Every time I’m in Italy I’m amazed by the authentic passion found there.

On the Amalfi coast, I revel in the astonishing natural beauty around each turn: a sheer drop down to the coast here, a glimpse of sea there. I know that my passion for this small stretch of coastline is shared by the people who (lucky them!) live there, as well as those who visit.

Of course, there’s also the lovely hotels in the small cities along the coastline, like Positano, that pamper you with spa treatments that match the beauty around you. I’ve found that people who offer you hospitality, both professionally and personally, are passionate about making you comfortable. The aestheticians and therapists genuinely care about their work, and you.

The authenticity and passion of Italy’s people blossoms in every sphere of their life, especially in family life. That’s one reason I was excited to treat my Mama to a trip to Siena!

Located in Tuscany, Siena, like many Italian cities, is a wonder of medieval architecture complete with cathedrals, marble fountains and statuary, and ancient stone buildings. So it’s a great place to dive into Italian culture — the food, the ambiance, the art. But it’s also wonderful to be surrounded by people who are so physically demonstrative with their love. Hugs, walking arm-in-arm, and greeting each other with a kiss on each cheek are often reserved for romantic relationships elsewhere. But, in Italy, physical affection is shared between friends and family with abandon. (Note: never more than two kisses! This is Italy, not France.)

What better way to connect with my Mom than to be with her in a country that’s passionate about connecting?

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about authentic Italian passion without bringing up the food!

On a recent trip to the Lake Como district, Chef Luigi Gandola taught me how to make fresh pasta! I don’t hide the fact that I love good food. (In fact, I try not to hide much about myself.)

This was a whole different level of experiencing great food. Chef Luigi is the head chef at Salice Blu, which was  built in 1973 by his parents, Flora and Mino Gandola.

Everything about the class, from touring the gardens and smelling the herbs, to rolling and cutting the pasta was as exciting as it gets for a food lover. If fresh-from-the garden ingredients in the hands of an Italian chef isn’t an authentic pasta experience then I don’t know what is!

“Il cibo trova sempre coloro che amano cucinare!” Translated, that says, “food always finds those who love cooking.” Chef Luigi clearly does and he shared that love in a way that reinforced my own passion for pasta.

There’s another saying about food in Italy: First you eat with your eyes, then with your nose, and finally, with your taste buds. I think that when adventuring in Italy, if you want to discover things about yourself, engaging your senses is key. Yes, look. But also smell, taste, touch — and hug your Mom, of course!

Authentic love, authentic passion, authentic adventures: it’s all part of being the most authentic you possible, whether you’re in Italy or your own backyard.