Teaching has its moments of frustration, but it also has moments of great satisfaction. Spending a week in Rome last month with a group of my Latin students mostly consisted of the latter. Not only did my students maintain enthusiasm and interest after hours of touring ancient sites, they pleasantly surprised me with their willingness to explore Roman cuisine. Cacio e pepe, carbonara, and pizza al taglio are now indelibly imprinted in their memories. One of the students this week shocked me by offering out of the blue how much she has been thinking about spinach since being in Rome. Another mentioned how much the flowers on my tie reminded her of artichokes! Teaching doesn’t get more satisfying than this.
One of the reasons these memories remain so vivid for them is that we worked with a tour guide of exceptional quality and ability. Katie Parla is a young American woman who relocated to Rome in 2003, shortly after receiving a degree in Art History from Yale University. She has since earned a master’s degree in Italian Gastronomic culture and is a certified sommelier. Currently she is a freelance writer and tour guide, focusing on both the history of the city’s art and its current culinary landscape. Equally at home discussing ancient Roman ruins and different types of guanciale, Katie is a rare blend of expertise, intelligence, good humor, friendliness, and humility. She led our group seamlessly from ancient Roman ruins to medieval churches to the best dining spots in Rome. With her, we had the courage to brave the shockingly but endearingly dilapidated experience which is Naples.
Our group of mostly female students immediately connected with Katie, as I hoped they might. I wanted to impress upon them that the history and cooking of Rome are both things worthy of dedicating one’s life to. I think the point was made.
Katie works with both adults and teenagers, and she is happy to customize tours focusing on history, food, or both. Rome is her home base, though her knowledge of other regions makes it possible for her to lead tours throughout Italy. Her writings are featured throughout various guide books and publications, which can be found on her website: www.katieparla.com. Her food blog, which is intelligent and authoritative, is www.parlafood.com.
Check back soon for an interview with Katie.