What We Think about Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy”

The famous Italian-American actor has a new series on CNN in which he explores Italy’s regions through their gastronomy. Find out what we think about his adventures so far!

Not into video? Read on for a recap.

There is a lot we like about Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy.” First, it is a series dedicated to food and travel in Italy, which is what we have been dedicated to for almost 27 years. So of course we think there is plenty to love about the show.

But we have a couple of suggestions as well. Will they reach Stanley’s ears (or his producers’)? Who knows, but here goes….

The countryside near Spoleto, Umbria.Go Off the Beaten Path

We do understand why the series started with some of Italy’s most famous regions, such as Tuscany, Campania (home to the Amalfi Coast), Emilia-Romagna, and Lazio (home to Rome). They want the show to be a success, and so do we. But we wish at least some of the first episodes had been dedicated to places people actually need to learn about because they aren’t famous already. Milan’s Lombardy region is probably the closest they came to exploring a region less visited by American travelers, and that segment still included Lake Como, which is one of the most visited parts of Italy.

Sunset over the vineyards of Bolgheri during a Tuscany wine tour.Also, even in the regions he visited, he didn’t get off the beaten path as much as we would have liked. The Rome episode in particular we think missed the chance of getting into the countryside of Lazio with its amazing villages. Perhaps we’re nit-picking, as really, how much can he see in a 40-minute show, but we found ourselves wanting more! (Perhaps for this reason his visit of the island of Procida was a highlight for me, and definitely more engaging than his visit of the Amalfi Coast.)

Some of our favorite segments were those in which he went to people’s homes to enjoy a meal with them. These intimate experiences included discussions of food, politics, life, death, religion – all over a shared meal. They made us long to get back to Italy.

Discover all our culinary vacations in Italy.

What about COVID?

Making Neapolitan pizza during an Amalfi Coast cooking vacation.I know this sounds weird, and I realize that four of the episodes were filmed before the pandemic, but there were times when I found the disconnect between normal life and what we have been experiencing for the past 12 months distracting. Even the episodes filmed during the pandemic only acknowledged it almost in passing. And the scenes pre-COVID in which Stanley and friends were embracing, sharing food, kissing each other on the cheeks, and enjoying what used to be normal life for all of us, I found strangely surreal.

Travelers in Naples during a Naples food tour.I’m not sure there was a better solution than just sort of glossing over the pandemic, and I’m not sure if more of a discussion of it would have been anything but depressing. And sure, a lot of my reaction is just plain envy over what I want to be doing but can’t. But the gap between what we were seeing on screen and what we’ve been experiencing was strangely disconcerting.

Still, to say we’ve been enjoying the show would be an understatement. What fun to watch it with my children and have them point out things they’ve seen and places they’ve eaten! What fun to sit and salivate over meals past, and get inspired about what to make for dinner (it had been too long since I’d made a good plate of spaghetti “cacio e pepe”).

The locals hanging out in SIcilyAnother episode airs Sunday, this one on Sicily, and we can’t wait to watch it. The series was picked up for a second season, and we hope they’ll make it to some lesser-known regions that we love (Le Marche! Sardinia! We’d love to see Stanley explore some of these regional foods in Molise!).

And hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to start searching again for Italy ourselves.

By Peg Kern

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