will go toward the editing of the episodes and the design and publishing of the cookbook. We have pretty cool perks for people who sign up and donate. You can watch the campaign video at https://igg.me/at/cartofarm
Tiplr: Now you’ve got me curious about the trip, and I can’t wait for you guys to start writing those tips you have been promising!
Mauro: You bet, Tara! I really can’t wait to start sharing them all with all the other Explorers out there!
Mauro Clerici is the founder of the online food magazine Don’t Stop Eating. He is also a board certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and an Esogetic Colorpuncture therapist. He offers an individualized coaching program called STEP ONE, helping his clients develop their long-term correct nutrition and lifestyle choice strategy.