Let me begin by saying this: Italy is renowned for its food for a reason. As I made my way through the country, I tasted (as in, that ‘close-your-eyes-this-is-so-good’ moment) specialities of each region. Gelato was a given, everywhere I went. Being a foodie, this was a very important part of my trip. Italian food was and still is my favourite cuisine. I dare you to scroll down and find out why.
Breakfast: An Italian breakfast is literally sweet and simple. Coffee and pastry were my staple first meal of the day- I was not complaining, trying out new brioche flavors and croissants on the daily.
Panini: Italian’s love their panini’s (Florence is home to the best of them, with hour long queue’s to show for it) and now I fully understand why. Its the perfect filling, affordable lunch. The bread has a crunch to it and the fillings almost always have some kind of delicious cheese melting inside. Not quite a panini, the panzerotti is another delicious must-have (in Milan): pastry pockets filled with oozing cheese and filings of your choice.
Polenta: I have always loved polenta. It’s a versatile- you can have it sweet or savory, cooked or fried. When I visited Bergamo, the home of polenta, I tried three varieties. Needless to say I was on cloud nine!
Pizza: It should come as no surprise that Naples was home to the best pizza I had. I had the classic Margherita, decorated with the colors of the Italian flag. Pizza is the perfect lunch, sold by the slice in most areas.
Pasta: Usually a first course, always a favourite. Home made (of course), sometimes in front you by old ladies! In Rome, try the tradiaitonal carbonara and calico and pepe. In Tuscany, the ragu, in Bologna, the Bolognese. If you’re interested in cooking, book a class! DOnt be afraid of express pasta’s, they’re good too!
Gelato: Worlds apart from ice-cream. Its smooth, rich and creamy and just melts away. I don’t think theres a flavor you can go wrong with. Try them all! The best I had was in the Vatican. I went back for another and discovered that it’s the Pope’s favourite too (Hedera)!
Risotto: A creamy rice dish, favored in the north of Italy. The most simple of all is all Milanese, which is saffron flavored. Yum!
Seafood: Is there anything better than having seafood at the coast? The Amalfi coast is where I had the most memorable food, including a prawn risotto and mind-blowingly good scallop dish.
Dessert: Too good for words. I definitely over-indulged, from the northern ricotta and pear cake to the southern canolli, the The Venice Carnival’s frittelle to Naples’ rum baba and lemon flavored truffles and pastries. Best of all? The smoothest panna cotta in Florence and the tiramisu in Rome (best enjoyed on the Spanish steps).
Drinks: I was told Italians love 3 things: spaghetti, beautiful women and wine. The wine was plentiful! (lookout for my upcoming post on Tuscany, where I went on a wine tasting tour). Another important drink is aperitivo. Normally a spritz served with a bite to eat. These ranged from chips to snack on, to full on tastings of food. In other words, the perfect sundowner. When at the coast, try orange or lemon juices and of course limoncello! When its cold, opt for hot chocolate, served thick like pudding.
Also worth mentioning: Soups! In Tuscany, they are made with bread inside. Its (heart) warmingly good. If the food gets a little much, there are a handful of Asian and American restaurants. I only allowed this cheat for one meal. Another thing to look out for is seasonal produce, like artichokes in Rome. For a snack, have some bruschetta.
Coffee: Consumed quickly (standing at a bar) in small, strong doses. There are so many varieties that I suggest you do some research before ordering. The best by far for me was Milan’s marocchino. I loved it so much that one morning I had 3, going from one cafe to the next. A second close is affogato, served with a scoop of ice-cream. Another memorable cup was nocciolato (hazelnut) flavour.
The most important takeaways from this are:
- Go to Italy.
- Avoid anything that says “natural” and the word “healthy” in general
- Know when to splurge (and do it! Food is an important factor to budget for)
- Have gelato everyday
- Go to Italy!