Here’s the deal: we’re going to Italy in three weeks and I can’t get a wink of sleep.

I lived in Rome for a year (age 20 going on 21) and, at some point, the city began to dwell in me just as I was living in her. It happened easily, without my knowing, like all of my Roman habits–gelato di nocciola, plates of pasta all’amatriciana, glasses nebbiolo at the vineria that went down a little too easy. A place like her, filled with wisdom and winding viccoli, doesn’t disappear.  She develops, she digs in deep. Finally, when I left, the city resided somewhere inside me where dreams begin and real life submits to beauty. I never knew when I’d return.

Well, I’d make my way back when life allowed me. And, for some reason, that time is now. The kicker–it was his idea.

When Jamie first uttered “Italy,” “truffle festival,” “fly-over-early-without-me-for-girltime-in-Rome,” “Mom will watch the baby,” I felt his forehead. Then, I considered dementia. Finally I decided that I didn’t care if he’d gone crazy and promptly booked two non-stops to Fiumicino. 

Ciao, Italia! You’ve waited for me!

Four days in Rome and then three days in the wine-making region of Piedmont, which is called the Langhe, is our plan. We’ll zigzag our SmartCar over the hills and through the woods, making our way to Alba (white truffle festival), Barolo, Bra (home of the Slow Food movement), Serralunga and every mom-and-pop wine bar in between. 

According to Jamie, the white truffle festival in Alba, spanning some three weeks in October, is on every chef’s Bucket List. What’s the festival like? According to my late-night Food & Wine/Travel & Leisure research, we need to imagine a Manhattan street fair on 6th Avenue. Next, we substitute a quaint, cobblestone piazza–with a church bell that rings through the cool, mountain air– for baking asphalt, cross-town bus exhaust and screeching taxis. Quickly now, toss aside the fried elephant ear and, in its place, balance a tumbler of Barolo and a plate of fresh egg fettuccine topped with shaved white truffles.

Yes, white truffles are street food in Alba. (And, yes, anything that Matt and Ted Lee recommend is on our list.)

Rome, you’re always in my heart. Alba, baby, you’re in our future!

My Homework