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By Devin Kidner, Winner of the Slow Food Speakeasy: Ark of Taste Cocktail Competition

Many of the 200+ delegates from the USA to Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto have set off to Italy as they begin the adventure of a lifetime. One of them, Devin, has her first taste of what’s in store – and she is liking what she’s finding.

“Ciao! Grazie,” I said to the bus driver as I departed the shuttle bus that took me from the Turin Airport to Porto Nuovo, the main train station in the heart of downtown. I stepped off the bus and as it pulled away I realized: I have no idea where I am going. None. I looked around. Certainly there should be a sign somewhere with a large arrow, pointing in the direction of the station.

{{image(3043, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”: “300”, “height”: “200”}) }}But there was nothing.

I walked to a crosswalk and stepped to the side. I had to be on this train in less than an hour, so there was no time to lose. I learned a little Italian before coming, but my confidence was shaky and I thought that as soon as I opened my mouth to ask the question, nothing would come out.

I looked around and scanned the faces of people around me. Who looked approachable? Who looked like they might smile and nod, “Si,” if I asked in Italian, “Parla inglese (do you speak English)?”. I eyed an elderly man standing about two feet from me, who appeared to be waiting for someone to meet him, and approached him.

“Mi scusi,” I said, “Dov’é l’entrata della stazione?”

As quickly as the words escaped my mouth I thought, “How did I know what the word for entrance was?” Ah yes! The airport! I remember seeing the word “entrata” printed on some of the doors in the airport!

The man smiled and without hesitation, pointed me in the right direction, and while he accompanied his hand gestures with a whole bunch of words I didn’t understand, it didn’t matter. His tone was warm, he understood that I needed help, and he kindly gave it to me.

I’m now staying with a wonderful host family in Castelnuovo Calcea in the Province of Asti, about 40 miles outside of Turin. I chose to come a week early to Terra Madre for an immersion experience. My Mangia, Pray, Love… if you must.

Carlo and Rossella, my host family, only know a little English, but their hospitality knows no limits. They treat me like a member of their family, feeding me, taking me places, introducing me to neighbors, and organizing little adventures for me, like wine tasting, truffle hunting, and teaching how to create Italian dishes by hand.

As Terra Madre approaches, I’m reminded that my time here is short, and my time at the conference will breeze by in what will seem like a day. It’s important then for me to dive into the deep end, no-holds-barred, and, for a brief moment in time, become Italian.

Most likely, as you throw yourself into the deep end that is Terra Madre, you won’t swim, but with courage and curiosity, you’ll manage to doggy paddle, and that will be an incredible success!