How to enjoy a global food & drink experience from Northern Italy

After a very busy October and November getting Bolst Global off the ground (still lots to do on that front and 2017 will be a big year) I decided to have a few days away in Northern Italy staying with a long standing (and suffering!) friend to change my environment and recharge my batteries a bit before the madness of Christmas ensues.

Not feeling great…

Arriving with a nasty head cold and blocked ears from the plane wasn’t a great start but having the following day largely off with a long walk around the beautiful town and lake of Lecco nestled in the mountains where my friend lives and catching up with her was a good way to unwind a bit.

Flexible global working

Friday was a working day for both of us and whilst she has to endure a 3 hour daily commute to her working day in Milan (culturally Italy is certainly slower on the employee well being front and seeing the true benefits of flexible working arrangements) I had the privilege of staying in her home gazing out over the mountains and speaking with people based in Spain, France, USA and the UK. This is one of the aspects of international work with creating Bolst Global that I absolutely love: the ability to work from anywhere in the world ,to be able to travel much more regularly as a result (weaving in personal and professional working time) and be reenergised and inspired by what different cultures and environments can offer…

Like now- this is my current view as I write this (don’t get too jealous ? ):


L’Artigiano in Fiera

One of the unexpected highlights of the weekend and hence partially prompting this post was the consumer artisanal show at the expo centre of Milan called L’artigiano in Fiera. It takes place during the December bank holiday period in Italy each year and this 20+ year show brings together over 3000 stands representing the global artisanal industry.  Now visiting this fair myself wasn’t actually something I had anticipated going to during my trip but as with some many things in life the opportunity and coincidence was presented and I was intrigued to see how the Italians ‘did’ fairs and what products were showcased not just regionally or nationally but around the world as the nine  exhibition halls housed producers from literally all corners of the globe.

Heading for Latin America and Asia

So upon arrival we went straight for the Latin American and Asian stands eager to see what was on offer (probably also swayed by my friend’s Argentinean roots a bit too!) and we were greeted with lots of vibrant colourful jewellery and tapestry and I took an Americano at a Colombian coffee stand to enjoy whilst wandering round the stands in this hall. We stopped by an Argentinean stand and my friend got chatting to the exhibitor, passing him a local contact who could be interested in stocking his products in Italy (a clear benefit of exhibiting at such a fair when you are trying to enter the Italian market!)

Enjoying food and drink from around the world

We then entered the European halls which were more food and drink focused and by that point I was getting a bit peckish but with so much on offer from so many countries it was really hard to choose. In the end I went Greek with a Gyros kebab (enjoyed even more thank to the service with a smile by the Egyptian who served me!) and Spanish for a drink of strong refreshing sangria (cue cheesy amateur photo above!) Dessert was thanks to a French crêperie offered a crêpe with their traditional caramel au beurre salé although it wasn’t as tasty as I had hoped (probably down also to a much more despondent lady who served it)

What the UK didn’t offer…

I had a look (of course!) at the small British offering with mainly alcoholic offerings (craft Beers, cider, Scottish whiskey and cupcakes) as well as tea cups, cake stands with the royal family and vintage/ flowery designs to buy as gifts but felt there was a lot of opportunity for much more to be showcased from the UK which italian consumers would appreciate and buy. I’m not sure why there wasn’t more of a UK presence- whether it is because artisan producers aren’t aware of the show? (A quick search shows that it hasn’t been talked about or given any real exposure in the UK) Or maybe the need to communicate in Italian is too much of a perceived barrier?

Whilst it is clear that you would need some Italian language support on the stand (and being here has highlighted my own linguistic deficiencies-must do better!) this can be easily sourced.

A gem of an opportunity??

Moreover with such huge Italian crowds – an anticipated 1.5 million visitors over the 12 days arriving as early as 9.30am with empty suitcases to fill then with the right products, the right offering at this time of the year and the right exhibition strategy this could a very successful show for many Artisan producers. There is also the opportunity to sell your products during the show via its own online e-commerce platform available in Italian, German and English as well as opportunities to participate in some of the events and demonstrations taking place throughout.

So if you are an artisan producer and looking at selling your goods further afield than the UK then do consider this fair could be beneficial for you (and by all means get in touch for any further details or advice that I can share from my experience)

A taste of Italy

The time at the show ended having a quick look around the Italian halls desperately trying  to find some delicious olives to enjoy back at home that evening. Amazingly this was a bigger struggle than I had imagined and in the end I settled on Spanish chorizo with slices of mozzarella, pesto and carrot sticks to nibble on instead whilst enjoying a full bodied Italian red wine prior to dinner.

The end of the trip

The last day of my trip has been filled with rest, reflection, a solitary walk around the town of Lecco and a determination to make next year the time when more travel and trips like these are taken as they really are good for taking stock, remembering how far you’ve come and renewing your excitement for where the future may take you- even more so if you allow the inspiration of different cultures and environment to inspire you further.

I hope everyone gets the chance to take a well deserved break over the Christmas period, regardless of the opportunity to travel abroad or not.

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