Today Milan, tomorrow Vietnam: A day in the life of a travel writer

Imagine that one day you wake up in Haifa, the next in Acre and the next in Jerusalem and so on. This sounds like a dream for some, maybe a whirlwind vacation for others, but it’s a very real part of Elisa della Barba’s job as a food and travel writer.

While most weeks aren’t as busy as that, her page does list three cities: New York, Barcelona, and Milan.  And though Milan is the city she currently lives in and where she grew up, she’s lived in all three different places and travels to the other two at least once a year.

With such a fascinating job, we decided to interview Elisa to learn more about her, her favorite foods and travel destinations, and get a glimpse at her beautiful travel photography.

Sunset over Halong Bay, Vietnam

Sunset over Halong Bay, Vietnam

Elisa has known that she wanted to be a writer since the age of seven, but the path to being a food and travel writer wasn’t exactly a straight one. She started off writing about her first love, art, which she studied in university. Then her writings turned toward photography and eventually travel since she was working at Conde Nast Italia which also publishes a travel magazine. Then, since food and travel are often written about together, she became a food and travel writer.

These days she’s a freelancer writing for companies like Dolce&Gabbana and jets off at least twice a year to such international destinations as Japan, Vietnam, Denmark, and France, just to name a few.

As a freelancer, she mostly works from home though she finds it “easier to find out what is going on out there if you are actually out there, and not at a desk.” Her days are spent doing just that as she reads her way through tons of national and international newspapers and goes out to meet people and conduct interviews.  She also sends a lot of emails (now using her me signature because “it gives immediate access to your portfolio to whoever is interested in knowing more about you”). Then towards the end of the day she sits down to write. She also squeezes in a bit of studying for her courses to become an International Sommelier. It’s no wonder she never makes it to bed before 1:30am!

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

You’ve traveled to so many places, what’s your favorite?

It’s hard to pick because I am in love with Japan. Tokyo is a city I would live in if I ever got the chance, but my heart is in Fez, Morocco. It’s the place I have felt most attached to for many reasons, the main one is that it is a mind-blowing trip back in time.  It has the biggest medina (walled city section) in the world, with no cars, no contemporary noises, no urban anything and yet there’s so much frenzy. And fantastic food, of course!

The other place in my heart is Framura, in Cinque Terre, Liguria. You are surrounded by the sea no matter where you look, and it is my haven in happy and sad times.

What’s your favorite interview or article that you’ve written to date?

Oh, I can’t pick one! Food-wise, the most amazing interviews have been the ones with the Roca Brothers. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain, won the best restaurant in the world in 2013 and has three Michelin stars. It’s now second best after Noma – and Corrado Assenza, a Sicilian philosopher, I would call him, who creates the most fantastic desserts on Earth. Then there’s Massimo Bottura who was incredibly generous in his interview, someone to learn from even if you don’t cook or care about food!

On a more celebrity note, I was honored to interview Academy Award Winner, Helen Mirren.

Elisa interviewing Chef David Kinch

Elisa interviewing Chef David Kinch

Since you’re studying to be a sommelier, do you have a list of your favorite wines?

Sagrantino di Montefalco, an excellent red wine from Umbria with a lot of personality. If I had to pick a red that would be it. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, from Friuli, is also among my favorites. As white wines go, I am in love with Pecorino from Abruzzo. Ansonica or Insolia, from Sicily (Inzolia in Sicilian), is another fantastic vine and great to have during winter. I also love Chardonnay and Ribolla Gialla.

What are your favorite foods and current favorite things to cook?

I love eggplant in all its forms, melanzane alla parmigiana is my favorite dish, together with risotto alla milanese (saffron risotto), with loads of butter! Weirdly enough, my favorite thing to cook right now is congee for breakfast – a not so Italian dish. It is a white rice I tried in Hong Kong and Vietnam that is boiled for long time, almost a soup, but not quite. It’s great for an upset stomach and a good alternative to oatmeal if you grow tired of it.

Do you blog at all?

Alas I don’t blog yet, but soon my best friend and I will be online with Social Milano, a website for anyone who wants to fully enjoy the city. There will be features about unknown places, the history of Milan, urban events and of course food! Some of the content will be in English too.