You don't need a plane ticket to live like an Italian. Just pour yourself an espresso (or an aperitivo!), settle in, and get cooking from our most Italian issue yet.

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Rachael Ray, John and dog in vineyard of Italian Tuscan home
Rach and John visit their new home in Tuscany's Val d'Orcia.
| Credit: Paola + Murray

I'm writing this just before I leave to go to Italy for the first time in three years.

I love it there and have missed it. My mother's family and both of John's parents' families hail from there. My husband and I got married there. And three years ago, I achieved my life's goal of buying a property there, in Tuscany. I don't say "I bought a house" because although there were two structures, they had no plumbing and no electricity and the only occupants were some small animals we found inside. My husband called it a war zone. "Honey, don't you want to look at a…house?" he asked. But I fell in love with the fields and the views and I thought for the money we'd pay for a house, we could build something that's really, truly ours.

Italian Tuscan countryside
Credit: Paola + Murray

It took over a year before we could start construction. Then, just when we were about to, three things happened: 1) We got an offer from the A&E network and Facebook to make a show about the story of our adventure in Italy; 2) Isaboo's health took a bad turn; and 3) the pandemic hit. Soon we lost Isaboo, and then our upstate home of 15 years burned down. We lost our passports in the fire, so even once travel was possible again, replacing them took longer due to COVID restrictions.

But finally the work started and the passports are here and we'll be wheels up in a few days to go see what by now should look less like a war zone and more like a villa. If all goes well, you'll see pictures of me there on the cover of this magazine, and maybe you'll understand why I fell in love with it.

Italian Tuscan home peaches close-up
Credit: Paola + Murray

In Tuscany, the air smells different from any other place on earth I've visited. It's sweet and filled with the scent of agricultural wonder. The olive trees, vineyards, fecund gardens, incredible landscapes and views...it overwhelms you and it's what I've missed the most—the air! The first time I went, 20 years ago, I felt it as soon as I touched the ground.

I am so excited to share that magic with everybody. I've always said that cooking and eating food from a certain region or place can transport you. So whether or not you can go to Italy, you can have a Tuscan night. Or French. Or Moroccan. That's why I love what I get to do for living, to bring that message to so many people. You don't have to be rich to live a rich life, and to me, taking time to prepare and enjoy food at a communal table with the ones you love is the best way to live richly.

I love all the food and ideas in this issue. I love that we maybe introducing many of you to the wonders of aperitivo, a shared cocktail and bite that can turn an afternoon into a moment. And that we teach you how to "Dress like a Nonna"—the story in here that made me smile the widest. And that we may coax a few of you holdouts into making pasta and pizza from scratch. (Do it! It's fun and worth it.) We put our hearts and souls into making every issue of In Season a keeper, something worth taking up space on your shelf, to refer back to for recipes and inspiration. But this issue is special. I hope you hang on to it because I think it's our biggest keeper yet.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue. Get the magazine here