About us

No elephants in the room ...

“Elifant” stands for Elizabeth (Bartman) and (Maureen) Fant, Elifant’s principals. 

Both Liz and Maureen call on their personal connections in the worlds of archaeology and food for access to special people and places, but curate and lead the tours themselves to give their guests all the convivial pleasures of traveling with friends. Tour participants speak of Maureen and Liz’s knack for explaining their subjects without being either too scholarly or too simple. 

Each archaeo-culinary tour concentrates on a circumscribed area of Italy, the route defined by the archaeological remains. We may choose the sites because they’re too important to miss or because we have extraordinary access to interesting sites closed to the public. 

We build a food-related itinerary around the archaeological route. Through fabulous meals and visits with chefs and niche producers, we learn about contemporary and traditional local food, while the ancient ruins provide a historical backdrop to how this food culture evolved. Informal talks over evening aperitivi often supplement topics addressed during the tour. Menus are carefully planned to highlight local specialties and traditions.

Maureen Fant

Maureen Fant

Elizabeth Bartman

Elizabeth Bartman

+ Meet Elizabeth Bartman

Liz Bartman, a classical archaeologist, recently retired as President of the Archaeological Institute of America, North America’s largest organization devoted to archaeology. She is an expert in ancient Roman art and archaeology and has authored any number of ground-breaking books and articles on Roman sculpture and its after-life in the modern world. She has lived and worked in Italy, and knows first-hand the places Elifant tours explore.

Liz holds a Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University and has taught courses and held fellowships at many prestigious institutions, including Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the National Gallery of Art. Her research has been supported by major grants from numerous museums and foundations, including the American Academy in Rome.

Over the years Liz has developed a far-reaching network of archaeologists working in Italy, whom she often invites to give special, private tours of the sites they are excavating. Because Liz is on top of archaeological developments in Italy, she knows well what is new, exciting, and worth visiting.

At home in both the lecture hall and the field, Liz is a lively speaker. Notwithstanding her many scholarly achievements, she is no dusty academic. She takes a down-to-earth approach to the ancient world and believes that food is an ideal medium for understanding a society, especially those that existed millennia ago. She loves the excitement, the immediacy, of speaking and engaging with Elifant’s tour participants on-site, with the very monument or work of art of an ancient civilization closely at hand. Archaeologists, she believes, are storytellers whose task is to make ruins, even ruined fragments, come alive again for us.

+ Meet Maureen Fant

People often ask Maureen how her studies of classical languages and archaeology led her to become an expert in Italian food. Actually, it was a pretty straight line that began with going on digs in the Mediterranean when she was a graduate student at the University of Michigan and trying to reconstruct the tastes back in Ann Arbor.

Maureen has lived in Rome for many years and is an internationally recognized cookbook author, food writer, translator, and published classicist. Her most recent book, Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award and was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award.

Encyclopedia of Pasta, which she translated, won a James Beard for research. Cognoscenti still regard Dictionary of Italian Cuisine, which she coauthored in 1994, as a bible of the subject. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Gourmet, and Saveur, among others. She wrote the Rome volume in Williams-Sonoma's Foods of the World series. And she still keeps up with her first love, Latin inscriptions, notably for the now-classic source book Women's Life in Greece and Rome, whose fourth revised edition was published in 2016.

Best of all Maureen loves to explain the food of Italy to visitors through classes on the food of ancient Rome, market-based private cooking classes, and the meals and food experiences of Elifant Tours. Known for her empathetic and humorous style, she also never loses sight of the food's cultural context.

For Maureen, Elifant's archaeo-culinary approach is the ultimate expression of her belief that archaeology, food history, and good food belong together.

Think of our tours as food history with great meals.
— Liz
... Or top-class archaeology tours with the best food you’ve ever had on an organized excursion.
— Maureen