Culinary Adventures in Italy with Francesca Montillo
April 6, 2020
Francesca was born and raised in Italy until she moved to Boston with her family when she was about 11 years old. In Italy, her father owned a small business as a green-grocer, and they all lived in a very small, typical southern Italian town. She credits those first 11 years of her life to shaping her into the person she is today: the owner of a travel business that focuses on Italian food and travel. She likes to say that she has one foot perfectly planted in each country. Read on to learn more!
What are you currently working on?
For the past 5 years, I have been the owner of Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. I lead culinary-themed trips to Italy. It's a delicious job! We travel to Italy to take cooking classes with locals, visit cheese farms, make day-trips to wineries and go truffle-hunting. Basically, all aspects of Italian food and wine! When I'm not traveling, I'm also a culinary instructor in the Boston area. Last year, I published my first cookbook!
How was the idea for your business born?
I love Italy and wanted to share my version with as many people as possible. I think being a native gives me a bit of an edge and my clients love the authenticity that I can offer. I wanted to combine my passions, which are food and Italian travel, so this combo seemed like the ideal fit. In January 2019, my first cookbook was released, so I am now able to share some recipes that I grew up with, as well as some other regional dishes.
How do you balance the demands of a job and daily life with nurturing this dream?
It's hard, no doubt about it! But, I love what I do and could do it for hours on end. Sometimes that means other things take a backseat, like exercising or family time. But, I love researching new locations and the way it makes me feel when I showcase my country with my clients. I love that I am able to share my upbringing with them and that they have a genuine interest in learning about it.
What has been your boldest career or life change?
Growing up, I quit many jobs because they didn't approve of my time off for travel! When you're young, you can make moves like that! Now, the boldest career/life change I made was starting this business. There are no guarantees when you work for yourself, but the reality is, even when working for others, nothing is a given. It takes a lot of effort, grit, and determination!
What has been the biggest obstacle during your journey?
Honestly, finding time to do everything I want to do, both in my business life and in my personal life. I love what I do, which means I could work for many hours without taking a break. Working for yourself means there is no “time off” and your business is at the top of your mind at all times. So, even when you're not working, you’re thinking of what needs to get done. Combining professional life and personal life has been a bit of a struggle. I’m trying to make 2020 the year I get a better balance on everything and recognizing that time with family, time at the gym, time spent grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend, or time with my puppy, are all as valuable as time spent behind the computer working.
We all know travel can bring us to unexpectedly * magical * moments . Tell us about one you’ve experienced.
Most of my magical travel moments have happened when I've been with my clients. Recently on a tour, someone turned to me, and in a really sincere way said, "I forgot that we're on a tour, this feels like traveling with friends and family." Another time, while leading a tour of Sicily, there was a gentleman traveling solo who looked very pensive throughout the trip. At one point, we were at a winery on the foot of Mt. Etna- the scenes were breathtakingly beautiful and the food and wine we had just enjoyed were divine. He turned to me with watery eyes and said “Of all the places I could be today, in a hospital, in a ditch somewhere, even at work, I am here instead. With this view in front of me, I can’t believe how blessed I am.” It sounds dorky, but that brought me so much joy. I love experiencing these magical moments through the eyes of my clients.
Can you share your favorite “undiscovered” destination?
I was born in Calabria, so I'm biased. But, I definitely think it's a great destination that remains unspoiled by tourism. I think it's a shame that more people don't visit it. I hope to change that via my business but if there’s one undiscovered Italian region, it’s definitely this one!