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Why Tuscany is the new Provence: Rituals of sacred self-transformation through food tourism, imagined traditions, and performance of class identity

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.08.016
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine


Within the last few years the number of books, articles, movies, and cooking schools focused on the northern Italian regions of Tuscany and Umbria has increased dramatically, superceding the intense interest in all things Provencal so prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s. I use Graburn's theory of sacred touristic self-transformation to argue that this shift represents a change in perception of what it means to perform a professional, upper-middle-class dietary and health identity. In particular, the ‘Tuscan Experience’ represents new concepts of the idealized-self created through dietary renewal, lifestyle management, and rituals of imagined tradition and community. The notion of Tuscany as a prime location for self-transformation is not new, but the underlying belief systems about what ‘Tuscany’ means to travelers and lifestyle-seekers have altered as the increased popularity of the ‘villa rental’ vacation experience and second-home culture favor a situated class space that requires and creates particular forms of cultural capital. The avenues for personal and social transformation represented by the ‘Tuscan Experience’ are mediated through ideals about landscapes of food and community situated in discourses of appropriate health and nutrition behavior. These class-specific knowledges reify the goodness of the ‘Tuscan Experience’ and the perceived nutritional superiority of the Italian-Mediterranean diet as a means to meet health, social, and emotional needs not thought to be fulfilled by a professional Western lifestyle. In this process, these culturally- determined belief systems further cement a faith in the goodness of the Mediterranean Diet in the minds of Western elites.

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