Often referred to by food and beverage industry insiders as “Lorenzo the wine guy,” Lorenzo Savona has made a name for himself in New England as a leading wine sommelier. As part of its 25-year anniversary celebration, French bistro Les Zygomates has introduced a wine-tasting series hosted by Savona, who owns a wine consulting business, Porta Vino. The New Britain, Conn., native, who lives in Milton with his wife, Susan, and has three children — two sons, 21 and 18, from his first marriage, and a daughter, 6, with Susan — began his love of wine when he was a college exchange student living in Florence. We caught up with Savona, 56, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? Florence. It’s where I did my year abroad while I was at UConn and it left an indelible mark on my psyche — plus it’s an easy train ride to Venice. It is also an easy ride up to my favorite vineyards in Tuscany. The food is still amazing and there are still things to discover. And, you can get an affordable Airbnb right in the center.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Gelato — or whatever the locals are eating — and wine to drink. I am an appassionato dei vini — person passionate about wine . . . sounds better in Italian. I will always find a great place by asking a local at a good shop. For example, when we were in Rome, we searched for the Superga [clothing] store and struck up a conversation with the salesperson while talking about shoes and good food. So I asked her where the best gelato was nearby and she turned us onto Gelateria del Teatro. It was the best gelato I had in Rome. When we went back last year, there was a line.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I have to get to Australia. I have family down there and they have all come here on vacation. When my mom immigrated from Italy to the US after World War II, her aunts and uncles were forced to go to Australia because immigration was closed to Italians except those who had parents or spouses in the States. It’s a very long flight and I haven’t had the time and funds to make the trip. I am fascinated by the different parts of Australia, and the wines, of course. The geography is amazing and the architecture is cutting-edge.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? A notebook and a good pen. I like Moleskines — the larger reporters notebook with the cover that flips up. It takes up minimal space in my bag and it’s the easiest, safest — meaning I won’t lose it — way to take notes, make drawings, and doodle on the down low.
Aisle or window? I prefer the aisle because I am above average height and I like to have a little room to stretch my legs without bothering too many people. It’s also easy to get up and out when it’s time to deplane.
Favorite childhood travel memory? Going to Disney in Florida with the family. We drove down from Connecticut and stopped in D.C. and again in Georgia before hitting Florida. It was long, hot, and exotic. The different states we passed through may as well have been different countries for a white kid — who was Italian and Catholic — from Connecticut. I remember the different smells from each place. Driving down Alligator Alley looking for the literal swampland that my parents had been conned into buying. There was a dead alligator in a culvert at the turnoff for the property marker. Disney was magical and difficult. My sister was born with spina bifida and she was in a wheelchair. There was no handicap access in 1972, so we had to negotiate a lot of curbs and stairs. We stayed at the Polynesian Hotel in Disney and we had the “beach” right outside our room . . . magic and reality, exotic mixed with challenges.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? Bread. I love bread and I do try and limit myself when at home due to the carbs. I am a sucker for true Tuscan bread with little or no salt and a thick crunchy crust, or a classic French baguette with that thin but incredibly crisp crust and soft doughy insides. Also, a neighborhood bakery is a great place to get tips on where to eat.
Best travel tip? I’m going to repeat myself in a way. Get lost, get off the beaten path, go into a funky shop, or little cafe not in a guidebook. See what the locals are wearing, if you speak the language or can understand, do a little eavesdropping. We are spoiled as Americans, since someone will speak at least a little English in most places we visit. Be courteous and respectful. Ask what they like, where they go out . . . and listen.