I’m really digging the guest post trend that’s been going on on Parla Food lately. It’s a fantastic way to share more about food than I can personal cover, as well as hear the viewpoint of people I really like and respect. Today, I welcome a freelance travel writer named Jessica Spiegel. We met at a Tweet-Up in the Garbatella quarter of Rome a couple of years ago and immediately recognized that her passion for Italy is contagious and consuming. She writes passionately from her home in Portland, OR (you can find her on the BootsnAll Travel Network and the WhyGo Italy online travel guide) and co-hosts the fabulously informing and entertaining Eye on Italy podcast. I am delighted to have her contribute a blog post about an initiative in Italy that she loves. She’ll take it from here:

One of the things I liked best about Katie Parla when I first met her back in 2009 was her unapologetic “eat only the good stuff” attitude toward food. Loyal readers will know that she’s quick with praise, and equally quick to say “skip it” if a place doesn’t live up to expectation. Food, to Katie, isn’t simply fuel – and treating it as such is doing it (not to mention the country in which you’re eating it) a disservice. I’m thrilled, then, to be able to contribute a guest post to ParlaFood.com on a food experience in Italy that I think is equally as culturally important as it is delicious.

Novices would be forgiven if they thought it was impossible to get a bad meal in a country so seemingly devoted to food as Italy, but unfortunately even the Italians sometimes get it wrong. Hard-core Italophiles will often tell you that the best way to make sure you’re eating the pinnacle of Italian cuisine is to eat in someone’s home, preferably with someone’s mamma at the stove. This advice, while usually accurate, isn’t exactly accessible to everyone – not every visitor to Italy has friends upon whom they can call for a meal.

Thanks to the Home Food program, however, we can all pretend – if only for a night – that we’re part of an Italian family.

Home Food, started in Bologna in 2004, is an organization whose mission is preserve local food traditions by making sure they’re still part of everyday life. With a nationwide network of partners called “Cesarine,” Home Food schedules a regular slate of dinners in private homes where the menus feature only what’s local and seasonal. Meals are prepared by the Cesarine, who are not professional chefs but simply passionate home cooks who have passed Home Food’s rigorous application process, and participants can be other Italians or foreign tourists.

Appealing to two different sorts of audiences, Home Food is at once cultural preservation and foodie tourism.

Italians may seem more inclined to resist international chain food-purveyors like McDonald’s or Starbucks, but you don’t have to look far to see that those places are making inroads – in some cases superhighway-sized ones – especially with younger generations. In other words, there’s no time like the present to make sure regional recipes and ingredients are kept alive. If Home Food can, at the same time, provide foodie-inclined visitors with a chance to see what all the fuss is about with regard to Italian food, all the better.

It’s easy to add a Home Food dinner to your Italy travel plans. Foreign visitors first need to apply to become a member and pay a monthly fee for whatever month they plan to be in Italy. Then they can sign up for as many Home Food events as they like within that month, paying whatever the per-person cost is of each one. The monthly fee for non-Italians is €3.50 per person, and dinners typically range in price from €30-50 per person, which includes all food and beverages. There are some lunches on the calendar, too. Not all Cesarine speak English, so this can be an excellent excuse to practice your Italian while you eat a great meal.

Home Food offers those of us without Italian family or friends the otherwise inaccessible opportunity to be welcomed – warmly – into a private Italian home and be served a meal of traditional local dishes. This is the stuff of foodie fantasies – and it’s completely doable.

How to Participate in Home Food

Sound interesting? Visit the Home Food website for more details on becoming a “User Partner” (their term for those of us who attend the meals rather than cook them), to consult the upcoming calendar of Home Food events, and to sign up to attend a Home Food meal.

You can follow Jessica on Twitter (@italylogue) and on Facebook (facebook.com/WhyGoItaly).