When we Americans travel to Italy, we usually start with the well-trodden wine roads of Tuscany for a taste of Brunello or Chianti.  We might also plan a romantic getaway to Venice or Rome.  There are even a fair amount of American tourists as far south as Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  Calabria, however, is one of those hidden treasures most of us have yet to discover.

Calabria is a world apart from every other region in Italy.  The food, wines, culture, even the language, are all basically foreign to me.  This is why I was super excited to hear that Mark McDonald, the chef and owner of Old Vine Cafe, is planning another of his famous culinary tours of Calabria this spring.

Chef Mark fell in love with Calabria while studying cooking in Southern Italy.  He has many connections there, and plans his tours around the side of Italian tourism we American rarely have a chance to experience.  The stops on his trips are not commercialized.  There are no websites for these farms, or OpenTable reservations for the restaurants on his agenda. This is the real Italy. This is the wild, untouched, mysterious Calabria.

The photos in this post were taken last year during Chef Mark’s trip- a glimpse into the kind of rare, magical experience to be found in these beautiful hidden corners of Italy.  At an agriturismo where last year’s tour stopped for lunch they were greeted by this bucolic sight…

The women on the property preparing the meal look just like you think they would- honest, happy, salt-of-the-earth. I don’t know about you, but whatever they’re cooking, I’m eating.

While space is extremely limited, Mark tells me he still has a few slots left.  The trip is this March 10-19th, packed with once in a lifetime experiences and plenty of hands-on culinary training.   Viva Calabria!

To view the full itinerary click HERE.

For more information please contact Chef Mark McDonald directly:  chefmarkmcdonald@yahoo.com     (714) 655-6142