Reading this article on Italy in today's New York Times, turned a Wednesday into a Sunday for this reader.
Titled "Just how good can Italy get?", it's one of the best travel pieces I've seen on Italy in some time.
It transports the reader to a corner of Italy I've yet to visit and savor.
Here's how writer Frank Bruni kicks things off:
"MY kind of pig heaven looks a lot like Bologna’s fatty heart.
In the shops along and around Via Drapperie, haunches of cured ham dangle far into the distance. Coils of pork sausage spiral high into the sky. Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, and the region of Emilia-Romagna sees the beauty in swine, as the affiliation of one of its cities with a world-renowned delicacy makes clear. Here lies the plump mother lode of prosciutto di Parma.
And of Parmesan cheese. Wheels and wedges of it cram Bologna’s food stores, which allowed me to choose among Parmesan aged one year (not enough) or two years (just about perfect) or even five (oops). Looking up from the cheese, I was dazzled by the array of vegetables and fruits, their vividness reflecting how fertile this region is and how finicky its inhabitants are."
He sets up a faux culinary competition between Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, that is marvelous to read through, regardless of who "wins".
The whole piece uses over-the-top metaphors and piquant phrasing that makes the brain do multiple double-takes over and over again.
For example, here's how Mr. Bruni describes a ham he finds delectable (bolding mine):
"I had certainly eaten culatello, the Lamborghini of cured ham, produced around the Emilian town of Zibello, along the foggy banks of the Po River."
It made me Google "culatello", even though I'm not particularly fond of cured ham.
If you like Italy, and if you like good food, the piece is worth reading and saving.
It'll almost make you put Italy back at the top of your immediate travel list.