Many would say that food is a universal social language. What better way to discover a new destination than by meeting up with the locals and eating together? Here are some ways you can embark on a cultural immersion experience by dining at the home of a local.
Exploring Florence From the Eyes of A Local
Picture this: traditional-looking homes line the cobblestoned pathway ahead of you. You make your way down the street, stopping in front of a home with a colorful door with intricate carvings on it. The owner, a genial-looking man in his thirties, welcomes you warmly and gestures enthusiastically for you to enter. Upon stepping into his home, you discern a fragrant aroma wafting out of the kitchen.
‘Here, have one,’ says the man, who introduces himself as Andrea, before thrusting a plate filled with crisp crostini romani towards you. ‘It’s excellent,’ he adds with a wink.
You take a bite of the bread, fresh flavours of anchovies and provola exploding in your mouth. He is right – it is excellent, and so are the rest of the dishes that follow. A simple spaghetti with garlic and chilli peppers, and an appetising dish of meatballs cooked in tangy tomato sauce. An intriguing-looking dessert, one that you have never seen or heard of before, rounds out the meal. Shaped like a sausage, cut into thin slices, and laid out on delicate porcelain plates, Andrea explains, ‘It’s sweet salami and hazelnut cream. You must try this!’
Throughout dinner, conversation flows smoothly. A native of Florence, Andrea shares about how it was like to grow up in the city. He tells you of places that only the locals know about, and regales you with fascinating tales about the history of his country.
‘What are your plans for tomorrow?’ Andrea asks after the meal. ‘If you like wines, you should definitely join in a wine-tasting tour. Florentine and Tuscan wines are famous around the world, especially those produced from the vineyards in the Chianti Classico region.’
He then proceeds on to share about must-see sights in the city, including well-known attractions such as the Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza della Signoria and the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, as well as hangouts frequented by the locals.
As the night draws to an end, you part ways, happy to have made a new-found friend in a city that you are visiting for the first time, and to discover interesting insights on the lives of the locals in Italy. It was almost as if you had just read an engaging travel guide book, weaved together from a compilation of personal stories and experiences of the locals in the country.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
A Rising Travel Trend: Meal Sharing Experiences
This is a glimpse into what a meal sharing experience has to offer. A growing trend in the travel and sharing economy sector, this concept also goes by other names, such as food sharing and social dining. Travellers browse through a social dining platform, review the list of dining experiences in a specific location that they are visiting, pick a host, and book a meal on on the dates that the host is available.
This experience may appeal to diverse types of travellers. Foodies with an irrepressible love for cooking, learning new recipes and discovering food traditions are likely to find this to be an enticing travel experience. The concept will also appeal to cultural buffs keen on a cultural immersion – to interact with the locals, dine in their homes, find out about their lifestyle, and to savour authentic, home-cooked dishes.
The cultural immersion is not a one-way experience. Rather, it is a two-way exchange, as hosts also gain new insights from mingling with their guests. Contrasting perspectives, mindsets and opinions are shared and discussed when group dinners are arranged with guests coming from different countries.
Such an experience may not be for everyone. An adventurous streak, open-mindedness, as well as a keen interest in seeking out new experiences is required. Are we open to trying out delicacies that we have never heard or seen, and dining in the homes of strangers that we have never met?
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.