When people think of Italy, they’ll often either imagine the Pope in Rome, or they think of the delicious varieties of pastas and sauce found in any region of the country. But after spending so much time in Italy, I realized it’s all the same for those that live there.

Heather, a CI Azumano Travel Expert, talks food as a religion in Italy.

I once got the brilliant advice from a newfound Italian friend, who told me if I’m planning to go to Vatican for 3 hours, I should balance it with 3 hours of lunch. He was right. You can’t reflect on your prayers without satisfying your belly with a big bowl of fresh linguini!

In Italy, food is worshiped nearly as much as Mother Mary.

Gathering around the dinner table, as well as in the church pews, is just how people come together. Both are enjoyed with wine, too!

And like a religion, there are rituals to savor your meals with. You must eat of the season, and feast upon the local region’s provisions. Not only should you know where each ingredient comes from, they’ll have a fisherman’s tale for each fresh catch, before it’s brought into the kitchen and onto your plate.

I encourage you to eat your way through Italy, and discover the divine flavors in a local and organic meal. If you pray to the pasta gods, maybe you’ll return as a newly enlightened foodie too.