Be careful not to miss the magnificent cities, scenic landscapes, evocative art, or tantalizing dishes showcased in each episode of the new CNN food travel series, Searching for Italy.
The danger: Tucci-Mania. Your eyes may be drawn to the series’ affable host—actor, writer, director, and producer—Stanley Tucci, who seems to enjoy his romps through Italy’s regional cuisine and culture as much as we do.
Even while he’s filming, Italians of all ages stop him on the street and tell him how much they love his work because they’ve seen the Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee in a blockbuster movie. At last count, he had 614K followers on Instagram.
Winning the popular vote
The six-episodes of his latest project, Searching for Italy, air on Sunday nights on CNN at 9PM, EST.
According to Neilson data, the season premier, which featured “Naples and the Amalfi Coast,” was the top-watched cable news program for that day (among adults 25-54 and younger viewers 18-34), with 1.52 million viewers.
The second episode, “Rome,” which aired on February 21, drew 1.64 million viewers.
Based on the positive reception, CNN announced that the series was being renewed for a second season—which isn’t likely to air until 2022.
The perfect host
Searching for Italy is in the same niche as the iconic travel shows created by Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown) but is far less irreverent and a bit more finessed in style. Compared to Phil Rosenthal’s Somebody Feed Phil, it is less comedic and more serious in nature.
Another distinction is that Searching for Italy is singularly focused on one beloved country that has stolen the hearts of travelers; Italy is the fourth most-visited country in the world. Only unified as a nation in 1871, the 20 diverse regions of “the boot” each offer their own history and traditions.
Tucci, who once worked as a fashion model, has an impeccable sense of taste, one we have come to associate with “Italian style.” But beyond appearances, his genuine interest in his subject, quick sense of humor, and authenticity make him a perfect fit for the job. His resonant voice on voice-overs threads one scene to another.
Born of Italian heritage, Tucci grew up in Westchester County, New York (an area with a sizable Italian-American community). But in the “Tuscany” episode, he explains that the year he and his family spent living in Florence in the 70s, when he was thirteen years old, was transformative.
One might wonder how a young family could pick up their roots and live abroad but Tucci explains that his parents “followed their hearts.” Tucci seems to be doing the same as he meets and interacts with people from all walks of life in each episode, often speaking in Italian.
Tucci isn’t any ordinary, run-of-the-mill food enthusiast either. He’s passionate and knowledgeable about cooking and eating. He grew up in a family that upheld the old-world tradition of Sunday dinners. An avid home cook and mixologist, he’s been a waiter and even owned a restaurant. He has written cookbooks and his new memoir Taste: My Life Through Food (Gallery Books) is scheduled for release in October 2021.
He also co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the award-winning film Big Night, one of the most memorable food films of all time.
A food educator
In Italy, Tucci meets with chefs, food producers, winemakers, restaurateurs, guides, historians, artists and activists. A food educator of sorts, his lessons offer practical advice for finding, choosing, and cooking foods, with an emphasis on sustainability.
- In the “Naples and Amalfi Coast” episode he introduces viewers to lemons, almost the size of grapefruits, used to make limoncello.
- In “Bologna,” he visits one of the oldest balsamic vinegar makers in Italy.
- In “Milan,” we learn about the ingredients of classic Risotto Milanese.
- In “Tuscany,” he introduces us to Italian Chianina cattle, one of the oldest breeds in existence, whose meat is used for the famous bistecca alla fiorentina.
Behind every recipe is a story about the regional products and the painstaking, sometimes centuries-old preparation methods that define them.
With most international travel on pause and opportunities for dining in fine restaurants closer to home often quite limited, viewers are able to live vicariously through Tucci’s Sunday night journeys across Italy. His enthusiasm and zest for food and travel, coupled with the series’ breathtaking cinematography, is likely to pique your appetite.
INFO ABOUT THE SERIES
What is the schedule for the remaining three episodes of Searching for Italy?
Milan – Sunday, 03/07/21
Tuscany – Sunday, 03/14/21
Sicily – Sunday, 03/21/21
When were the shows filmed?
The first four episodes were filmed in the fall of 2019 (pre-pandemic) and the last two in the fall of 2020.
How can I watch Searching for Italy?
Can I watch previous episodes?
All the episodes are available on-demand after their premiere.