New Jersey-born Sam Hilt is a seasoned tour guide for Tuscany Tours, who recently wrote Turning Tuscan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Going Native, a book that changes the rule of what a "guide" should be.
The book itself has a certain casual and friendly prose, almost as if Hilt himself were reading to you and walking you through various places in Italy. His first-person style gives it a genial tone that never sounds like braggadocio.
As an expert in Renaissance art, Hilt will take you on narrative walks with him, not just through museums and countrysides but to local families sharing meals. In fact, his chapter on Eating Rituals has some amusing and insightful moments that The Daily Meal has excerpted below.
"The chapter doesn't deal with specific recipes or rave about how wonderful Alfredo's lasagna was," said Hilt. "My focus is on the rituals surrounding food in Tuscany: the unwritten rules around when, what and how people relate to their meals."
"Much has been written about the glories of Italian cuisine,” he goes on to add. “And the passion that all Italians share for eating very well whenever possible is hardly a secret. What is less well known are some of the rituals that Italians observe around what, how and when they eat. Since virtually everyone follows these unwritten rules, it's something that native Italians never notice and certainly couldn't tell you about. As a foreigner exploring this terrain, it's when you unwittingly commit a faux pas that you begin to discover that there actually are rules. Welcome to the ritual mysteries of eating in Italy."
Turning Tuscan is literate, gracious, and touching at times and feels like a very well-written, nuanced journal. There are even poems by his wife, Pamela.[...]