A few days ago, my husband and I came back from an intense foodie tour to Italy, documented in a series of sketches in my trusty sketchbooks. While we’re still recuperating from what felt like a crash course in the topic of Italian cuisine, we’re so happy our Italy Culinary Tour covered so many of this Mediterranean country’s beautiful regions and cities.
During the trip, I sketched like there was no tomorrow, thinking I’ll just take photos of my sketchbooks and then post them on my blog – which for the record I still plan on doing. But then, I felt the material I had gathered, the places we’ve been to, the notes, and the sketches were all such a great backbone for a string of illustrations for my Illustrated Travel Stories blog series.
Seeing how there are so many details in our two legs of the tour, I have decided to reserve this post to an intro about the trip, while my next posts will be in so much more detail about Milan and Southern Italy.
Illustrated Map of Italy
This illustrated map of Italy is the first chapter in a series of posts to come about this wonderful trip. It includes culinary and architectural highlights from the 15 cities and towns we had set foot into for a night, or even a few hours, in a fast-paced trip that taught me so much about Italy.
My husband is Italian, so he’s already been to most of these places, but it’s the first time for me to go to Italy with an informed “tour guide” (my hubby), who helped shed so much light on the history of the local foods, in addition to a ton of information about the agriculture, architecture and culinary culture.
I learnt so much about the four Italian regions we’ve been to, and they are: Lombardia in the north, and Campania, Puglia, and Calabria in the south. Each has its own food heritage, traditions, and characteristics, and each has inspired me as an illustrator in ways I didn’t know were possible!
Milan: Italy’s Elegant European-Style City
We first landed in Milano, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy (Lombardia) region and a global capital of fashion and design. That’s where we dined at the finest of restaurants, one of which is included in this post’s illustrated map, and it’s called “Osteria della Corti.”
Another highlight from the Milan trip is the “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II,” the architectural building I’ve sketched in the top left corner of this Italy map illustration. I plan to talk in more detail about this beautiful house of brands in my next post.
We then took the Frecciarossa high speed train, from Milan to Napoli, which crossed 650 kilometres in just four hours. Their website says their trains are “among the most luxurious you can find anywhere in the world,” and I guess I will have to second that.
A Fast-Paced Trip to Southern Italy
Arriving in Napoli (Naples), we then took a hyper-rapid tour around the beautiful south on a bus with other tourists on board, going to places like Lecce, Bari, Casandrino and Salerno.
One architectural highlight from our trip to Southern Italy is included in this illustrated map and it’s the Trulli (plural for Trullo) homes that Bari, the capital of the region of Puglia, is famous for.
These traditional dry stone huts with their cone-shaped roofs were created out of necessity. According to Italia.it, “Legend has it that this dry-wall construction, made without mortar, was imposed on the peasants of the area in the 15th Century… in order to evade an edict by the Kingdom of Naples that demanded tribute, or tax, on every new urban construction.” Trulli homes also make up one of the 51 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.
Behind the Scenes: The making of Italy Culinary Tour’s Illustrated Map
I’m a fan of urban sketching and follow a number of prominent sketchers on YouTube. This inspired me to take my sketchbooks with me to Italy to try my hand at urban sketching for the very first time in my life! I also wanted my illustrations, created for the Italy Culinary Tour posts part of the Illustrated Travel Stories blog series, to look like a page from a traveller’s journal. Therefore, I created all of the sketches, culinary dishes, and architectural features in the illustrated maps on site during our trip. By indulging in this interesting sketching exercise, I discovered that live urban sketching could often yield different results from illustrations created in the controlled environment of one’s own studio. These sketches have a more fluid and immediate feel to them; they capture a very special vibe that enjoys a more tangible spontaneity than illustrations created from reference photos or materials.
Stay Tuned for More Foodie Stories from Italy
As I said before, this is just a quick highlight about our Italy Culinary Tour. Next on my calendar is a detailed food trip around Milano, and another one in Southern Italy. In the next few weeks, I’m also planning to start a new Illustrated Blog Series, dubbed Illustrated Italian Recipes, and I plan to post some of the scrumptious dishes my husband and I tried during this trip – so stay tuned!
Travel illustration + Illustrated map of Italy by illustrator and artist Yaansoon